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Teagasc Signpost Future Beef Farmers in Waterford


Eamon McCarthy and his son Donnchadh operate a bull beef finishing system, farming near Glendine, Youghal, Co. Waterford. Part of the farm is in a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). They have a suckling to beef enterprise also. Catriona Foley and Aisling Molloy, Teagasc tell us more

Catriona Foley is Teagasc drystock advisor to the McCarthys and Aisling Molloy is Teagasc Future Beef progamme advisor for the area.

About The McCarthy Farm

Eamon and his son Donnchadh operate a bull beef finishing system, farming in Carrigeen, Glendine, Youghal, Co. Waterford. They farm 45.47ha in 3 blocks including 4.6ha in barley and 11.7ha in Special Area of Conservation (SAC). Eamon and Donnchadh are running a suckling to beef enterprise split into Spring (70%) and Autumn (30%) calving consisting of 46 suckler cows.

The males are finished as under 16 months bull beef, while the heifers, not retained for breeding, are finished at 18-20 months. Own heifers are kept for breeding. 100% AI is used on the farm with bulls selected for high replacement figures for breeding initially and then a high terminal sire used for the rest.

Eamon and Donnchadh are measuring grass and using PastureBase Ireland for the last number of years. Temporary fencing and regularly taking soil samples to measure soil fertility is key to the McCarthy grassland management technique. 

Management update 

Breeding

Breeding started on 1st May on the farm for the spring calving herd with 100% AI being used. 

Nutrition

The autumn calves were weaned on 17th March and the autumn cows (17) have been moved to the out block in Youghal for the summer. The spring born calves were treated to prevent coccidiosis.

The finishing bulls are still being fed ad-lib ration and some will be drafted for slaughter in the coming weeks.

All other stock are at grass full time.

Eamon completed a fodder budget on Pasturebase for winter 2022 to estimate how much silage he will require this year. Based on 27 dry cows, 18 calved sucklers, 14 in calf heifers and 50 weanlings that will eat 3kg of ration/day over a 5 month winter, he will need 115 tonnes of silage dry matter. He has 27 tonnes of dry matter left in the silage pit from this winter and will therefore need to make 400 bales of silage. At a yield of 8 bales per acre, he will have to cut 50 acres of silage between first and second cut silage, along with surplus paddocks. 

Grassland/Silage

The second rotation was slow to start on the farm due to cold and wet weather which slowed re-growths. Silage had to be supplemented to cattle during this time and when compared to the same time last year, there has been 0.5 t DM/ha less grass grown on the farm this year.

The grazing paddocks have received 43 units of protected urea/acre in the last 2 months to help boost grass growth to meet demand on the farm. As grass growth naturally increases, there should be less need for fertiliser over the coming months but measuring grass weekly will help to decide this.

The closed silage ground is growing slower than what Eamon and Donnchadh would like, but with the increase in grass growth and a cover of 1400 kg DM/ha it should be fit to cut for mid to late May as planned. As this has been grazed already, the plan is to make good quality silage which will be over 70% DMD.

Two slurry samples were taken on the farm and the results are as follows;

 

The results will be useful to plan nutrient application for second cut silage. The cattle that were housed on these covered slurry tanks over winter were given very little ration which reduces the P content of the slurry, but the N content was quite high.

Approximately 2,500 gallons of this slurry has been spread on silage ground using the dribble bar. Based on standard figures of 6 units of nitrogen (+ 3 units with dribble bar), 5 units of phosphorus and 30 units of potassium were spread per 1000 gallons of slurry. However based on the actual results a total of 25.4 units of nitrogen, 14.4 units of phosphorus and 70 units of potassium was spread.

The silage ground was topped up with 60 units of protected urea per acre which met the crop’s nitrogen requirement, however it is 30 units short in potassium. This can be addressed by spreading 0.5 bag of muriate of potash (50% K) to replace nutrient offtakes from the silage crop.

Bull Performance 

The spring born bulls (15) for finishing under 16 months were weighed on 18th April and averaged 605 kg, having gained 1.5 kg/day on average since their previous weighing on 17th March. Some are fit for slaughter and will going to the factory in the coming weeks.

Read about the May update from three Future Beef Farmers here

Find out more about the Future Beef Programme here: Future Beef Programme | Find out more about the Signpost Programme