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Gurteen College Beef Farm Update

Currently the suckler beef unit at Gurteen College has 79 sucker cows and split calving with 43 spring calving cows and 36 autumn calving cows. The unit aims to educate students on the running of a sustainable drystock business.

Teagasc Drystock Specialist Catherine Egan gives an update on the enterprise.

Gurteen College located just outside Roscrea Co. Tipperary has a long and distinguished track record of providing education and training for those engaged in agriculture and rural activities throughout Ireland and overseas.

Over the past number of years Gurteen College staff and Ger Carey Gurteen College's Dry Stock Unit Manager have aimed for the suckler and beef unit to educate and equip students with the necessary practical, technical and financial skills for running sustainable drystock businesses on the 93 Ha unit.

Currently there are 79 sucker cows split calving with 43 spring calving cows and 36 autumn calving cows.  Half of the spring born bull calves are finished and the other half are sold as weanlings. All the heifers are finished on the farm as are all the autumn born bulls. In addition a proportion of bull calves from the dairy herd are brought to finish at 24 months.

Breeding season started on 26th April. The target is to calve the spring herd in 8 weeks. This year the spring herd calved from the first week of February to the first week of April. The stock bull will be removed on the 5th July. A Charolais stock bull is used on the farm. He has a Terminal index of €147 and is easy calving (5.4%) with high reliability. All replacement heifers are sourced from the dairy herd as Limousin AI sires are selected to keep replacements from them. They are then bred with easy calving Limousin/ Angus bulls.


Charolais Stock Bull

The autumn born weanlings were just weaned last week and weighed 472kg on average and will be finished at 16 months. Over the coming weeks the autumn cows will be rotationally grazed and will clean out paddocks on the rotation to ensure they are fit and not fat for calving in September.

Achieving the top key performance breeding indicators are very important and something that is very much focused on in Gurteen College as seen in Table 1. The calving interval is 368 days which is on target to a cow calving every year. Mortality at 28 days is 2.5% which is low. This is reflected in the number of calves/cow/year at 0.97. Compacting the calving spread to have a group of stock that can be finished at the one time and housed with a similar weight make management of grass and indoors easier on the farm.

Table 1: Breeding Key Performance Indicators Gurteen College

 Gurteen CollegeNational Average
Calving Interval 368 days 401 days
Mortality at birth 2.5% 1%
Mortality at 28 days 2.5% 2.3%
Calves/Cow/Year 0.97 0.85
Spring 6 week calving rate 86% 55%
Autumn 6 week calving rate 86% 60%


In mid-May there was 140 acres was harvested for first cut pit silage and some bales made split between the dairy and beef unit. Over the past number of weeks like many farms around the country drought had an impact on the farm. But with rainfall in the past week has helped to increase growth again. There is 100 acres closed for second cut silage.  As grass growth will start to exceed demand surplus paddocks will be removed in the coming weeks. The target at the moment is to graze covers at 8-10cm (1,200-1,600 DM/Ha). This will help meet the requirements of our winter fodder budget to ensure we have enough silage for next winter. The fodder budget will be reviewed once second cut is harvested.

There are 80 bullocks mixed grazing with sheep and they are thriving well. They will be faecal sampled next week dosed based on the results.


This spring there were 56 bull calves sourced from the dairy herd. They were weaned off milk once they reached 100 Kgs and eating two kgs of meal. They comprised of a mix of Limousin and Friesian cross bull calves. They are now rotationally grazing paddocks and being moved every 3-4 days and getting 1kg/head of meal daily.

Gurteen College advises that Applications are now being accepted for Distance Education and Part Time Green Cert courses – beginning October 2020. Online Applications are now open for Full-time Level 5 Certificate in Agriculture & Level 6 Advanced Certificate Courses at Gurteen College.  Level 6 Advanced options are; Dairy Herd Management, Drystock Management & Crops and Machinery Management.

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