Beef farm aims to have its cattle grazing 50 extra days this year and make 'huge cost savings'

Teagasc started the ‘Grass on the Bypass’ project in 2016 and it focuses on improving grassland efficiency on drystock farms.
Teagasc started the ‘Grass on the Bypass’ project in 2016 and it focuses on improving grassland efficiency on drystock farms.
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

A beef farm in the midlands is well on its way to reaching its aim of having cows out on grass 50 extra days than they were four years ago.

Beef and sheep farmer Conor Ryan farms outside Tullamore in Co Offaly and is host farmer of the Teagasc-led ‘Grass on the Bypass’ project which began in 2016 and focuses on improving grassland efficiency on drystock farms.

Conor has 100 ewes and farms a calf to beef system on his 35 acre home farm and also on his 23 acre out-farm located on the N52 Tullamore Bypass.

In 2016 Conor was working on increasing cattle numbers and was unsure whether he should rent more land to ensure the herd got enough grass.

Teagasc drystock advisors Mark Coyne and Paul Fox challenged him to look at utilising grass more efficiently on the 23 acre field beside the N52 and thus the ‘Grass on the Bypass’ demonstration project was born.

Teagasc’s Mark Coyne told the recent IFA Smart Farming Seminar in Portlaoise that the aim of the project was for Conor to rear 50 yearling cattle on the 23 acre site and to have the cattle averaging at 500kg by their sale date.

“In January 2017 we divided the field in to nine paddocks and all that infrastructure cost €2,500. We got 20 cattle out on March 11 and eventually got that up to 50 cattle. By April 20 we had 55 cattle grazing and that was the end of the first rotation which was a bit late,” said Mark.

“We made 80 surplus bales with the grass.”

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In 2016 the field grazed 30 yearling heifers and in 2017 it grazed over 50, nearly doubling its output and spending 230 days at grass.

Despite the 2018 drought causing an “unprecedented bump in the road”, Mark pointed out that the cattle still managed to spend 250 days at grass and plans for cattle to graze for 280 days this year.

“Cattle have been out since February 19 and things are going really well. The first rotation ended on April 1. All going well cattle should spend 50 more days at grass in 2019 versus 2016. This is huge savings for a drystock farm.”

Paul Fox added that it’s time that beef farmers realise that grass is their competitive advantage and proper grassland management can lead to major cost savings if utilised properly.

“Grassland management techniques remain poor on many beef farms out there. Over the course of the summer you will see cattle out in poorly managed grass swards where they have way too much grass, it has gone stemmy and they won’t do a kilo a day,” said Paul.

“Our argument is as long there is cows in the country producing stock then those stock will end up in the beef industry and those animals will have to be brought up in a cheap and an efficient way and as timely as possible."

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