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Monday 22 April 2019

A suckler success story: 'The more grass I grow, the more profit I make'

President of the Irish Grasslands Association Jan Jensma with host farmers Tom and Thomas O’ Connor
President of the Irish Grasslands Association Jan Jensma with host farmers Tom and Thomas O’ Connor
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

Cork farmer Ger Dineen outlined his approach to grassland management to get the best out of his herd of 60 sucklers at last week’s Irish Grassland Association Beef Conference.

His farm has 32 paddocks, roughly one hectare each. He believes that the more paddocks you have the more control you have over grass.

“My farm is good to grow grass when all the conditions are right. However the grass growing year of 2012 and spring of 2013 were awful, and the fall of 2017 and spring of 2018 were even worse.

"It has taught me a lesson that I have to cut back my stocking rate from 2.5 to around 2.2 and match my stock to the grass I can grow.”

When Ger started the Better Farm beef programme he was growing around an average of seven tonne per hectare. By the end of the programme he was growing an average of 14t/ha.

He strongly believes in measuring his grass every week and downloading it to Pasture Base. In doing so, he can see the paddocks that are doing well and the ones that are performing poorly.

He reseeds around 10-15pc every year, usually at the start of August and, depending on how much grass he has, he picks the worst performing paddocks and will drain them if they are wet.

“For me, the more grass I grow the more profit I make,” he concluded.

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During his talk Dr Pat Wall discussed the importance in the production of safe food for humans. “It should be a goal for all engaged in agri-food activities and those working in animal genetics, in feed mills and rearing cattle on farms are as much in the food business as those operating processing facilities or running hotels and restaurants,” he said.

He said that diet-related disease and obesity-related health problems in humans are major public health issues. He maintained that human nutrition is the key to health so the final objective for the agri-food sector should be to improve human health and all engaged in activities along the food chain should consider themselves in the “human health business”.

He said that in addition to the nutrition and health issue, there are four other major areas requiring attention if consumer confidence is to be maintained. These are food safety, animal welfare, animal health and the adverse environmental impact of modern farming practices. Beef farmers need to be proactive in addressing all of these or they will help drive consumers towards plant-based diets or towards a reduction in the amount of beef in their diets.

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