The newly appointed IHBS Field Officer – Donal Walsh, attended the Newford farm open day on Tuesday 23rd May, along with over 500 farmers to see the workings of the farm. There was plenty of learning to be got from this well run and managed event.
The Newford farm is an 85 cow suckler farm enterprise on 140 acres consisting of AAX and HEX cows (50/50). Dawn meats, Teagasc, Irish Farmers Journal and McDonalds are stakeholders in the Newford farm. In 2022 Newford joined the Future Beef Programme (one of 22).
The stocking rate on the farm stands at 2.4 units/ha. The cows are sourced as calves from the dairy herd which deliver on lower concentrate costs for the finish of their progeny and finished at an early age. The heifers are slaughtered at 18 months at 300kg carcass weight and steers at 21 months at 355kg carcass weight. There are no stock bulls on the farm however 100% AI on cows gives good breeding genetics and animal performance.
Grassland management plays a major role on the Newford farm.
The production of 14t of dry matter grass in 2022 across a paddock system in the three land blocks was a huge success. A once-a-week grass walk is key in this respect.
The making of silage at 75% dry matter digestibility was another important factor which reduced the need for expensive concentrates during the winter.
The over sowing of clover and reseeding with clover in the seed mix is ongoing on the Newford farm. Clover can fix Nitrogen at a rate of 50 to 200kg /ha each year. The result is a reduction of use in expensive chemical fertiliser and lower variable costs at the year end.
Earlier turnout of yearling beef heifers to grass from 1st week of February reduces labour and feed costs. ADG’s for heifers and steers are 0.8kgs to 1 kgs. ADG’s for the calves at grass during their first grazing is between 1.2 and 1.3kgs. The early weaning of calves happens from the 2nd week of September resulting in better cow and calf health.
Soil fertility at 6.5 ph is achieved across the majority of the Newford farm. A correct ph for the soil will ensure a positive response from expensive chemical fertiliser. A soil test from the start will determine if an application of lime is required.
Breeding performance involves the use of 100% AI.
KPI’S on selecting AI sires are 5 Star Terminal (within and across breed), <8% calving difficulty on mature cows, <5.8% calving difficulty on young cows, >70% reliability on calving difficulty, >35kg predicted carcass weight mature cows, >25kg predicted carcass weight young cows, >1.86 on conformation.
KPI’s general (2023 targets) are Replacement index cows €133, Replacement index for 1st calvers are €165, calving intervals 364 days, calves per cow 0.96, heifers 22-26 months calved 100%, 6-week calving period 90%.
Cost challenges are many across variables on the Newford farm i.e. feed, fertiliser, energy, contractor, veterinary. The lowering of inputs through good grassland management and negotiating prices with energy and contractor providers is key. The importance of being in the various DAFM schemes (BISS, ACRES, SCEP), beef producer groups (Bonuses), Bord Bia (Quality Assurance and bonus) will all help to return more income to the farm.
Health and safety are paramount in on the farm. Good planning and organisation of work tasks are at the core of all management practice.
The key areas are;
Risk management i.e. identify and manage risks on the farm through risk assessment and safety statement.
Animal handling; i.e. good animal handling facilities
Tractor safety; regular checks and servicing.
Calving; good facilities i.e. calving gate, barriers when tagging.
Farmers health; good work life balance promotes good physical and mental health, regular health check with GP.