Teagasc Director welcomes farmers to Grange for Beef 2022
The day has finally arrived: Beef2022! Let's hear from Teagasc Director, Professor Frank O'Mara who extends a warm welcome to all.."I am delighted to welcome you to BEEF2022 at Teagasc Grange and I hope that you find the day enjoyable, informative and fulfilling". Frank has more about the day here
Our beef open days normally follow a two-year cycle, but our planned 2020 event was cancelled due to the pandemic. Although we had a very successful Virtual Beef Week in 2020, it was no replacement for our traditional face-to-face events. It is impossible to replicate the engagement and interaction of these more traditional events and for this reason, I am especially delighted to welcome you to Grange today and I look forward to meeting you.
Beef farming is the most widespread of all farm enterprises with almost 100,000 farms having a beef enterprise. Therefore, the sector makes a key contribution to the Irish economy, particularly in rural areas. Beef farmers face many challenges, with farm level profitability and meeting environmental obligations being the two biggest challenges at the moment, but the continued development of the sector is crucial for the viability of rural areas throughout the country.
Teagasc commits significant resources to our beef programme
In keeping with the size and importance of the sector, Teagasc commits significant resources to our beef programme in our research, advisory and education departments. From a research perspective, in addition to our 250 hectare flagship site at Grange, which you have the opportunity to visit today, our research site at Johnstown Castle is investigating multi-species swards for a dairy calf-to-beef enterprise. We continue to develop our beef programme and have recruited two new researchers and five supporting staff to our beef team in the past 12 months. We hope to further build our beef research in the coming months and will have announcements forthcoming in that regard.
Future Beef and DairyBeef500
Today you will also have an opportunity to meet some of the farmers and the advisory team from our two new demonstration programmes - the Future Beef programme focused on suckler beef and the DairyBeef500 campaign. These will involve widespread advisory activity for suckler and dairy-beef systems, including a network of demonstration farms spread throughout the country. Each programme will leverage our discussion group model and will aim to promote profit-enhancing technologies relevant to farms throughout the country. There will be an intensive dissemination campaign so I am sure you hear much more from these programmes in the coming months and years.
Supporting Sustainable Beef Farming
The theme of Beef2022 is ‘Supporting Sustainable Beef Farming’. It is worth emphasising that sustainable farming is, first and foremost, economically viable farming. Improving farm viability has been, and continues to be, the overarching objective of our beef programme. The Teagasc National Farm Survey figures for 2021 show good percentage increases in beef farm incomes, albeit from a low base. Incomes on Cattle Rearing farms increased by 29.7% to €10,937, while incomes on Cattle Other farms increased by 5.7% to €16,416. While the increases were encouraging and welcome, the overall incomes are still low. The increases in input costs, which were emerging towards the end of 2021, have accelerated in 2022. It remains to be seen if these large input cost increases will be sufficiently covered by the significantly increased beef prices currently being received by farmers. The analysis from the Teagasc Rural Economy team highlights that farm supports, particularly for sucker farms, are vitally important for farm family income on beef farms. The rapid escalation in both input and beef prices in the past 12 months raises many questions as to what this means for our ‘blueprint’ system and for farm incomes in Ireland, and these issues will be extensively discussed at the Open Day.
Of course, sustainability also means continuing to reduce the environmental footprint of our beef farms. With our pasture-based production systems, we have a very strong starting point as regards the environmental sustainability of our beef farms and this stands us in good stead from a marketing and reputation point of view. Our research continues to harness the potential of grazed pasture for our beef farm systems. Today we have signalled the prominence of the environmental aspects of the beef programme by locating our ‘Signpost Farms’ village, as the first of our technology villages.
The Signpost Farms Programme incorporates our enterprise-level programmes such as Future Beef, DairyBeef500 and Grass10 under its umbrella, and this signals our determination that the farm management measures which are recommended to farmers are firstly those which either increase productivity on our suckler, dairy-beef or finishing farms, or reduce production costs. We are confident that there are enormous environmental gains to be achieved by improving efficiency of beef farms. Indeed our first stand today shows that the most efficient farms are the most profitable and produce beef with a low carbon footprint.
Our research programme is also seeking to develop the ‘next generation’ of solutions to further reduce the environmental footprint of beef. In particular, we have invested heavily in research to mitigate methane emissions from beef cattle, which predominantly emanate from ruminant digestion. The early results from this are very promising and you will have an opportunity to see these and meet these researchers involved first-hand today.
So all in all, there are many important and interesting topics for beef farmers that will be discussed at the Beef2022 Open Day, and I hope that you find the day enjoyable, informative and fulfilling.
Professor Frank O’Mara
For further information go to: teagasc.ie/beef2022