Where a land lease charge of €208/head of cattle is not counted (where land is not leased), a total profit margin of €320/head is achievable from organic winter beef finishing, according to figures from the National Organic Beef Open Day.

Over 1,200 farmers attended the National Organic Beef Open Day, which took place on the farm of John Purcell in Ross, Golden, Cashel, Co. Tipperary on Wednesday (September 28).

The event was organised by Teagasc, Bord Bia, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) and the host farmer.

Substantial increases in the level of direct payments to farmers who are in organic production, coupled with the hikes in fertiliser prices over the past year, has piqued interest in conventional farmers switching to organic production, in particular, in the beef sector.

Earlier this year, Agriland paid a visit to John Purcell’s farm and a full report from the farm visit can be read here.

At the National Organic Beef Open Day on Purcell’s farm this week, a clear breakdown of the farm’s financial performance was available to attendees.

At the event, Teagasc outlined that typically, organic beef farmers are stocked in the region of 1.0 livestock units (LU)/ha, but this can vary depending on soil type.

This stocking rate is lower than conventional beef farms, but due to higher organic beef prices (typically in the region of a 15% premium), the total value of farm sales can be maintained despite the reduced stocking rate.

When converting to organic farming, some costs will increase and some will decrease.

Fertiliser cost will typically be eliminated. Organic meal is expensive, but usage rates tend to be lower on organic farms leading to a reduced overall feed bill. However, other costs such as seeds, bedding costs and licence fees may increase.

Overall, it would be expected that total costs on organic farms would be lower than their conventional peers.

The newly increased payment rates announced under the Organic Farming Scheme will also contribute positively to overall farm profitability.


Due to the requirement for cattle to have access to a bedded area, bedding costs are likely to increase after converting to organic farming.

Farmers located in parts of the country where there is a high concentration of tillage farmers should be able to access straw bedding at much lower rates than those who have to pay to transport the straw longer distances. Conversely, farmers on heavier soils may have access to rush bedding to counteract this.

The key consideration when appraising the profitability of organic conversion is to realise that there are many variables and that it is vital for all farmers to calculate their own figures for their own farm.

Teagasc outlined that while the host farmers’ farm is well in excess of the national average farm, the figures give “a good overview of the type of margins that can be expected from an organic beef finishing farm”.

The absence of a fertiliser bill or any purchased concentrate means that two of the largest bills on most farms are eliminated.

John Purcell’s figures are for the year 2021, when cattle purchase prices were approximately 15% lower than 2022 but equally, cattle sale prices were also lower by a similar percentage.

The farm has a strong reliance on employed labour and so this cost has been eliminated from the table to make costs more representative, however, a full land lease charge of €208/finished animal has been included.

According to Teagasc, the average conventional farmer incurs a net loss per finished animal (excluding direct payments). The Purcell organic beef farm is securing a margin of €110/finished animal. If a farmer with all owned land was to exclude the land lease charge, then profitability would be very positive.

The newly announced Organic Farming Scheme offers drystock farmers €300/ha for the first two years of conversion and €250/ha thereafter.

When this is added to the figure above, it demonstrates that organic beef finishing systems can be profitable farming enterprises.

In conclusion, organic beef finishing systems can be profitable but growing high-quality silage and reducing purchased concentrates are key to achieving this.

It is important for all farmers to analyse their own figures before making the decision to convert.