Watch: Missed the Newford Suckler Open Day?
Hundreds of farmers travelled west earlier this week for the Newford Suckler Open Day, where they learned of the changes and lessons learned since the project was initially set up in 2015.
Since the project started, Newford land area has seen slight changes due to development of Athenry town, while TB issues in 2022 reduced cow numbers. A decision was taken to reduce land base and land block numbers and, as result, the lease of 13ha of grassland and a farmyard located 12km from the Newford farm yard was not renewed.
Cow numbers have been reduced as well, with stocking rate reducing from 2.65 to 2.41 livestock units per hectare for the years ahead. Over the last eight years, 100 animals have typically calved down each spring. Cow type is Angus and Hereford first cross cows bred from the dairy herd. This hasn’t changed since 2015. This cow type works well and is delivering offspring which are easily finished at an early age without the need for excessive concentrate input.
At the open day, Matthew Murphy, Dawn Meats gave an overview of Newford Farm and an insight into the financial performance. Watch the recording of his presentation below:
One of the biggest changes to come about during the project has been the move to 100% artificial insemination. This change has allowed better use of genetics through matching good terminal beef sires with suitable cows to improve the beef characteristics of progeny, while still retaining calving ease. For example, Newford's 2021-born heifers were slaughtered under 18 months of age, with minimal lifetime concentrate input, with a carcass weight of 296kg and grading R-3=. Steer carcass performance has been fairly consistent over the years, while age at slaughter has been reduced to 20 months, producing 355kg, R=3- grading carcases in 2020, which is on average eight months earlier than steers slaughtered at a national level.
Below, Teagasc’s Donall Fahy and Stephen Friend, Newford Farm Manager gave an insight into the breeding performance at Newford Farm.
Grassland management and finishing performance
Grassland management has been a major focus in terms of production efficiency with 14t DM/ha achieved in 2022. The farm has 38 paddocks across the three land blocks. All of these can be subdivided using pigtails and a geared reel. Animals graze covers of 1200-1,500kg DM/ha. Paddocks with covers greater than 1,500kg DM/ha are removed as surplus bales, producing silage testing at greater than 75% dry matter digestibility. These high-quality bales are fed back to finishing steers and weanlings during the winter and this also helps reduce the need to feed expensive concentrates over the winter.
Over the past eight years, heifers born on the farm were finished from 18-20 months of age and males were finished as steers from 20-22 months. By extending the grazing season, the 2021-born beef heifers were slaughtered under 18 months of age, which lead to a significant saving in concentrate and silage requirements.
In the below video, Future Beef Programme Advisor Gabriel Trayers gave an insight into the grassland management practices at Newford Farm. Darren Carty, Irish Farmers Journal provided an insight into the finishing performance at Newford Farm.
The management team at Newford Farm is determined to enhance the level of biodiversity on the unit. The farm has been selected as a demonstration farm as part of the Teagasc Signpost Programme and Future Beef programme. This will see a suite of measures introduced over the lifetime of the programme.
For example, a small portion of old grazing ground beside the main yard was set aside. This ground will not be grazed and will act as a food source for bees during the summer. A selection of native trees will also be established in this area. In addition, 220m of whitethorn hedge was planted this spring and plans are in place to establish another 200m over the coming years.
In the below video, Michael Fagan, Jonathan Herron, Rachael Murphy and Daniel Flynn, Teagasc, gave an insight into the sustainability initiatives being carried out at Newford Farm.
The open day book for the Newford Suckler open day is available here.