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Greenhouse Gases – Innovative Farm Programme


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. Graham Waters, Naas Advisor and Ricky Milligan discuss the benefits of it on Ricky' s farm

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.

Ricky Milligan joined the Innovative Farm Programme in 2017 to improve his profitability, improve farm efficiency, cut farm costs and reduce the farms Greenhouse Gas emissions. The opportunity to work with two technical advisors on a regular basis was very important for Ricky as they could work on calving performance, grassland management, soil fertility and cattle performance.

At the beginning of the programme the Key Performance Indicators were examined on the farm that could be improved very quickly which would increase the farm profitability and reduce GHG emissions.

Improved Fertility Performance

  • Calving interval was pulled back to 366 days from 383. This was done by increased heat detection, improved BCS and culling of poor performing cows.
  • The calves per cow per year has increased to 1.03 from 0.86 meaning more calves over the cow’s life time.
  • 100% of the heifers now calf down at 24 months age compared to the 33% of heifers calved down in 2016.

Improved Grassland Management

  • The grass growth rate on the farm is now measured on a weekly basis with a plate meter. You can’t manage what you don’t measure. This has improved the management of grass through increased grass utilisation and improved LWG of the cattle.
  • There are now 72 paddocks on the farm. The grass is managed better with the increased paddocks. Wire grows grass! Surplus bales were taken out where grass growth is high meaning high quality winter feed also being made
  • All silage was tested in the autumn time to determine quality. More emphasis on grassland management has meant better quality silage which meant we fed less meal or no meal to weanlings over the winter, helping to cut our winter costs

Soil Fertility

  • The whole farm was soil sampled to determine the soil fertility. The farm had a pH of 6.2 or higher. A big emphasis was placed on reaching a soil index of 3 for P and K for the whole farm.
  • A Low Emission Slurry Spreading trailing shoe is used on the farm. All slurry is spread on silage ground or fields with low soil indexes. This reduces our chemical fertiliser. 

Improved Animal Performance

  • Stocking rate has increased to 2.13 from 1.91, this lead to an increase of an additional 192 Kgs beef output/ha
  • Through increased LWG and early maturing breeds, the the age of slaughter was pulled back by nearly 60 days, this helped reduced the feed costs and GHG emissions per kg beef.

Conclusion

The Innovative Programme has improved Ricky’s technical efficiency, beef output and profitability. It has benefitted through improved soil fertility, grass grown and utilised. Reduced costs in fertiliser using the Low Emission Slurry Spreading. The winter feed costs have reduced by improved silage quality and extended grazing season. Overall on GHG perspective they have reduced GHG by 18.5% since 2016, thanks to following technical advice and improving the farm efficiency.

Watch below as Graham Waters, Advisor & Ricky Milligan discuss the benefits of The Innovative Programme on Ricky' s farm

 

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