Newford Farm Suckler Open Day
Type Media Article
By Catherine Egan, Beef Specialist, Teagasc
Teagasc and Dawn Meats in collaboration with the Irish Farmers Journal and McDonalds are delighted to welcome all farmers and stakeholders in the beef sector to the Newford Suckler Demonstration Open Day on Tuesday, 23rd May in Athenry, Co. Galway from 2.00pm to 6.00pm. The theme on the day is “Meeting the Challenges”.
The first open day took place in May 2016 and seven years on, the walk will focus on all the changes and lessons learned since then. The project was initially set up in 2015 for a seven year term in which the 100 cow suckler calf-to-beef demonstration farm has highlighted many positive features of the production system with the herd excelling in breeding and calving performance dramatic reductions in the ages that animals are slaughtered. The cow type – Angus and Hereford first cross cows from the dairy herd hasn’t changed since 2015.
One of the biggest changes to come about during the project has been the move to 100% artificial insemination. This change has really driven on the performance of the farm and allowed better use of genetics through matching good terminal beef sires with suitable cows to produce well shaped calves. Last year, the bull calves gained 1.30kg per day on average, while heifers averaged 1.23kg per day up to weaning. Newford’s 2021 born heifers were slaughtered under 18 months of age with a carcass weight of 296kgs grading R- 3=. This has obviously been a big talking point and achievement for the farm and showcases what is achievable when a system is operated efficiently. Steer slaughter performance has been fairly consistent over the last seven years, with animals finished at 20 months of age producing R=3- 342kgs carcase, which is, on average, eight months than steers slaughtered at a national level.
Grassland management has been another big drive for the performance of these animals. The farm has 38 paddocks across the three land blocks and all of these can be subdivided using pigtails and a geared reel. Animals are always let graze covers of 1200-1500kg dry matter per hectare. Paddocks greater than 1500kgs DM/ha are removed as surplus bales producing silage greater than 75% dry matter digestibility.
Newford farm has continuously worked towards being more sustainable. A number of measures have been implemented on the farm in recent years. In May, 2021, 20 acres of grassland was over sown with white clover and a further 45 acres was over sown in 2022. Over sowing clover has not only reduced the farm’s dependency on expensive chemical fertiliser but clover also acts as a nectar source for bees during summer. In spring 2023, 220 metres of native hedging consisting of Whitethorn and Blackthorn was sown which will act as a corridor for wildlife and shelter for cows and new born calves.
In 2022, Newford farm joined the Future Beef Programme and Signpost Programme and with the help of the assigned Programme Advisers, Newford Farm will demonstrate best practice regarding sustainable beef production by improving efficiency of the farm, improving biodiversity while increasing farm profitability. Both programmes involve implementing a suite of measures to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions focused around reducing age of slaughter, implementing a herd health plan, increasing the length of the grazing season, using Protected Urea, reducing chemical fertiliser by 10kg per hectare, increase soil fertility and pH, making better use of slurry through spreading an increasing proportion of the slurry in the spring and using low emission slurry spreading equipment (LESS).
In light of the recent announcement from the IDA that Dexcom Inc, a global leader in continuous glucose monitoring for people with diabetes, plans to build its newest global manufacturing facility in Athenry, Co. Galway, Teagasc will enter discussions with the IDA on the transition process for the land lease and in particular the anticipated timeframe. As part of these discussions, Teagasc will seek to maintain the Newford suckler beef demonstration herd in the Newford farm for as long as is feasible during the transition process. Teagasc are also in discussions with its partners Dawn Meats in the Newford demonstration farm on future plans for the project. In the meantime, the herd will continue to be managed as normal.
The Newford Open Day will take place on Tuesday, 23rd May from 2.00pm to 6.00pm and will be an opportunity for farmers to review the progress of the demonstration herd over the last seven years.