Diary dates for drystock farmers include three upcoming events during May and June. The Irish Grassland Association (IGA) is hosting two separate conferences and farm walks devoted to beef and sheep, supported by Mullinahone Co-op and MSD.
The sheep conference and farm walk takes place at Horse and Jockey Hotel in Tipperary and on John Large’s farm, a few miles away, on May 22. Two days later, on May 24, the IGA hosts its annual beef conference in Kildare.
Keeping grass ahead of ewes
The IGA sheep conference includes Darren Carty of the Irish Farmers Journal; Kevin McDermott and Eamon Wall, programme managers for Sheep Ireland; and Mathew Blyth, flock manager from Didling Farms Ltd in West Sussex, UK. Mathew will discuss the management of the 1,000-ewe flock, grazing rotations, use of alternative forages and how incorporating the latest technology has helped him manage and improve their flock performance. The afternoon farm walk on John Large’s farm focuses on grassland management, the use of AI and the challenge of lambing a big flock in a tight timescale. There is a high stocking rate on the farm and John Large places a lot of emphasis on early autumn closing of some paddocks to ensure a good build-up of grass for early Spring grazing.
Beefing-up in Kildare
Ger Dineen, the beef enterprise grassland farmer award winner in 2017, will be the keynote speaker at the beef conference at the Clonard Court Hotel in Athy and will outline how he achieved a beef output figure of 999kg live weight per hectare on a heavy farm, by targeting grassland management to grow and utilising high quantities of grass. Teagasc research geneticist Dr Donagh Berry will try to answer the question, ‘Will breeding the best with the best always give you the best?’ The importance of beef producers making connections with the final consumer will be discussed by Professor Patrick Wall.
The farm walk will be held on the O’Connor family farm near Moone in Kildare. This is a mixed farm with four enterprises including beef, sheep, tillage and pigs. The beef enterprise comprises 90 suckler cows, with all male progeny finished as bulls under 16 months and heifers at 21 months. Each year, additional cattle are purchased for finishing, including both young bulls and heifers. The unique feature of this farm is the way the O’Connors paddock graze the cattle in large groups during the grazing season.
Later in the summer, BEEF2018, organised by Teagasc, is happening at Grange, Co. Meath, on June 26. The theme of this event is ‘€nhancing Knowledge’ and will look at all aspects of beef production. The emphasis in BEEF2018, Teagasc says, is on highlighting those technologies that will help underpin the future profitability of the beef sector. These include grassland management, animal nutrition, beef genetics, reproductive management and animal health. Farm planning and implementation that will be essential in increasing the competitiveness of the beef sector will be on display.
Roast beef on the menu
There will be specific stands devoted to farm Infrastructure, suckler-calf-to-beef and dairy calf-to-beef systems, high animal performance and grassland management. The very successful technology villages that have been a feature of previous Grange Open Days will be repeated. Such topics as Grass10, the BETTER beef programme and health and reproduction issues will be highlighted in the technology village. Agricultural education options will be discussed and there will be an emphasis on farm safety. Two highlights of the event are likely to be a panel discussion chaired by broadcaster Richard Curran and featuring some of Ireland’s best beef farmers and a range of beef cookery demonstrations delivered by chef Kevin Dundon.