Top dairy calf to beef producer on switch from suckling

GREEN ACRES participant Michael Ryan and his family will host a Teagasc Green Acres Calf to Beef farm walk on their farm near Ballymore, Co. Westmeath on Wednesday, October 4, starting at 2.30pm.

The farm walk will focus on Michael's system of production and his plans for the future.

There will be talks on grassland management, winter fodder and a health programme for the winter period.

There will also be a discussion on the beef market and the financial performance of Michael's system will be scrutinised.

Michael currently runs a dairy calf to beef enterprise on his farm. Michael traditionally ran a suckler to weanling system and over the last number of years he started rearing dairy calf to beef stock.

As the numbers of calves reared grew, Michael decided to get out of the suckling enterprise altogether and concentrate solely on the calf to beef enterprise.

Since joining the Teagasc Green Acres calf to beef programme, Michael has continued to develop his calf to beef enterprise.

The numbers of calves reared has almost doubled in a three year period to spring 2017. Traditionally Angus/Hereford heifer calves were bought in April and May and slaughtered out of the shed as 22-24 month olds.

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Michael has changed a number of practises on his holding.

Calves are now bought earlier with all calves on the farm born before the end of March.

Buying earlier means the calves have a longer first season at grass and benefit from cheaper weight gain. It also allows many heifers to be slaughtered before the second winter, thereby reducing the overall wintering cost.

Having a lot of heifers slaughtered before the second winter also allows for a higher stocking rate to be carried over the second grazing season, maximising the use of grazed grass in the diet.

Michael has also invested in an automatic milk feeder to reduce the labour involved in rearing a large number of calves in the springtime. Due to the increasing number of calves being reared, a comprehensive animal health plan was been put in place in conjunction with his local vet.

This focussed on a good vaccination programme to protect against IBR, pneumonia and clostridia diseases.

This enhanced health programme has led to less sick animals, less time spent treating calves and more opportunity to deal with other tasks on the farm.

Calves are bought in at two to three weeks of age and following a rearing phase for the first 10 weeks they go to grass for their first grazing season receiving one kg of concentrate.

A strategic dosing programme is carried out during the first grazing season. Depending on weather, animals are generally housed in mid to late November and fed silage and concentrates.

Concentrate level is now based on silage quality with the target that all animals gain a minimum of 0.6kgs per day over the winter period. Animals are treated for worms, fluke and lice.

In the spring, heifers are returned to grass as early as possible.

Following a second year at grass, heifers are introduced to a finishing diet of 4-5kg of concentrate at grass around mid to end of August.

Heifers are slaughtered off grass in October/November with the last few slaughtered out of the shed as they became fit in December/January.

The plan for Michael over the course of the Teagasc Green Acres programme is to increase beef output on the farm and sell more kilos of beef per hectare by utilising more grass.

To achieve this target, Michael has decided to make a few adjustments to his grassland management.

A plan has also been put in place where Michael will make better use of grazed grass through the introduction of a paddock system, grass measuring, maintaining soil fertility levels, getting cattle out earlier and also introducing a reseeding programme.

Over 10pc of the farm has been reseeded each year over the last three years.

Michael will be available on the day to answer any questions in relation to challenges and rewards of setting up a dairy calf to beef enterprise.

Advisers and specialists from Teagasc along with representatives from the sponsoring companies available to answer queries in relation to calf to beef systems.

This farm walk is a DAFM approved KT event.

Indo Farming

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