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Teagasc/Irish Farmers Journal BETTER Farm Beef Open Days

The first of a series of spring farm walks took place this week on the farm of Patrick Drohan, Scrahan, Kilmacthomas Co. Waterford. A further three walks will take place on Teagasc/Irish Farmers Journal BETTER Beef Farms over the coming two weeks where the focus is on improving farm profitability with a special emphasis on how better breeding can contribute significantly to increasing margins per cow and per hectare on suckler farms.

Patrick Drohan has worked closely with his local Teagasc adviser Patrick O’Brien and programme adviser Peter Lawrence since he became a BETTER Beef Farm in 2012 in implementing a plan for his farm to increase profits. Over the last three years the value of output on the farm has almost doubled through a combination of increasing cow numbers and an increased number of calves reared per cow. Homebred replacement heifers have significantly higher replacement index values than the average of the herd, and by following this policy over the coming years; the average index of the herd is expected to rise considerably. A workshop on the important traits to breed for was facilitated by Chris Daly of the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) where the types of heifers selected on the Drohan farm for breeding were on display.

Commenting on the open days, Pearse Kelly Head of Drystock Knowledge Transfer in Teagasc said: “this is an ideal opportunity for farmers to view the progress that has been made on these farms over the last three years when straight forward and easily implementable technologies are put in place to increase farm output and profit. In particular Irish suckler farmers will have to put an increased emphasis on the type of replacements that they are bringing into their herds to reverse the trends we are seeing that is leading to less fertile suckler cows with lower milk production.”

Other open days taking place as part of the programme are:

Thursday 2nd April, Donal Scully, Banogue, Co. Limerick

Donal will demonstrate how a part-time suckler farmer can achieve a gross margin of almost €1,400 per hectare by managing a high stocking rate through excellent grassland and time management. Contractors are used for the main jobs leaving Donal time to concentrate on the important jobs on the farm like grassland management and breeding. This farm consistently achieves over 0.95 calves per cow compared to the national average is 0.79. Alan Dillon, BETTER farm programme adviser, calculates that this is worth over €5,000 in extra output. A.I. plays an important role on this farm with no stock bull used for the first six weeks of the breeding season. After that a Limousin bull with a high replacement index value is run with the herd. Walks start at 2pm and 5pm.

Tuesday 7th April, Frank and Des Beirne, Newtownforbes, Co. Longford

Frank and Des Beirne operate a 95 cow herd where all of the stock is finished as either young bulls or heifers. Since joining the programme they have put a huge emphasis on increasing grass utilisation. Typically suckler farms will utilise around 5 tonnes of grass dry matter per hectare in the year. The Beirnes have increased it on their farm from 7.0 to 13.5 tonnes by putting in extra paddocks, laying roadways and measuring their grass growths weekly. Catherine Egan, BETTER farm programme adviser, estimates that this is worth an extra €400 per hectare per year. Frank and Des breed some replacements but have also recently started to purchase high index heifers from special breeding heifer sales. Some of these first time calvers with calves at foot will be on display on the day at the breeding workshop run by ICBF. Walks start at 12pm and 4pm.

Thursday 9th April, Willie Treacy, Hackballscross, Co. Louth

Willie has been in the Teagasc/Irish Farmers Journal BETTER Beef Farm programme since it started in 2008. While in phase one of the programme he increased his gross margin to over the target of €1,000 per hectare. Throughout phase two he has maintained this high margin and now also has the highest stocking rate of all the BETTER Beef farms. Again grassland management is the key to achieving this. Cattle are turned out early and rotated around 1 -2 day paddocks. In recent years Willie has been focusing on easier calving terminal bulls and is choosing Charolais sires that are particularly low for calf birth weight but they must still have above average growth rates. The walk starts at 2pm.

All are welcome to these walks and there will be representatives from Teagasc, the Irish Farmers Journal and ICBF to present the results and to answer questions.

See www.teagasc.ie or www.farmersjournal.ie for further details.