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Sustainable Family Beef Farming Businesses

The Farmer Forum Panel Discussion at the Teagasc BEEF2018 Open Day in Grange, county Meath, today will highlight sustainable family beef farming businesses. Three beef farmers will tell their story of how they have developed and improved their farms, the technologies they have adopted to improve the performance of their livestock enterprises, and ultimately the improvement in farm profit. The panel discussion will be facilitated by Richard Curran from The Dragons Den & RTE Radio 1 ‘The Business’.

Mike Dillane is a suckler farmer. In 2012, he was making a loss of €100 per hectare gross margin. Since then he has transformed the business and is now consistently making over €1,800 per ha gross margin. He has a suckler herd of 115 cows and uses 100% AI on these cows to make rapid genetic improvement. He tweaked his production system a few years ago and moved from selling weanlings at 8 – 9 months of age to finishing all of his stock on the farm. He now finishes all of the male cattle as bulls at 16 months of age. He now buys in bulls for finishing in this system. Mike plans to slightly reduce his suckler herd in size over the coming years and to increase the number of bought in stock.

Joe Farrell is a calf to beef farmer, buying in calves to finish them as beef. Joe has also increased his gross margin per ha substantially over the last five years. It has increased from €504 per hectare gross margin to €1,592 per hectare. He has made very big changes in his grassland management which has pushed up his margins per hectare substantially. He changed from using 7 large grass fields to now having 35 paddocks which has allowed him to grow and utilise more grazed grass. Another big improvement on Joe’s farm over the last couple of years is the improvement in calf health. He has a vaccination programme that he follows rigorously and has extremely low mortality in his calves.

John Phelan is a store to beef farmer, buying in store heifers and finishing them as beef. He buys in 300 high quality heifers each year and places a big emphasis on getting out to grass early with stock. He has put a lot of investment in recent years into grazing infrastructure such as fencing, water, and roadways to facilitate this. His farm has very good soil fertility levels and he aims each year to put out enough fertiliser and lime to maintain that. All of his land on his home farm has been reseeded in the last 10 years. Joe was making €500 per ha gross margin in 2012 and with the improvements and the development of his farm he is now making €1,800 per ha gross margin.

Farmers attending the forum will also be addressed by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine, Michael Creed TD; Phelim O’Neill from the Irish Farmers Journal, and by Teagasc Director, Professor Gerry Boyle.