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Virtual Beef Conference 2020 - Day 3: Irish grass fed beef

Exploiting the full potential of Irish grass fed beef is the theme of Day 3 of the Virtual Beef Conference 2020, held at 8pm Thursday 3rd December. The last of three nights of webinars featured presentations by Dr. Edward O’Riordan & Dr. Aidan Moloney, Teagasc, Grange and Padraig Brennan, Bord Bia

Day 2 of the conference was Chaired by: Teagasc Director, Professor Gerry Boyle

View Webinar Recording here:


The first presentation was delivered by Dr. Edward O’Riordan - Teagasc Grange Research. The title of the presentation was:

Beef production from grass-forage only diets

This presentation focused on an on-going study which is looking at the typical composition of steer/heifer diets. At least 86% - 90% of the diet is in the form of forage – grass and grass silage (Expressed on a dry matter basis). When looked at in an “as –fed” basis the contribution that pasture is making is 95% approx. forage-based.

So animal performance at pasture needs to be maximised in efficient livestock production. The study found that low pre-grazing herbage mass restricts growth of beef cattle i.e. turning animals in to low grass covers. The effect of post-grazing sward height ( i.e. the height grazed down to ) on animal performance was also studied and concluded that grazing too tightly (i.e. 4 cm) restricts growth of beef cattle.

A higher proportion of silage-only animals are ‘under-finished’ at 24 months. So this poses the questions “if steers are inadequately finished on silage-only diet at 24 months, can returning to pasture for a short 3rd grazing season overcome this?” “And what are the effects of breed maturity and age-at-slaughter on carcass characteristics?” By going to grass for a short 4 months max the animals that got no concentrates in their lifetime can achieve a carcass weight and fat score equivalent as those which were in the shed receiving concentrates and killed at 24 months of age. Is  grass-fed beef different? Meat quality attributes were also examined. The grass-fed beef had yellower fat, “slightly” darker muscle, improved meat nutritional value, and small differences in eating quality. Methods are being developed to authenticate the Irish grass-fed beef label – this work is on-going.

The final presentation of the conference was delivered by Padraig Brennan, Bord Bia and was titled:

Positioning Irish Grass Fed Beef in the Marketplace

This is what Padraig had to say : Bord Bia research, conducted with over 13,000 consumers, has established that a significant market demand exists for grass fed beef with the term being associated with premium, natural, healthy and higher levels of animal welfare. Consumers strongly associate Ireland with grass fed production and, in many ways, of all the strengths that our beef system possesses, grass fed is the one that resonates most.

Recognising this opportunity, Bord Bia, in consultation with key stakeholders, developed an independently verified Grass Fed Standard for Irish beef. The standard utilises data collected during the Bord Bia SBLAS audit, so there is no additional work for farmers. Qualifying animals must have a lifetime diet of at least 90% grass and grass forage on a fresh weight basis. Bord Bia has recently launched the grass fed standard in some of our key markets with a view to using it to positon Irish beef as premium with key retail and foodservice customers. A full promotional programme is planned for 2021.


For more information on the Virtual Beef Conference and to watch any of the recordings from each of the three days see here https://www.teagasc.ie/beefcon20/