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Applying Technologies on Beef Farms to Sustain Profitability

Hundreds of beef producers who contribute to the €2 billion in beef and cattle output from Irish farms were in Athlone, today, 13th October for the Teagasc National Beef Conference. The event, which is sponsored by Zoetis, looked at the technologies which can be applied on farms to sustain profitability.

Opening the conference, Teagasc Director, Professor Gerry Boyle said: “We must all remain firmly focused on the technologies that best offer you as beef farmers, and the beef industry in general, the most profitable and sustainable future. All of the beef research that Teagasc is involved in, and all of the advice that we provide to beef farmers, is based on returning the best possible economic outcome. The financial results from the top one third of farmers that complete eProfit monitors, and the Teagasc demonstration farms, clearly show that achieving a gross margin of €1,000 per hectare is achievable.”

Mervyn Parr from Teagasc Grange said: “Only 23 per cent of beef calves in Ireland are born to an AI sire. It is well acknowledged that AI allows access to genetically proven sires for terminal, maternal, and ease of calving traits, thereby facilitating greater genetic progress and ease of management. At least half of the herd should be bred to produce quality herd replacements and the remainder bred to terminal beef sires.”

Artie BIrt, a beef producer from Portaferry, Newtownards, County Down, spoke about his experience of using AI on his 180 spring calving suckler herd. “Using AI has allowed me to use easy calving high genetic merit sires on all my heifers which are calving down by 24 months of age.”

Noirin McHugh, Teagasc geneticist described the ideal suckler cow as one that requires low labour input, efficiently produces a good quality weanling, and goes back in calf year on year. She said that the economic benefit of using a five star replacement index cow over a one star cow is as much as €172 per calving event.

The Teagasc Derrypatrick suckler demonstration farm in Grange in County Meath and the newly established Newford demonstration farm in Athenry, County Galway, both centre on high grass growth and high grass utilisation. Teagasc researcher, Adam Woods outlined how the Derrypatrick and Newford farms have grown 12.9 tonnes and 9.1 tonnes of grass dry matter per hectare, respectively, up to the 30th September this year. The most productive paddock on the Derrypatrick farm has produced 15.1 tonnes DM/ha so far this year.

Teagasc Beef Enterprise Leader, Eddie O Riordan, outlined feeding strategies to optimise performance from pasture in steer and bull finishing systems. He said: ”As most beef cattle destined for slaughter spend at least two seasons at pasture in addition to two winters indoors, the level of animal performance at any stage of the production cycle can have an influence on performance at a later stage in the cycle." He said that in integrated calf to beef systems each stage in the production needs to be optimised.

The technologies that have been successfully used by farmers participating in the Teagasc/Irish Farmers Journal BETTER Farm Beef Programme were presented by Teagasc adviser Alan Dillon. “The main improvements made were in terms of increasing output, grassland management, herd health and breeding. Increasing the amount of live weight gain achieved from grass during the main grazing season significantly reduced the cost of the intensive indoor finishing period.”

The full proceedings from the conference are available at Beef-Conference-Proceedings-13102015