Suckler-Beef Farm: Rare Ruminare, Sligo
“Farming for free where there will be little or no cheques for inputs or contractors to be written”.
That, quite frankly, is Clive Bright’s ultimate goal on his 58ha suckler-beef farm in Ardsallagh, Ballymote, Co Sligo.
He believes that holistic planned grazing on a year-round basis is “key” to helping him achieve this objective.
He takes all progeny through to slaughter and sells beef directly to consumers under his own beef brand, Rare Ruminare.
Certified organic suckler-beef farm
The accomplished artist began farming in 2003 when his mother retired and converted to organics after a ten-year stint.
He felt that “synthetic fertiliser was not doing his soil any good and the farm was struggling to return a profit”.
His mission statement is to “leisurely, profitably and perpetually farm an aesthetic landscape, to feed the minds and bellies of ourselves and others”.
He farms approximately 40 livestock units – including 15 suckler cows on a high clay content soil – across 58 ha, 15ha of which he rents.
The suckler herd comes from a background of Shorthorn and is a mixture of mostly Aberdeen Angus and Irish Moiled females.
He focuses on selecting a cow that works for his own farm and system, that is, a smaller female (550kgs) that still produces offspring with a 300kg carcass.
In his view, a self-propelled cow is one that is “resistant to culling, she must calf, wean that calf, and go back in-calf, and her weanling must be acceptable to the goals of the farm”.
The Sligo native culls cows that need to be “propped up with repeated medication or meal feeding”.
“The best cow is an ordinary cow without fault,” explained Clive, who culls “aggressively” to selected, adapted animals, which are ones that do not thrive on the farm’s natural pastures.
Calving, housing and Belted Galloway
He now runs a Belted Galloway bull with the herd as he finds them to be an “easy-care” animal that finishes “well” off a pasture-only diet.
Most calvings take place in May “in sync with nature” with the aim of finishing cattle from 24 -33 months.
Last year, he housed breeding cows and calves in October/November and fed them on species-rich hay. He outwintered yearlings and finishing animals and weanlings – calves which he took off cows – in March joined them thereafter.
To try and spread out his slaughter dates, Clive finds that he can finish Angus at 24 months +, whereas Irish Moiled cattle can be 30- 34 months before being ready for slaughter.
He says this suits his system because it still allows him to have a tight calving period yet spread the finishing dates across the season.
Bright sells all beef in a 20kg beef box of mixed cuts, but does not sell individual cuts and says that this “really helps” simplify the logistics.
Working with his local abattoir, Burns Meats, he sells the 20kg beef boxes for €280 plus delivery.
In this view, Angus beef is “very tender”, but an Irish Moiled’s flavour is “exceptional” and expects the newly added Belted Galloways to have “similar eating qualities” to the latter.
By introducing Belted Galloways to the farm, he hopes the herd will deliver in response to hybrid vigour, with resulting progeny having a “good layer of fat, with a lot of inter-muscle tissue which should finish easily off pasture”.
With his animals averaging just over 200kgs of saleable meat, he told attendees at a Teagasc event on his farm that “this translates into a sale price of €2,800/finished animal”.
Due to the high price received for the finished animal coupled with very low levels of inputs, Clive has carved a “very profitable” farming system for himself.
In a booklet, which Teagasc circulated at the event, it said,
“Clive’s situation, not only does he retain all his direct payments as profit, but he is adding significantly to it. His direct payments are 67% of his family farm income.”
According to the farm’s 2021 financial performance it generated a total income of €67,506.
Teagasc data shows it had costs of €17,170, which led to a profit of €50,336.
That’s Farming recently interviewed Clive as part of our Suckler Focus series. Read the comprehensive interview.