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Ed Curtin, Future Beef farmer in Cork

Ed Curtin is a new Future Beef farmer, based in Meelin, Co Cork. Ed farms a suckler-to-weanling and dairy calf-to-store/calf-to-beef enterprise in partnership with his mother Breda. Martina Harrington, Future Beef Programme Manager has more on Ed's farm here; the achievements and the challenges

Pictured above: Ed and his mother, Breda

Ed Curtin is a new Future Beef farmer, based in Meelin, Co Cork. He is married to Eileen and last year they welcomed baby Aoibheann into the family. Ed farms a suckler-to-weanling and dairy calf-to-store/calf-to-beef enterprise in partnership with his mother Breda.

The farm consists of three blocks of land, approximately 43ha in total.

  • One of these home blocks is heavy in nature and is a Special Protection Area for Hen Harriers. Farming restrictions are in place to protect harrier habitats.
  • The second home block is also heavy clay soil, whereas
  • the third block is rented land which is a lighter, more freedraining soil.

Ed also works full-time as an area sales manager with Dairygold. Ed is optimistic about the future of the beef industry and is focused on making a profit. He attributes this to his strong work ethic: “I am target driven, in the day job as well as farming.”

Ed's farm system

He is breeding top-class weanlings by artificially inseminating his 25 Limousin cows with Belgian Blue or Limousin bulls. These calves perform well and averaged 1.12kg per day for 2020-born heifers and 1.26kg per day for the bulls. Ed had some spring-calving cows, but plans to calve all the cows during the autumn, as it suits the land type on the farm.

Some weanlings are kept as replacements, with the remainder sold at 10-11 months of age, weighing approximately 420-450kg. Ed also buys in over 30 dairy-bred Angus, Hereford and Friesian bull calves and sells these as forward store bullocks at 550kg or more, or finishes them (depending on the market) at 22 months of age).

“There’s no place in our system for poor-quality silage,” says Ed, who aims to make his silage before 20 May every year, and targets over 72 DMD (dry matter digestibility). This ensures that the cows milk well and are in good condition for breeding. It also means the calves, weanlings and stores perform well over their first winter. Ed tests his silage every year. “This means we can reduce ration costs, as we feed less concentrate, due to the high quality silage in diets.”

Producing good silage also contributes to a reduction in methane emissions in cattle. They use less energy to digest leafy silage in comparison with poorer quality, stemmy silage. Ed knows that it’s through a combination of good health, breeding and nutrition that animals perform to their optimum and to ensure he is on track, he weighs all his cattle regularly. He says: “I believe cattle are here for a good time not a long time, to achieve weight for age and for this it’s crucial to monitor daily liveweight gain performance.”As the farm is quite heavy in nature, he will continue to closely monitor his soil indexes and spread lime, slurry and chemical fertiliser to maximise grass production.

The challenges for Ed’s farm include:

  • Matching his farming system to land type and grass growth.
  • Monitoring and improving technical efficiencies on-farm – fertility performance, etc as he firmly believes that “you can’t control what you don’t measure.”
  • Managing his Designated Hen Harrier land, which makes up 40% of the total farm area.
  • Building soil fertility.
  • Balancing his off-farm job with the farm and family life.

Aisling Molloy is Ed’s Future Beef advisor and Enda Maloney, who is based in Teagasc Kanturk, is Ed’s local agricultural advisor. They will be working closely together over the coming years to improve the environmental and financial sustainability of Ed’s farm.

This article was first published in Teagasc's bi-monthly magazine, Today's Farm. You can read more articles from Today's Farm - January/February 2022 here

You can read more from Martina Harrington on the Future Beef Programme in Big future for Future Beef and see the Teagasc Future Beef Programme webpage for further information