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Significant positive impact – why the Newford herd will continue in Roscommon

The Newford suckler demonstration farm was established by Teagasc and Dawn Meats in 2015 on 65 hectares of land in Athenry, Galway with support from McDonald’s. Teagasc provided the land, part of which was leased from the IDA. Dawn Meats provided the start-up capital and funding for day-to-day operations of the farm, coupled with management services and technical innovations deployed on farm.

Teagasc provided additional management support and communicated the key learnings from the farm to stakeholders. The farm has focused on demonstrating key Teagasc technologies such as a lighter dairy cross cow type,  2-year-old calving of heifers, compact spring calving, 100% AI usage, increasing carcase weights through genetic selection, younger ages at finishing whilst achieving market specification, grassland management, and more recently the inclusion of grass clover swards. In 2022 the farm began measuring methane using Greenfeed technology and installed a carbon flux tower to help with measurement of carbon sequestration.

In May 2023, the IDA announced they had secured a new tenant (Dexcom) for the Newford site and while Teagasc welcomed this significant investment for the West of Ireland, it meant the Newford suckler beef herd would need to vacate its existing location by November 2023. Dawn Meats and Teagasc immediately began consulting widely with stakeholders and there was a strong view the Newford suckler demonstration farm has had significant positive impact on delivering key messages to suckler beef farmers. All of the key stakeholders believed it should continue on a new site ensuring progress achieved to date, could be built upon further.

Teagasc and Dawn Meats identified a range of potential sites in the West of Ireland and after assessing these options, a suitable 58-hectare (143 acres) farm was selected in County Roscommon and a seven-year lease on the property negotiated. This allows Teagasc and Dawn Meats with ongoing support from McDonald’s, to continue their very successful collaboration, demonstrating key profit drivers and sustainability technologies to suckler beef farmers.

The farm identified has extensive cattle wintering facilities and some of these will be used for the Newford suckler herd with the remaining facilities used as a specialised winter finishing beef unit. Teagasc and Dawn Meats have identified this sector as a key component of the Irish beef industry exposed to significant business risk, and which has the potential to contribute significantly to achieving Ireland’s climate goals by focusing on key technologies that will help drive profitability by focussing on high quality forage production, precision selection of cattle for slaughter, health and welfare of housed cattle, and all the while working to improve the Carbon footprint. The Newford suckler herd will continue to focus on key areas of genetics of sires and dams, grassland management, mixed/clover swards and improving the sustainability of the herd. The Greenfeed measurement system and carbon flux tower will now also be situated on the Roscommon site.