Farm Ireland

Sunday 22 July 2018

Grass is key to expansion

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

Conor Greene
Conor Greene

Conor Greene farms 65 hectares of owned and rented lands in Rathowen, Co Westmeath. The farm is all in the one block. Since taking over the farm, Conor has continued to rear around 70 Friesian bull calves each year.

These bulls are castrated with a burdizzo at six months of age and are then finished as bullocks at 30 months of age. Animals are generally slaughtered from the end of July to October.

2015 Calves

Seventy four calves were reared on the farm this spring. These calves were born from the first of February to the middle of April and were all sourced locally from a dairy farmer. These calves were reared on an automatic feeder in two groups.

The calves are at grass now in two separate groups. Each group is receiving one kg of a 16pc protein ration.

The first group of 39 calves were weighed in mid-July and averaged 150 kgs, assuming a birth weight of 45kgs, they have had an average daily gain of 0.66kgs since birth. The older group received an Ivermectin Pour-on after four weeks at grass and both groups were given a Levacide Pour-on, on July 25.

The calves are given access to nice leafy grass with a pre grazing cover of 7 to 8cm or 800 to 1,000 kgs dry matter per ha.

Conor will take dung samples randomly from 10pc of these calves in the next few weeks to see what worm burden is on the calves at present.

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Yearling Friesian bullocks

The yearlings are currently grazing in two groups. The first group of 33 bullocks were weighed on July 23 and averaged 416kgs.

They are receiving no meals at grass and good quality leafy grass will be kept ahead of them for the rest of the grazing season in order to maximise weight gain from grass.

Finishing Friesian bullocks

There were two groups of 39 Friesian bullocks being finished on grass and 6kgs of meal.

They have started turning 30 months of age since August 1, 46 have been slaughtered within the past three weeks with an average carcass weight of 335kgs. The oldest bullocks were started on meal feeding on June 12, with the younger group on June 29. Animals will receive between 60 and 90 days on the finishing diet.

Fodder budget

Conor completed a fodder budget after the first cut silage was harvested in mid-June.

This budget highlighted that he was 215 tonnes of silage short.

To address this issue,

Conor fertilised 20 acres for a second cut with four bags of 18/6/12 per acre, assuming a yield of 7 tonnes per acre, this will produce 140 tonnes, 10 acres was also purchased on the stem, yielding another 60 tonnes and to make up the difference paddocks that become too strong will be taken out as baled silage.


With the 78 finishing bullocks being removed from the farm over the next few weeks and the silage ground coming back into the grazing rotation, the demand for grass on the farm will greatly reduce.

This gives Conor a great opportunity to re-seed a portion of his farm.

Fifteen acres have been sprayed off with glyphosate since the first week of August. It will be heavy disc harrowed, with lime spread at two tonnes per acre, 2.5 bags of 10/10/20 applied, grass seeds sown and rolled. New sward will be observed for weeds and sprayed at six to eight weeks if required.

Green Acres Calf to Beef programme

The programme aims to drive production on Conor's farm. With his land all in the one block, Conor has a great asset to start increasing output.

A plan will be put in place to see where he can develop the farm.

As output is driven by performance of each animal and by stocking rate, Conor will look to gain more beef at grass, by improving grassland management, therefore he may be able to kill bullocks at an earlier age, allowing him to carry more animals.

Like a number of participants in the programme, the main obstacle to increasing numbers is the limiting factor of housing on the farm.

The main aim is to firstly increase performance per animal before any increase in stock numbers is undertaken.

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