Farm Ireland

Thursday 23 November 2017

Back from Australia to expand the family farm

Conor Greene
Conor Greene

THE next Teagasc Green Acres Calf to Beef Farm Walk will take place on Conor Greene's farm at Rathowen, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath on July 14 with walks starting at 2pm and 6pm.

This event will focus on Conor's calf to beef system and will feature speakers from MSD Animal Health, Kepak and Teagasc. Conor will also be available to answer any questions in relation to his farming system and his calf to beef enterprise.

Conor returned home from Australia in 2012 to take over the family farm. The farm consists of 66ha which is all in the one block with 9ha rented. The farm was traditionally a fattening enterprise of approximately 50 Friesian steers at 30 months of age.

Prior to joining the Teagasc Green Acres Calf to Beef programme, Conor had increased the number of animals reared and finished to 70.

All the calves were purchased locally from a dairy farmer in the February to April period. These calves were predominantly Friesian bulls and the last 20 were generally Hereford bull calves.

Calves are reared on milk replacer plus concentrate and straw for the first ten weeks and would then go to grass for their first grazing season.

As Conor is working full-time, he decided to purchase an automatic milk feeder in 2013 to reduce the amount of labour required in the calf rearing phase.

Calves were previously castrated in October, but he now plans to complete this task earlier in the year to reduce stress on man and beast.

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The steers are then housed in slatted sheds and fed silage supplemented with concentrates depending on silage quality. Following a second year at grass the steers are housed for a second winter and supplemented with one to two kilos of concentrates. They are then returned to grass for a third grazing season and finished on five to six kilos of concentrates in the August to October period.

The plan for Conor over the course of the Teagasc Green Acres programme is to drive output on the farm and to try and sell more kilos of beef per hectare. To achieve this, he has decided to make a few adjustments to his farming practises.

The stocking rate will be increased, this will be done by buying in an extra batch of 40 calves and rearing them on the automatic feeder in the autumn/early spring period. These animals will be fattened and slaughtered off of grass as two year olds to save the need of housing them for an extra winter. This also allows more efficient use of the automatic milk feeder with an extra batch reared.

A total of 120 calves will be reared each year with 80 born in the spring, the strongest of these 80 will be slaughtered out of the shed as two year olds with the rest returning to grass for a third season to be slaughtered off of grass in the June /July period at the traditionally higher beef prices.

A grassland plan has been put in place and Conor intends to make better use of grazed grass through the introduction of a paddock system, getting cattle out earlier and also reseeding some old pastures.

In conjunction with the local vet, a herd health plan with a major focus on the vaccination programme has been drawn up to help optimise performance throughout the lifetime of the animal.

Live weight gain from grazed grass is critical to the profitability of the system, so Conor will purchase calves earlier to have a stronger calf going to grass in the first season, whilst also allowing some steers to be slaughtered off of grass thereby reducing the feeding costs and housing requirements.

There will be excellent information available on calf to beef system on the day and anyone with an interest in calf rearing and calf to beef enterprises is welcome to attend.

Indo Farming