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Ger McSweeney - Innovative Farm Programme


Aisling Molloy, Teagasc Advisor, Kanturk and Suckler to beef farmer Ger McSweeney outline how he is improving the technical efficiencies on his farm resulting in reduced Carbon footprint for every Kg of beef he produces. He is achieving this through the Innovative Farm Programme: Life Beef Carbon

The Innovative Farm Programme project aims to promote innovative livestock farming systems and associated practices to ensure the technical, economic, environmental and social sustainability of beef farms. To curb the impact of beef farming on the climate by reducing carbon emissions. The overarching goal of these producers is maintain or increase beef production, while reducing carbon emissions by 119,000 tonnes over a 10 year period.

Ger is farming with his wife Karen and daughter Ella in Tooreenbawn, Millstreet, Co. Cork. He joined the programme in 2018. He farms a total of 25.3 hectares (adjusted), which is divided into four blocks. He operates a suckling to beef system, which consists of a 35 cow suckler herd. The bulls are finished under 16 months of age and the heifers are typically finished under 24 months of age. The highest point on the farm is 918 feet above sea level and the average rainfall is 1685mm annually, which creates challenges in adverse weather conditions. 

Ger breeds his own replacement heifers and uses 100% AI on the farm. This allows him to use the best genetics available and to match specific bulls to his cows, for replacement and terminal traits. Heat detection is crucial to Ger’s system and he began using an automated intelligence system this year to help maximise conception rates.

Ger is very focused on breeding and grassland management on his farm.

Ger's priorities for breeding are:

  • Improved fertility in cows (target 0.95 calves/cow/year)
  • Increasing the weaning weight of calves (Bulls 1.4 kg/day, heifers 1.2 kg/day)
  • Reduced age at slaughter of cattle (Bulls 15.5 months, heifers <23 months)
  • Increased carcass weight (+22kg over 3 years)
  • Reduced cow size
  • Calving heifers at 22-24 months of age

Ger's priorities for grassland are:

  • Paddocks (12 paddocks in 2017, to 37 in 2020)
  • Measuring grass weekly using PastureBase Ireland
  • Improved soil fertility (increased by 25% in 4 years, by following his fertiliser plan)
  • Increased weight gain from grass (+ 0.15 kg/day over 3 years)
  • All CAN fertiliser replaced with protected urea
  • Making silage >72% DMD

Improved Animal Health

Ger also has a detailed health plan on the farm with a very robust vaccination programme, which has reduced his antibiotic usage while simultaneously improving animal performance.  He weighs stock regularly to measure the combined effects of improved health, nutrition and breeding on his stock performance, which is very beneficial to the environment, and will help to increase farm profitability overall.

Conclusion

According to Ger, ‘Cattle leaving the farm are at a reduced age at slaughter and I have increased my carcass weights. The good thing about this is I am reducing my carbon footprint per kg of beef sold off of the farm’. 

Watch below as Aisling Molloy, Advisor & Ger McSweeney discuss the benefits of The Innovative Programme on Ger's farm

Teagasc Advisors are regular contributors of articles on Teagasc Daily. You can contact any of our Teagasc offices using this link Teagasc Advisory Regions here