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VIDEO: Keeping suckling simple in the west

Cathal Irwin is a part-time suckler-to-store farmer from outside Castlebar, Co. Mayo.

The Grass10 course farmer, who is featured as part of Teagasc’s Virtual Beef Week, focuses on improving grass production and utilisation. 

He took over the farm in 2015, at a time when the main grazing platform was approximately 20-acres. “It was all one complete unit and cattle free-grazed all summer.”

“When I took it over, I split it into twelve paddocks and now we are grazing 3.7 LU/ha, that equates to about 15 stores, 15 cows and 15 calves.” 

Striking a balance 

“I would be a very typical west of Ireland farmer. I am self-employed and I work part-time on the farm.”
Cathal said he is also very conscious that he does want the farm to consume too much of his family life.

“Typically, in the summer months, the farm only takes up 3-4 hours per week. In the winter months, probably 1-2 hours per day, feeding and another 3-4 hours at the weekend.” 

“My two big focuses as a suckler farmer are breeding the best quality animal that I can and finish them as quickly as possible – I am very focused on average daily gain.”

“I have also put a big focus on my weanlings, getting them out to grass early in springtime, which helps to reduce costs, improve animal performance and reduce the workload.”

Grassland management 

Irwin said he has been guided by Teagasc, who formed the Mayo grass group, which he is now a member of. 

He walked the farm thirty times last year and grew 9.3 tonnes DM/ha. 

“My future plans on the farm are to keep improving infrastructure and reseeding – I want to have all the farm reseeded within the next three years.”

“Maybe then, I will further reclaim more land with a view to building another shed.”

“My whole philosophy is to keep improving, improving, improving,” Cathal concluded.

Image and video source: Teagasc Youtube

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