Farm Ireland

Tuesday 26 March 2019

Ambitious targets... Green Acres Calf to Beef

Teagasc advisor Gordon Peppard profiles two of the participating farmers in the Green Acres Calf to Beef programme

Taking stock: Pat Bowden plans to increase the stocking rate on his Kilkenny farm
Taking stock: Pat Bowden plans to increase the stocking rate on his Kilkenny farm

Based in Lisdowney, Co Kilkenny, Pat Bowden and his family farm 100 hectares of grassland in three separate blocks. Having taken over the land in recent years, some ground needs development work in terms of drainage, cleaning back sides of field boundaries and reseeding. Pat will work on this over the next few years.

Pat currently has 72 calves bought in, these are mainly Friesian bull calves which will be castrated at six months of age. There are also 35 suckler cows and their calves on the farm. A Limousin bull is currently running with these cows.

Pat previously sold some of the Friesian store bullocks at 22 months of age, but will now look at the option of finishing all stock. Shed space will be the main obstacle to Pat in trying to increase stocking rate and output on the farm over the next couple of years.

Soil fertility

Pat`s entire farm was soil sampled in early February before any slurry or fertiliser was applied. On analysing the results it was discovered that the levels of phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) were quite low on the farm, with P levels particularly poor. Lime levels were also low, with fields requiring between two and five tonnes per acre.

To grow enough quality grass, the lime first needs correcting and then the P and K levels. Following consultation with local Teagasc advisor, Terry Carroll it was decided to spread two tonnes of lime per acre on 50ac.

To spread the cost and workload of this, another 100 tonnes will be spread at the end of the year or next spring, depending on weather.

Pat may apply a product like 0/7/30 or 0/10/20 at the back end of the year or early next spring to boost P and K levels. It is planned to spread this soil fertility build up out over a couple of years so that substantial costs are not all incurred in the one year.

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2015 calves

Some 72 calves were reared this spring. These calves were born between mid-January and mid-March. The main group of 54 are at grass in a sheltered paddock close to the yard. They are receiving 1kg of meal per day. They were treated with an ivermectin-based pour on, three weeks after turnout to control worms and lice.

Pat intends to take dung samples randomly from five of these calves in the next week to see what worm burden is on the calves to establish if another treatment is required or not.

Dung samples

The procedure for taking dung samples is to obtain at least 10 grammes of fresh dung from around 10pc of the group. Therefore Pat will need five to six individual samples from his group of 54 calves. The five samples should be put in five individual containers, ideally with a screw cap, with the animal tag number for identification purposes.

Then put the five samples inside a sealed bag so that it does not burst in the post. Ensure to include your name, address and herd number along with the age of animals that dung samples are taken from when sending to your local veterinary lab or vet.

Yearling stock

The yearlings are currently grazing in three groups. The main group of 60 bullocks, 20 yearling heifers from the suckler herd and 12 heifers running with an Angus bull to provide replacements for the suckler herd. They have been out at grass since the first week of April. The Friesian bullocks were weighed on March 14 before they went to grass and averaged 285kgs. They will be weighed again in the next two weeks.


Pat had always operated a set stocking system, where a group of animals were left on the one area for the entire grazing season. To make better use of grass and improve growth rates, a rotational grazing system has been devised and Pat is splitting up fields with a wire fence. This will be completed on the out farm first and Pat can then concentrate on the home farm next. These smaller fields can then be grazed off in three to four days and animals regularly moved to fresh grass.

Due to strong growth, there is currently surplus grass on the farm. As fields are grazed they will be topped to remove stemmy grass and improve the quality of the regrowth.

Finishing bullocks

Twenty-one Friesian bullocks are currently being finished on good quality leafy grass. They are receiving 5kgs of meal and will be finished in the next month at 28 months. These animals were also weighed in mid-March and averaged 546kgs. If they average one kilo of gain between grass and meal over the past four and a half months, they should have an average weight at slaughter of around 680kgs.

Gordon Peppard is the Teagasc Green Acres Calf to Beef Programme advisor email:

Green acres at a glance

The Teagasc Green Acres Dairy Calf to Beef programme aims to demonstrate best practice on the rearing and finishing of purchased dairy calves through to beef (steers/heifers/bulls) on a whole-farm basis.

Green Acres aims to improve the net margin on each of the participating farms over the course of the programme.

The project is also providing technical support and training to the staff of the commercial stakeholders to the programme - Liffey Mills, Drummonds, Volac, MSD Animal Health and Grassland Agro.

Two of the 10 participating farms will be profiled each month in the Farming Independent.

These reports will give an outline of the holding, the farmer's goals and progress as the programme unfolds.

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