Diary date: Major open day at Newford
Teagasc and Dawn Meats, in collaboration with the Irish Farmers Journal and McDonalds, are delighted to welcome all farmers and stakeholders in the beef sector to the Newford Suckler Demonstration Farm Open Day on Tuesday, 23rd May in Athenry, Co. Galway from 2pm-6pm.
The theme on the day is ‘Meeting the Challenges’. The first open day took place in May 2016 and seven years on at the walk, the focus will be on all the changes and lessons learned since then.
The project was initially set up in 2015, for a seven-year term, in which the 100-cow suckler calf-to-beef demonstration farm has highlighted many positive features of the production system, with the herd excelling in breeding and calving performance with dramatic reductions in the ages that animals are slaughtered.
The cow type - Angus and Hereford first-cross cows from the dairy herd - hasn’t changed since 2015. One of the biggest changes to come about during the project has been the move to 100% artificial insemination. This change has really driven on the performance of the farm and allowed better use of genetics, through matching good terminal beef sires with suitable cows to produce well shaped calves.
Last year the bull calves gained 1.30kg/day on average, while heifers averaged 1.23kg/day up to weaning. Newford’s 2021-born heifers were slaughtered under 18 months of age, with a carcass weight of 296kg, grading R-3=. This has obviously been a big talking point and achievement for the farm and showcases what is achievable when a system is operated efficiently. Steer slaughter performance has been fairly consistent over the last seven years, with animals finished at 20 months of age, producing R=3- carcasses weighing 342kg, which is on average eight months earlier than steers slaughtered at a national level.
Grassland management has been another big driver for the performance of these animals. The farm has 38 paddocks across the three land blocks and all of these can be subdivided using pigtails and a geared reel. Animals are always let graze covers of 1200-1500kg DM/ha, paddocks greater than 1,500kg DM/ha are removed as surplus bales to produce silage greater than 75% dry matter digestibility.
Newford Farm has continuously worked towards being more sustainable. A number of measures have been implemented on the farm in recent years. In May 2021, 20ac of grassland was oversown with white clover and a further 45ac was oversown in 2022. Oversowing clover has not only reduced the farm’s dependency on expensive chemical fertiliser, but clover also acts as a nectar source for bees during summer.
In spring 2023, 220m of native hedging consisting of whitethorn and blackthorn was sown, which will act as a corridor for wildlife and shelter for new-born cows and calves.
In 2022, Newford farm joined the Future Beef programme and Signpost Programme and with the help of the assigned programme advisors, Newford farm will demonstrate best practice regarding sustainable beef production by improving efficiency of the farm, improving biodiversity while increasing farm profitability.
Both programmes involve implementing a suite of measure to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, focused around: reducing age of slaughter; implementing a herd health plan; increasing the length of the grazing season; using protected urea; reducing chemical fertiliser by 10kg per hectare; increasing soil fertility and pH; making better use of slurry through spreading an increasing proportion of the slurry in the spring and using low emission slurry spreading equipment (LESS).
The Newford Open Day will take place on Tuesday, 23rd of May from 2pm-6pm, and will be an opportunity for farmers to review the progress of the demonstration herd over the last eight years. To register for this event, click here.
Also read: Newford Farm Update