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Teagasc FUTURE BEEF Programme in Mayo

The Future Beef Programme is a new Teagasc Beef Demonstration programme consisting of 24 Suckler and Beef finishing farmers around the country. Alan Nolan, Drystock Advisor, Teagasc Ballinrobe introduces the father and son team of Michael and Niall Biggins who are Mayo's Future Beef farmers

The aim of the Future Beef 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. All the Future Beef farms are part of the overall Signpost Programme which has 100 farms in the programme across all farm enterprises.

The key objectives of the Future Beef programme are to:

  • Create more sustainable and profitable farms
  • To reduce GHG & ammonia emissions
  • Improve water quality
  • Improve biodiversity

The farms in the programme are representative of their region. They face the same challenges as other farmers in their area. In the programme, there will be a big focus on reducing inputs and the costs of production while increasing the performance of all animals on the farm. 

The physical, financial and environmental performance of the farms participating in the programme will be recorded throughout the year. All results will be communicated though the Teagasc Future Beef website, social media, discussion group visits & farm walks.

Michael & Niall Biggins - Mayo's Future Beef Farm

One of the Future Beef Farms is the father and son team of Michael and Niall Biggins who farm in Ballynalty, Glencorrib in South Mayo. Michael & Niall are farming 45Ha of owned land in 3 separate land blocks within a 2km distance of the home block. The area is mostly limestone and the farm has predominately dry mineral soils with a significant area of peaty heavier soils. One block of land has very shallow soil with the rock near the surface. This area suffers in very dry summers, but the peaty heavy soil area benefits in dry summers. 

Suckling to weanling/yearling system, Paddocks & GLAS

Michael & Niall run a suckling to weanling/yearling system consisting of 65 mainly spring calving suckler cows. They used to have a split autumn and spring calving system but are now moving to an all spring calving system. The best calves are sold as weanlings in the autumn. The remaining bulls and heifers are sold as yearlings.

From a grassland perspective the farm is well laid with 30 main paddocks on the farm with scope to split fields further with temporary fencing. Two of the land blocks have farm roadways running through the land to allow ease of movement of both cattle and machinery. Niall and Michael are currently getting set-up on PastureBase to get started on grass measuring.

The farm has been in an Agri-Environmental scheme since the start of REPS 1. Their farm is currently in the GLAS scheme. The main measures in their GLAS plan relate to fencing off watercourses, stonewall maintenance, wild bird cover and low input pasture.  

Niall Biggins, Future Beef farmer Mayo

Michael & Niall's Future Plan

Their plan for now is to stay at the same cow numbers and try to maintain the current excellent fertility figures of 1.0 calves per cow per year figure and a 365 calving interval. The breeding focus will be on calf quality, to consistently breed groups of calves that will achieve high weight for age and generate a premium price as weanlings or yearlings.

Performance at grass will be a key focus area in the years ahead to reduce inputs in an effort to reduce farm costs and overall farm emissions. Soil fertility will be carefully analysed in year 1 to see where improvements can be made. Correcting soil pH, following a detailed fertilizer plan and long term incorporating clover on the farm is planned. 

These changes will pay dividends in the long run, as by improving nitrogen use efficiency Michael & Niall hope to lower the farm’s reliance on bought-in chemical nitrogen.  This is something every farmer will be trying to do in the current climate of high fertilizer costs.

We hope to keep you informed regularly on the progress on Michael & Niall’s farm throughout the course of this programme.  You can keep up-to-date at www.teagasc.ie/futurebeef

For more information on the farms 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