The ABP Demo Farm in Co. Carlow hosted a farm walk for Advantage Beef Programme members and ABP suppliers yesterday (July 27).

The theme of the event was: How can you make sustainability work for your beef farm?

ABP’s agri-sustainability manager, Stephen Connolly, explained that sustainability on farms “must include both economical and environmental sustainability”.

The objective of the ABP Demo Farm is to increase the economic and environmental sustainability of dairy-beef cattle.

One of the key messages from the farm walk was that calf-to-beef farmers should enquire about the calf’s genetics before agreeing on a price for a calf.


One dairy farmer who was in attendance at the event commented: “As a dairy farmer, I sell all my AI (artificial insemination)-bred beef calves every year and it’s normally down to the colour of the calf and how the calf looks on the day.

“On the flip side of that, we also sell off our surplus Friesian heifers, we have customers that buy them purely on their figures. We could offer them at €100 less but if the heifer doesn’t have the figures, the farmer is not interested.”

The farmer said that until farmers who are buying calves destined for beef production start asking for the calf’s genetics, dairy farmers “are not going to change”.

“Why would they, when they are getting the same thing?” the farmer asked.


A demonstration took place at the farm walk. It showed two Angus heifers being weighed. Both heifers were the same age and looked identical when they arrived to the farm as calves and they were from the same farm. However, one of the heifer’s sire had a higher beef sub-index than the other.

The heifer with the better sire had a weight of 570kg, while the heifer with the lesser sire weighed 408kg. Both heifers were reared together, received the same treatment and neither suffered any health setbacks.

The demonstration attracted huge interest from attendees at the farm walk and clearly showed the potential to improve sustainability through buying higher genetic merit calves.

Progeny performance from a range of sires on the ABP Demo Farm:

SireCount of animal numberAverage weight

The farm

Amy Coonan, ABP’s farm liaison team leader, gave an overview of the grazing strategy on the farm and outlined how through building soil fertility and optimising soil pH, the farm is growing and utilising more grass.

The grass growth target on the farm is 14t dry matter (DM)/ha and the entire farm has been reseeded since 2015.

The farm operates a rotational grazing system where paddocks are grown in three weeks and grazed in three days. The rotation length varies from 18-35 days and grass is measured weekly on the farm.

Docks are becoming a major issue on the farm and a number of control methods were discussed at the walk.

ABP’s dairy beef researcher Sean Maher was on hand to discuss the Carlow demo farm and explain its system and targets.

He outlined: “The farm rears 400 calves/annum and carries 400 cattle from the previous year as well as a 500 store lamb operation.”

It is owned and managed by James and Michael Shepperd and the farm size is 280ac.

“The sheds are straw bedded with a slatted feeding area and the aspect of the farm is northeast facing,” added Maher.

More information on the ABP Demo Farm system is available here.

Heather Peppard from Brett Brothers feed mill gave an overview of the importance of making quality silage and balancing winter feed rations.

Peppard outlined the importance of minerals and fibre in cattle diets too.

Jim Dockery from FRS gave a demonstration on farm safety and offered farmers advice to reduce the risk of accidents when working with livestock and machinery.