Teagasc Future Beef Programme in Galway
Teagasc's Future Beef programme, launched December 2021, aims to demonstrate to beef farmers how they can produce a quality product as efficiently, profitable and environmentally sustainable as possible. Mícheál Kelly, Teagasc Advisor, Athenry introduces Galway's Future Beef Farmer, Aonghusa Fahy
The Teagasc Future Beef Programme was officially launched on Monday 6th December 2021. The aim of this Programme is to demonstrate to beef farmers how they can produce a quality product as efficiently as possible to make beef farming more profitable while also making it more environmentally sustainable.
The key objectives of this Programme are to:
- Create more sustainable and profitable farms
- To reduce GHG & ammonia emissions
- Improve water quality
- Improve biodiversity
In this Programme, there are 22 Demonstration Farms nationwide, two of which are located in the Galway/Clare Teagasc Area Unit; Aonghusa Fahy who farms in Ardrahan, Co. Galway and James Skehan who farms in Killaloe, Co. Clare.
Aonghusa Fahy - Galway's Future Beef Farmer
This week we are featuring Aonghusa Fahy, a client of mine who farms with his wife Olivia and daughter Kayla in Tullira, Ardrahan, Co. Galway. He is part-time farming and working full-time off farm as a secondary school teacher, teaching Construction, DGC and Agricultural Science.
Aonghusa farms 58Ha of fragmented land, with 20Ha in Ardrahan, Co. Galway and 38Ha in Tulla, Co. Clare, some 36km away. The farm in Ardrahan is mostly free draining soil but 5Ha of this is low lying, heavy natured land that is prone to flooding. Much of the land in Tulla is free draining soil with the exception of 2ha of historically reclaimed bog and 4ha of shallow land with some surface rock.
The home farm in Galway is highly stocked, supporting all 30 cows and their progeny all year round. The farm is paddocked with weekly grass measurements being taken with a grasshopper and recorded on Pasturebase. Each paddock is cut at least once throughout the season to maintain quality and Aonghusa was able to make enough silage from surplus bales this year to feed all the cows for the winter. The home farm grew over 13 tonnes DM/Ha in 2021.
The suckler herd and progeny
Aonghusa runs 30 spring calving suckler cows, with calving starting in February. Exceptional calves may be sold as weanlings but all other progeny are brought through to slaughter. Heifers are slaughtered off grass at 20-22 months at ~300kg carcass weight, Steers are slaughtered off grass at 28-30 months at ~420kg carcass weight, Bulls that are 440kg+ live weight at weaning are pushed on to slaughter under 16 months at 380-400kg carcass weight. Aonghusa is using both AI and a stock bull, aiming to increase the overall AI use in the herd. His cows and heifers have replacement indexes of €105 and €102 respectively.
Additional infrastructure is being added to improve grazing management on the Tulla farm and this is an ongoing project. The farm is growing good covers of grass but the utilisation and management of this is difficult until the grazing infrastructure is improved. He is currently stocked at around 72 Kg/N ha but the plans are to increase stock numbers on the Tulla farm through either contract rearing or buying in dairy cross weanlings.
- Maintain his cow numbers at between 30-35 cows on the home farm depending on his grass supply. He is using the mooheat detection system and a teaser bull to try and increase his AI usage on the farm, hopefully leading to him breeding his own replacements and improving the quality of all progeny.
- Grass is being measured weekly on the home farm but he aims to focus now on creating a paddock system on the Tulla farm to allow him to better manage his grass and to increase his productivity.
- Continue using protected urea, clover incorporation and LESS technology as well as planting new hedgerows to maintain his farm’s sustainability.
Future Beef Farms
The farms selected are representative of their region from farm size, soil type, system, stock numbers etc. They face the same challenges as their neighbours and are therefore more relatable. However, all have a very positive attitude towards suckler farming. They are willing to take on new technologies and develop efficiencies to improve profitability and reduce the negative effects of agriculture on the environment around them.
Performance on the farms participating in the Programme will be recorded throughout the year. Monitoring the farms will allow us to measure the impact of improved technical efficiency on profitability and the environment. All results will be communicated though the Future Beef website, social media, discussion group visits & farm walks.
For more information please visit Teagasc Future Beef Programme Farms
Teagasc Advisors write regular articles of interest to farmers here on Teagasc Daily. Teagasc provides a Local Advisory and Education service to farmers. Find your local Teagasc office here