Five second-level students are on a mission to promote the production of certified Irish Angus beef in a sustainable manner.
Sean Gubbins, Liam Hayes, Darragh Barlow, Conor Farrell and Michael Coman of The Abbey School, Tipperary have chosen this as their research topic as part of their success in the Certified Irish Angus Schools’ Competition.
The students at The Abbey School, situated in Tipperary Town, were selected as one of five finalist school groups to receive five Irish Angus calves in September 2020.
Certified Irish Angus runs the competition in association with ABP and Kepak to encourage second-level students to understand the process of rearing and producing high-quality Angus beef.
The Abbey School team consists of five farming enthusiasts who are passionate about Irish agriculture and the Irish Angus breed. All five hails from farming backgrounds, beef and dairy enterprises, and are within a 10km radius of Tipperary Town.
‘There is no I in the word team’
The students told That’s Farming: “This is a one of a kind competition, and it is safe to say that to date, it has been a great experience.”
“We work as a team combining our individual skills and talents and sharing the workload; after all, there is no I in the word team.”
“One of the many advantages associated with teamwork is the ability to get several opinions and views on a matter instead of just your own.”
“You meet people from across the country with similar interests and are fortunate to meet with industry professionals. We even got to meet with the legendry Marty Morrissey. As participants in the competition, we have seen significant development and improvement in communication skills, presentation skills and computer skills.”
“The beauty of this competition is that you do not have to win to achieve these skills and, most importantly, have the craic,” the students added.
High weight gains from a low-input diet
The five calves have taken up residency on Darragh’s family farm in the scenic Glen of Aherlow, where they are weighed every 60 days to monitor performance.
On arrival, the group weighed an average of 209kg. By St Patrick’s Day, the calves were turned out, and the group average increased to 339kg. This meant the calves gained 0.92KG per day, which succeeds the given O.7 DWG for weanlings.
The calves achieved this weight gain with an “environmental and economically sustainable” diet that consisted of a daily feed of 2kg of an 18% Crude Protein ration (kindly sponsored by Roches Feeds) from October to January and high-quality silage with a DMD of 73%.
Ration was only fed from October through to late December to allow for compensatory growth at grass and to rear the calves more sustainably.
“From our experience, the Angus is a very sustainable breed as high weight gains can be achieved on a relatively low input diet. This makes the breed more sustainable from environmental, economic and social perspectives.”
In the coming months, the students plan to continue weighing animals bi-monthly and rear their cattle on a grass-based diet on the green pastures of Aherlow.
They are confident their animals will continue to grow and develop at grass, because “after all, the Angus breed is renowned for their ability to thrive and finish off a grass-based diet”.
“This characteristic is another reason why the Irish Angus is a very sustainable breed. We will send them to slaughter in early November.”
“Many associate sustainability with just the environment. However, sustainability can be linked to labour efficiency, economics, farmer health and wellbeing and much more.”
The students outlined that the following are some ways the breed contribute to a sustainable farming system:
- Firstly, a short gestation and easy calving;
- Aberdeen Angus cattle command a superior price in both marts and factories;
- A very good mothering ability with adequate milk;
- Early maturing from a grass-based diet;
- Also, a very good food conversion ratio;
- Globally renowned beef sold at a premium price;
- A resilient, durable, tough breed that reduces medicine administration;
- Polled – reduces stress on both animal and farmer.
Through their participation in the nationwide competition, the students intend to raise awareness of the aforementioned traits.
“We would love to attend local discussion groups, marts and agricultural shows to educate the community about the sustainable characteristics of the Angus breed and how consuming Certified Irish Angus beef supports local farmers and has positive contributions to sustainability.”
“Unfortunately, we are unable to interact with the community face-to-face. Still, we are hopeful that we will get the opportunity to mingle among farmers and consumers when time allows,” the students continued.