Teagasc and Dawn to set up Athenry suckler beef farm (despite criticism that the land is too good)

Teagasc and Dawn Meats are establishing a new stand-alone suckler herd at Athenry, Co. Galway to demonstrate best practice in the sector.

The Newford Beef Farm will be run on a fully commercial basis and will demonstrate the potential of a moderately large suckler beef farm to generate a viable family farm income when operated to the highest level of technical efficiency. It is modelled on the Greenfield Dairy farm in Kilkenny.

The farm will run 100 suckler cows and their progeny, which will be brought to slaughter, on 58ha of land.

The suckler herd will be located on land currently rented by Teagasc, that is not required for the Teagasc sheep research programme. It is anticipated that cows will calve down on the farm in the spring of 2015.

Dawn Meats will own the herd and will finance the enterprise. The model of the Greenfield Dairy Farm is that a commercial interest operates the farm, owns the animals, employs the labour, with Teagasc providing expert advice, and has full access to all data for analysis and dissemination purposes.

Teagasc’s main role will be to provide advice in the establishment and operation of the farm and the dissemination of information from this farm to the wider Irish beef farming community through the advisory services. It’s anticipated that the information will be of significant help to those producers who are planning a long term future in profitable, low-cost beef production.

Teagasc says the farm will develop and demonstrate world-best practice in suckler beef farm systems in terms of economic, environmental and animal welfare sustainability while setting new benchmarks for achievable performance, and will be an important aid in the transfer of the successful technology to beef farms throughout Ireland.

There will be detailed measurement and analysis of financial and animal performance and all data will be disseminated by Teagasc. It is expected to attract large numbers of farmers and discussion groups once established.

Criticism

Recently the ICSA while welcoming the establishment of a suckler demonstration unit questioned the suitability of the site.

According to the ICSA’s Paul Brady the land around Athenry is of a quality that would be most untypical of that occupied by traditional suckler herds in Ireland, and results gleaned would therefore be of little relevance or use to the vast majority of suckler farmers.

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