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HomeBeefNewford finishes bullocks at 20.5 months off grass & €103/hd of meal
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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Newford finishes bullocks at 20.5 months off grass & €103/hd of meal

Early maturing genetics are playing a “significant” role in reducing the age of slaughter to improve emissions performance on Newford Suckler Demonstration Farm.

The enterprise strives to produce calves that gain weight rapidly and can be slaughtered at lower ages to produce high-quality beef at carcass weights that meet current market requirements, new results confirm.

The latest figures from Newford show the crop of 2021-born cattle achieved an age of slaughter of:

  • Less than 19 months for heifers;
  • Less than 21 months for steers;

According to a spokesperson for the farm, this is between 7 and 8 months less than the national average.

The average age of slaughter for the heifers was 564 days (18.8 months) compared to a national average of 808 days (26.6 months) while still achieving an average carcass weight of 296 kg and grades (R3).

The average age of slaughter for the steers was 622 days (20.5 months) compared to a national average of 834 days (27.4 months) while still achieving a carcass weight of 358 kgs and grades (R3).

Breeding programme

The farm’s breeding strategy produces calves which gain weight rapidly and deliver carcass weights and conformation that meet market requirements.

Cow type at Newford differs from the norm, consisting mainly of 650kg first-cross early-maturing Angus/Hereford cows, bred from the dairy herd, for their milk yield potential off grass, thereby minimising the need for use of bought-in concentrates.

Key areas of focus include:

  • Herd health, genetics and breeding;
  • Soil health and carbon sequestration;
  • Biodiversity and water quality;
  • Grassland management, fertiliser use and multi-species swards;
  • Planning and data capture;
  • Focus on performance targets: Calves achieve daily liveweight gains of circa 1.3kg/head/day.

According to a spokesperson, the latest findings suggest that if the techniques and methods practiced at Newford were implemented at scale nationally, they could drive “significant” improvement in on-farm efficiency and greatly reduce absolute emissions.

Producing these results allows the 71-ha Athenry-based project to achieve a carbon footprint which is 14% lower than the national average for similar enterprise types.

In a video on Teagasc’s YouTube channel, featuring Michael Fagan, Teagasc and Stephen Frend, Newford farm manager, the state agency recently provided a performance update in relation to its 43 2021-born beef bullocks, sired by five-star terminal sires such as FSZ, HJD, LM4366, LM4185, BB4492, LM4471 and LM2014, which were available to be slaughtered from the farm in 2022.

All were turned out to grass on March 23rd, 2022, at an average liveweight of 454kgs, after gaining 0.72kg/day, as yearlings, over the winter period.

40 bullocks were drafted at 20.5. months and 4 were drafted on August 31st, off grass without meal feeding. At the time of the video, Newford confirmed its intentions to draft the remaining three bullocks as they become fit for slaughter, with an aim to have all sold off-farm by late December.

The farm introduced concentrates to the first twenty bullocks on September 1st, at a rate of 3kg/head/day and on October 7th, 19 bullocks were housed, while the remaining 14 bullocks remained outdoors for a further fortnight.

Meal was gradually increased to 6.5kg/head/day along with 74% DMD silage ad-lib before slaughter.

Slaughter data

Average slaughter data for 40 of these bullocks:

  • Average liveweight – 653kgs;
  • Average age – 20.5 months – ranging from 19-21 months;
  • Carcass weight – 358kgs;
  • KO % – 55%;
  • Conformation – R=;
  • Fat Score – 3-;
  • Average price: €1,776/head or €4.96/kg, which includes the factory base price and QPS;
  • Slaughtered at Dawn Meats, Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo on Friday, December 2nd, 2022.

According to a spokesperson, 4 bullocks out of the 40-strong group drafted had a fat cover of 2= and missed out on the 20c/KG QPS bonus.

On average, each bullock drafted consumed circa 250kgs of high-energy, 12% crude protein ration before slaughter at a cost of €103/bullock (€411/tonne), a spokesperson for the farm said.

Market demands

Paul Nolan, group development manager at Dawn Meats, commented on the bullock’s kill-out performance by saying: “R=3- is an ideal grade which is what the market is looking for.”

“With this, we have a fantastic covering of roast beef, sirloins that will sell at the right price for consumers, particuarly in these hard-press times, whereas we know people are trying to weigh up between eating and heating.”

“Overall, we have a compact carcass, with somewhere in the region of 180kgs in a very small length, so that is superb in terms of meat yield. These animals, remarkably, we are told from the farm, only just over €100 of feed ration, and yet, they produce this quality carcass, primarily off grass.”

“The farm is also incredibly efficient as these animals are 20.5 months and are well below the national average of 26.8 months.”

“There is a considerable saving in terms of feed costs there also. Finally, with all talks these days about greenhouse gas emissions, these animals have put out 1.3t of carbon equivalent less than their comrades by being slaughtered six months ahead of the national average,” he concluded.

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