'I was convinced it was the way to go'
Published 16/03/2016 | 02:30
Almost everything about John Purcell's farm beliesthe perception that organic beef production in Ireland is the domain of the small scale producer using a traditional farming system on low stocking levels.
After inheriting the family's 300ac farm of top quality land in 1999 - there is a good reason that they named the area Golden' - he looked at all of the farming systems from dairying to tillage.
However, it was a coincidental visit to an organic farm near Clonmel that impressed him most of all.
"I was convinced it was the way for me to go and I went in to it for the margin that it offered me and no other reason and we have been developing it since," he explained of the enterprise which became organic accredited in 2001.
Today he is operating the largest organic farm in the country, renting 125ac in addition to the 300ac home farm, with a stocking level of more than 700/hd of cattle bought in directly from organic farmers and through dedicated organic mart sales.
The cattle are carried through to slaughter at a target age of 912 days and weight of up to 350kg for the organic market.
The animals are fed a predominantly grass-clover based diet with a modest level of organic cereals at the finishing stage. The straight cereals are purchased from an organic cereal grower, while organic seaweed minerals are fed to all animals during the winter period.
"There is no comparison on the price of the concentrate purchased straight from the grower at €320-€330/t compared to the pellet ration at €600/t and we are feeding around 130t/year," he said.