News Q&A: Open day at one-man, 100-cow suckler farm

Newford Farm, the 100-cow suckler-to-beef demonstration herd launched in 2015 and located in Athenry, Co Galway, will host a national open day on Wednesday, May 25.

News Q&A: Open day at one-man, 100-cow suckler farm

The event, which runs from 2pm to 7pm and has farm walks starting every half hour, will give visitors a chance to see the production system in action, and to hear how the farm is dealing with the knock-on effects of a difficult spring.

The suckler enterprise has to-date attracted high levels of interest, with the first-cross Aberdeen Angus and Hereford cows bred from the dairy herd a break from the norm on Irish suckler farms.

Also in contrast to most finishing systems is the aim at Newford Farm to bring all progeny on this fragmented 55.8 hectares (138 acres) farm through to beef, with the aim of finishing predominately off grass at 18 to 22 months of age.

Farmers will have the opportunity at the open day to assess the system for themselves and also see how the farm is focused on implementing management practices to enable the farm being run with just one labour unit (farm manager Matthew Murphy), while still aiming to produce high output from a grass-based production system.

What will be the key discussion points at the open day?

Cow type; what attributes must a cow possess to be profitable?

Milk, fertility, production efficiency, longevity and docility are the central pillars on which the herd is based.

The production system and plan, and how it can be profitable for farmers, including the physical and financial targets, will be explained.

The breeding programme is also key — every cow rearing a calf with good weight for age is the backbone of the system.

Visitors to the open day will hear about how AI is used in a 100-cow herd, and why easy calving continental sires are the perfect fit.

Also, they will hear about how the farm is contract rearing its replacements.

Grassland managem

ent will also be discussed, Newford Farm is stocked at about 2.7 livestock units per hectare, putting immense pressure on grass demand.

You can see what grassland decisions and changes to infrastructure have been made.

When a system is running at peak performance, extra pressure is often placed also on herd health.

The comprehensive herd health plan will be explained in detail at the open day.

What is the key to the low labour requirement?

Matthew Murphy, farm manager will explain to open day attendees how the farm is operated on a one labour unit system. Time management is critical, and putting in place labour saving mechanisms is also key to Matthew using his time efficiently. while getting the job done. This will be of special interest to part-time farmers, where time spent on the farm is limited.

How was Newford Farm set up?

Newford Farm was established by Dawn Meats and Teagasc.

The herd is being run on 55.8ha of land previously farmed by Teagasc at Newford, Athenry.

The project is driven by Dawn Meats, Teagasc and the Irish Farmers Journal, with McDonalds also providing backing to the initiative.

Where is Newford Farm?

The event will take place at Newford Farm, Teagasc, Athenry, just off Junction 17 on the M6 motorway.

Everybody is welcome to attend, and entry is free.

What else is happening at the event?

Farmers can talk to Dawn Meats procurement personnel at the live exhibition on drafting animals and market specifications for Newford’s beef cattle.

Farmers’ queries at the open day will also be addressed by representatives from Bord Bia, the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Teagasc and Irish Farmers Journal personnel will also attend.

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