Farming in Kiljames, Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny, Thomas and Peter O’Hanrahan will host the first farm walk of the second phase of the Teagasc Green Acres Calf to Beef Programme – on Thursday, October 10, at 2:30pm.

The father-and-son duo run a dairy calf-to-beef enterprise on 90ha of grassland; an additional 12ac are in forestry.

Originally, a suckler-to-beef operation took centre-stage on the farm, with Peter working off-farm as an electrician.

However, after Peter completed a two-year stint in Teagasc’s Kildalton College, a calf-to-beef enterprise was introduced on the farm in 2014 and the sucklers were phased out.

To get the ball rolling, seven calves were purchased; this quickly increased to 20, 60, 80 and, then, 160. A target of 180 was set for this year. All going well, another 180 calves will be purchased in spring 2020.

Going forward, 70 Holstein Friesian steers will be brought to beef off grass at 28 months and 110 will be finished out of the shed aged 24 months.

Peter puts a lot of emphasis on buying the right calf. He is a firm believer in buying direct off farms and has built up good relationships with dairy farmers in his locality.

A new calf shed has been built under the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS) on the farm, which Peter designed himself, and calves are fed via an automatic feeder installed in this unit.

Along with the new calf house, a new five-bay slatted unit – equipped with 26ft-wide pens and double slatted tanks located either side of the feed passage – was also constructed under TAMS.

While the housing facilities on the farm are excellent, since the programme started, a special focus was placed on paddock size and layout. Soil fertility issues are also being addressed on the farm.

The farm walk

As part of the farm walk, visitors will move around to a number of different stations and demonstrations.

Station 1: The first stop will involve a grazing demonstration.

Topics here will include:
  • Extending the grazing season;
  • Closing paddocks up for autumn;
  • Setting the grazing platform up for spring 2020;
  • Weed control;
  • Soil fertility.

Station 2Visitors will then move into Peter’s finishing unit, which was recently constructed under TAMS. In addition, 560kg (approx weight) Friesian bullocks – destined for finishing – will be on display.

Topics focused on here will include:
  • Feed requirements and prices 2019/2020;
  • Ration types/ingredients;
  • Profitability of finishing at 21, 24 and 28 months-of-age;
  • Calf prices in spring 2020;
  • Winter dosing for finishing animals.

Station 3: The discussion will then move into the weanling shed on the farm.

Talks will revolve around:
  • Target weights – housing and turnout;
  • Weanling health – vaccinations and dosing;
  • Silage quality;
  • Ration constituents and feed value;
  • Animal space allowance;
  • An update on Teagasc’s own dairy calf-to-beef herd in Grange.

Station 4: The purpose-built calf rearing unit will be the next stop, which was also constructed recently.

Subjects up for discussion here will include:
  • Calf shed design and environment;
  • Everything farmers need to know about milk replacer;
  • Calf feeding options;
  • Calf rations;
  • Calf health.

Station 5: Discussions here will be focused around the Beef Emergency Aid Measure (BEAM) scheme.

Topics will include:
  • How farmers can calculate scheme requirements;
  • Methods to reduce organic nitrogen (N) by 5%.

Station 6: The final talk will be based around the carbon footprint of beef operations.

Talks will cover:
  • The carbon footprint of the O’Hanrahans’ farm;
  • Ways to reduce the carbon footprint on individual farms.

Time and place

The farm walk – which is open to both beef and dairy farmers – will take place on Thursday, October 10, 2019, on the farm of Thomas and Peter O’Hanrahan in Kiljames, Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny (Eircode: R95 VH01) at 2:30pm sharp.

Peter, Teagasc staff and representatives from the stakeholders involved will be on-hand to answer any questions or queries you may have.