Pics from the farm of one of the country’s best calf-to-beef producers

The Irish Grassland Association summer beef tour took place recently place on the farm of Kevin Farrell in Ballymahon, Co Longford.

Farrell farms 76ha alongside his wife Mary and sons Oisin, Patrick, Rioch and Enda. Having previously run a suckler-to-beef system in 2013, he decided to scale it back and concentrate on sheep and calf rearing.

Farrell buys as many calves as possible in September and October but, depending depending on the year, they can be difficult to source.

His calves come from farms he has dealt with before and he notes farms were problem calves have originated from. Farrell says he targets a healthy-looking calf that is at least 60kg live weight.

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Farrell has tried different systems in terms of finishing these calves and had now settled on finishing around 40 under-16 month autumn-born Friesian bulls and 110 Angus/Hereford steers and heifers under-24 months of age.

Farm Facts

  • 76ha (188 acres)
  • All owned
  • Farm split into 2 blocks
  • 150 dairy bred calves mosty autumn born (Oct-Nov) and 300 mid season ewes
  • 110 AA/HF steers at 24 months
  • 40 autumn friesian at 16 months
  • Some heifers finished

The profit monitor results above show the gradual transition over a few years from suckling to calf to beef.

As the output/ha increased from €2,525/ha in 2013 to €2,843/ha in 2014, the variable costs also increased from €1,426/ha to €1,887/ha.

During this period Farrell was concentrating on the 16-month bull business where concentrates showed up as a huge cost. Having reviewed this over the last year, Farrell decided to diverisfy into the Angus/Hereford steers to reduce costs, increase margins and spread risk.

Despite this, Farrell does say that there is still a large cost to either of these systems.

Important factors to get right

  • Sourcing calves
  • Calf rearing
  • Grassland management
  • Silage quality
  • Market requirements

Farrell says he likes rearing calves to beef but there are a few variables like calf price, concentrates price, beef price and bonuses which he says means the system is very volatile.

Farrell said most of these variables are out of the control and that is why he tries to produce the animal as efficiently as possible from within his farm gate.

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