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Balancing AI breeding and off-farm work commitments

Balancing AI breeding and off-farm work commitments

By being organised and using technology, Aonghusa Fahy manages to use AI despite working full time off farm.

Aonghusa farms in Tullira, just outside Ardrahan in Co. Galway. He is married to Olivia and they have two young girls, Kayla (four years) and Hallie (two). The farm is fragmented into two main blocks. The home block contains 22ha of dry land, while the remaining 36ha is in Tulla, Co. Clare, almost 36km away.  

Aonghusa works full-time off farm as a secondary school teacher, so juggling family, work and farming can be a challenge, especially during calving and breeding. Despite limitations on time, he still manages to use AI. He is organised and uses the technology available, such as Mooheat, to assist in heat detection.

However, there has been some technical issues with the collar, so he has put a chin ball on the vasectomised bull. In addition, Aonghusa is tail painting the cows. Manual observation is also important, so the herd is checked for 15-20 minutes in early morning before work, in late afternoon and again at 9pm. If there is any cow/heifer that he is not sure about, his father will check mid-day. He also keeps the herd in paddocks close to the yard. This year, he is using reels and pigtails to make temporary roadways to make running them in easier for AI. It is a big effort but it is a critical period in the calendar. Getting cows back in calf will ensure that she will calve annually and in a compact period.

The breeding season started on April 22 and he will use AI for six weeks before letting in the Limousin bull to mop up. The second round will be finishing at the beginning of June, so Aonghusa will scan to see what conception rates are like. He got great results last year and is hoping that the bull will only have to cover two to three cows.


With the recent rise in temperatures, grass is growing almost twice as fast as the herd is eating it. Aonghusa has taken corrective action to get the grazing platform back under control. Grass growth rates have climbed considerably, moving from 32kg DM/ha/day at the start of May to over 91kg DM/ha/day.

With demand at 53kg DM/ha/day, paddocks went too strong to graze so Aonghusa removed these on the weekend of May 18. His aim is to keep the days ahead to 15 or 16 for this time of year, so removing excess grass has kept this target on track.

Aonghusa needs to make 200 bales this year. Taking out 5.5ha of surplus grass yielded 99 bales. This should be a high quality, which will be kept aside for the weanlings next winter.

paddock too string to graze on A Fahys farm

One of the strong paddocks taken out as surplus bales

2,000 gallons of slurry per acre was applied immediately after cutting, as tanks were still full after this spring’s wet weather. The last application of fertiliser was spread on April 17 and Aonghusa will spread another 20 units of protected urea per acre. If available, surplus grass will be taken off again in six weeks. The fields that were not cut already are earmarked for the next cut. The majority of the grazing platform will have been mowed once, which will mean high-quality pasture during the main grazing season.

This article first appeared in the Future Beef newsletter for June. Find out more about the Future Beef Programme and sign up to subsequent newsletters here.

Read more on Aonghusa Fahy’s farm here.


Farmers enrolled in the Future Beef Programme will feature heavily at the upcoming BEEF2024 Open Day in Teagasc Grange, where a dedicated Suckler Beef Village will be present. BEEF 2024 will be held at Teagasc, Grange, Co. Meath, Eircode: C15 PW93, on Wednesday, June 26 from 9am to 4pm.

Dr Paul Crosson, Beef Enterprise Leader; Dr Orla Keane, Research Officer; and Pearse Kelly, Head of Drystock Knowledge Transfer, provide an insight as to what to expect on the day in this short clip:

The theme of this year’s event is ‘Securing your future’. There are significant challenges in relation to farm succession, profitability, market disturbances, reducing the environmental footprint and high costs of production, however, the market for grass-fed beef as a high quality, sustainable human food protein source is strong.

The focus of BEEF2024 will be on the application of technologies that will help beef farmers increase the profitability and environmental sustainability of their family farm businesses. The roadmap to environmentally sustainable beef production as outlined in the Signpost Programme will feature.

Find out more about BEEF2024 here.