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HomeBeefWeanling-to-beef producer nearly halves meal bill by focusing on grass
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Weanling-to-beef producer nearly halves meal bill by focusing on grass

The benefits of grass inside and outside the farm gate was the focus of the second segment of the Irish Grassland Association beef event.

With Covid-19 restrictions preventing an on-farm tour again this year, the event, sponsored by Mullinahone Co-Op, took an online format on Tuesday, July 6th.

Allen Callagy provided an insight into the grass-fed standard for Irish beef.

He discussed the management of his beef-finishing enterprise and how his slaughtered animals qualify for the standard.

Allen farms in Co. Kildare near the Meath border. The farm – which is fragmented and laid out in three blocks up to 4km from the farmyard – is all laid out in permanent pasture.

The beef system revolves around the purchase of 100 continental weanlings each autumn, with all stock brought through to beef.

Grassland management

Despite the difficulties of managing grassland on a fragmented farm, Allen is determined to maximise live weight gain from grass and silage and minimise the amount of purchased concentrate in the cattle’s diet.

Since joining a grass management course in Kildare, Allen has renewed his focus on grassland management.

The Kildare-based farmer has substantially improved the grazing infrastructure on the farm. He installed a new water system – with large water troughs and up to thirty additional paddocks.

He is already reaping the rewards of good grassland management. It has resulted in more grass-grown. However, it is also of higher quality resulting in more cattle finished off-grass without the need for concentrate input.

In addition, silage regularly analyses over 73% DMD, which is a notable achievement from old permanent pasture.

Installing additional paddocks and a new water system has revolutionised grazing practices on-farm.

Producing top-quality beef 

Allen gets great satisfaction from the fact that he is producing top-quality beef from predominantly home-grown resources – grass and grass silage.

Grass-fed is a term that consumers are familiar with – that holds a positive association as premium.

Ireland is already strongly associated with grass-fed production. This evidence points to a real opportunity to use existing grass-fed strengths to create an ISO accredited national standard and deliver upon a clearly identified consumer desire for ethical, premium, natural and healthy beef.

Bord Bia has adapted the scope of the standard to accommodate young bull beef. This means young bull beef will now be eligible to be assessed in the grass-fed standard, along with steers, heifers, and cows.

This standard will be implemented at processor level. It utilises information provided by farmers in their SBLAS audits to determine the grass-fed status of animals.

The audit of standard will ensure processors are engaging with the Bord Bia database and performing checks correctly. In turn, this will ensure correct traceability, segregation and labelling of grass-fed product.

Young bulls will be treated the same as other animal categories. Their qualification as grass-fed depends on meeting the criteria of the standard in relation to the proportion of grass in the diet and grazing days.

Watch from 19:40 

Further reading

John Kingham, the manager of Tateetra and Rathmore Farms, provided an insight into the operation.

IGA virtual sheep event 2021

This follows its latest virtual sheep event, which featured:

  • Neil McGowan, Scotland, farming 1,200 breeding ewes and 220 suckler cows in Scotland – watch video
  • Alan Cole, farming a 200 mid-season lambing flock, finishing all progeny on-farm and contract rearing 60 dairy heifers in Kildare – watch video
  • Peter McGuinness, who farms a 500-acre enterprise, with his farm, comprising tillage, sheep, beef, working on a B&B system and contract rearing dairy heifers – watch video
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