Teagasc has confirmed that plans are currently in place to develop an organic beef research farm at Johnstown Castle, Co. Wexford.

The 40ha (98.8ac) Kildavin Farm at Johnstown Castle in Co. Wexford will prepare for organic conversion in the summer of 2024, before the first influx of organic weanlings arrive on the farm in the autumn time.

These weanlings will be carried through to beef on the farm. Both early and late maturing beef breeds will be included in the trials.

In a post on the Teagasc website, Teagasc organic specialist, Joe Kelleher, explained that there has been an “unprecedented increase” in the number of farmers converting to organics over the past two years, including a significant number of beef farmers.

He said that the rise in the number of organic beef farmers will “inevitably lead to an increase in the availability of organic beef on Irish farms”.

Traditionally, up to 30% of this organic beef has ‘leaked’ annually into conventional systems.

One of the key elements of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) and Teagasc funded Gro-FarmS project, which is being undertaken in conjunction with UCD, is to develop clear guidelines for efficient and profitable organic-beef finishing systems.

Some of the key objectives of the Gro-FarmS project include:

  • Optimising lifetime growth rates to reach target carcass weight / fat scores as early as possible (i.e. ‘young’ slaughter age);
  • Producing adequate forage of sufficiently high-quality in the absence of inorganic fertilisers;
  • Minimising the importation of supplementary concentrate feeds;
  • Maintaining the highest levels of animal health and welfare with minimal use of antimicrobials.

The Gro-FarmS project will also evaluate varying finishing diets and finishing ages on the Teagasc Grange Animal and Grassland Research Centre.

The combined research at both the Grange and Kildavin sites will help to develop clear guidelines as to the most efficient organic beef finishing systems to enable organic farmers to adopt these practices with confidence.

The Gro-FarmS project also includes sheep system trials to be undertaken at the Teagasc Athenry Animal and Grassland Research and Innovation Centre and will also include the collection of environmental benchmarking data on organic farms.

The project will commence in March 2024 and will run for four years.