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Meet Signpost and Future Beef farmer John Barry

Meet Signpost and Future Beef farmer John Barry

John Barry farms with his father Jim in Newtown, Nenagh, Co. Tipperary. His Teagasc Advisor is Michael Daly. John has an 80 cow suckling to store system, spring & autumn calving. He uses AI to breed replacements and quality export type weanlings but also uses a Charolais stock bull. Read more here

He is farming 72.3Ha in three distinct blocks. The soil is generally dry free draining mineral soils and there is a gradual slope on the farm.

2020 farm organic stocking rate was 165kg N/Ha. paddocks  consisting of 47 spring and 33 autumn calving suckler cows. The males are sold as 18 month store beef. Heifers not retained for breeding are also sold as stores. John uses 70% A.I. (CH, BB, LM, AU, SI bulls). He currently has a 5 star terminal CH stock bull. A.I is used for the first round to breed replacements / quality export type weanlings and then current 5 star terminal CH stock bull is used for the rest of the breeding season.

The farm is all grassland but John put in 2.42Ha spring barley as part of reseeding programme and also to supply straw for bedding/feeding. John is a member of local grass group and is using PBI. John joined the REAP pilot environmental scheme in 2021. The plan is to increase biodiversity within part of the main grazing block (better field margins / planting of additional new hedgerows).

The farm is divided into paddocks with 27 divisions with the ability to split individual fields with temporary fencing. There is good housing on the farm and John is currently in the process of erecting an additional 4 bay slatted/creep area shed.

Breeding Performance

No. of cows: 80
Cow replacement index: 91
Heifer replacement index: 136
Calves per cow per year: 0.96

John's Plan

John's plan is to stay at the same cow numbers but to increase the breeding / breeding efficiency on his farm. He is looking at the possibility of finishing male weanlings at 16 months. Performance at grass will be the main focus area. John plans to grow / utilise more grass in line with soil fertility, and to develop and improve grass measurement with PBI. Finally, John wants to use more protected urea and low emission slurry spreading (Dribble bar attachment purchased in 2021). 


I started breeding my 40 spring calving cows and 11 heifers on 2nd May. I have set breeding season dates to help control the length of my calving season next year. The herd will be bred to AI for 8 weeks until 27th June and then my Charolais stock bull will be let out with them for two/three weeks to mop up. This will allow for a 10/11 week calving spread which will start around 14th February until mid/late April 2023.

A vasectomised bull is used for heat detection on the farm. The bull detects when cows/heifers are in heat and serves them without putting them in calf. They can then be brought in for AI approximately 12 hours later using the am/pm rule, i.e. if the cow is on standing heat this evening, she can be AI’d tomorrow morning. Along with this, I have dates recorded of observed heats before the breeding season starts so I know when to expect cows and heifers to cycle again at around 21 days later. I also observe the herd 3 times per day in the morning, afternoon and evening for around 10 minutes each time to monitor them for signs of heat.

This year I had some May calving cows which have been marked for culling to help tighten the calving spread. As I work off farm they drag out the calving period and I don’t have the same amount of time to spend monitoring them. It also spreads out routine tasks like disbudding and if I want to finish the bulls under 16 months of age there is too much of an age and weight range between the earlier and later born calves. Nine out of 49 cows have been marked for culling due late calving, age and/or a lack of milk this year.

Read more here about John's Breeding plans


Earlier in the year, I completed a cash flow plan for the farm using the Teagasc cost control planner to monitor when costs would be incurred, how much these would be and to try and balance them with predicted income from cattle sales.

This month I carried out a mid-year review, to see how sales and expenses compare to the budgeted figures and to last year’s figures. As predicted and as with most Irish farms, the poorest cash flow occurs during March to May at a time where farm sales are generally lower and fertiliser, silage making etc. costs are incurred.

Most surprisingly, my fertiliser bill is not as high as expected considering the price rise this year. It is only up 15% on last year’s bill, which is mainly attributed to the high soil fertility on the farm and the reduced need for chemical phosphorus and potassium based on the recent soil sample results which were used to develop a nutrient management plan for the farm.

From examining both the farm costs to date and the expected expenses in the coming months, I am using this information to plan my cattle sales for the year, such as what cattle to sell, when to sell them and what price I can expect to get for them.

This is to ensure that I can make the most of higher cattle prices this year so that my beef enterprise will make a healthy profit at the end of the year.

Keep up-to-date with John's farming activities at John Barry 's Future Beef Programme webpage.

Find out about the Future Beef Programme and the Signpost Programme