The Long brothers’ integrated approach to dairy and beef farming

Farming in Ballymacarbry, Co. Waterford, Richard Long finishes both early maturing and continental calves originating from the dairy herd and is a participant in the Teagasc Green Acres Calf to Beef Programme.

All of the calves purchased on the farm are sourced from his brothers’ dairy farm in Co. Tipperary.

With this arrangement, there’s potential for Richard and his brothers, Michael and Liam, to work together in terms of the beef sires being used.

Richard, who farms with his wife Eileen and two daughters Anna and Lucy, purchases 100-120 calves each year aiming to finish these at 20-24 months-of-age – depending on whether they are heifers or steers.

Last year, the average carcass weight stood at 243kg for the heifers and 268kg for the steers, with the average grade ranging from O= to O-.

In the video (below) – which featured as part of the Teagasc Virtual Beef Week – both Richard and Liam explain how they work together to improve the quality of the calves from the dairy herd.

Throughout the three-year programme, Richard is hoping to increase the conformation by one grade and increase carcass weight by 20kg, which would result in an increase of €140/ha; this will be done through improved management and better genetics.

For the 2019 breeding season, a team of eight beef bulls – of various breeds – were selected that were positive for carcass weight and conformation, without being excessively hard-calving for the dairy herd.

Before the commencement of breeding, Rose Goulding and Joe Tobin, both of Munster Bovine; Kevin Barron – Mike and Liam’s Teagasc dairy advisor; and Seán Cummins – Richard’s Green Acres Programme advisor; alongside Richard’s local Teagasc advisor, Austin Flavin, sat down with the three brothers to look at the options available.

“From my point of view, I was looking at confirmation and carcass weight. My brothers were looking at gestation length and ease of calving. So, with the help of the DBI [Dairy Beef Index] we met in the middle,” Liam added.

He continued: “On the dairy farm, we were finishing some of the cattle ourselves and we knew we needed to improve the genetics and the carcass weights.

“All the first calvers get Aubrac for short gestation and easy calving and the second calvers get Hereford, while the bigger cows [second calvers] are getting Limousin.

“The older cows are getting Charolais and Belgian Blue. We are very happy with the calving ease of all the bulls; we had no issues and it seemed to work well and we have used the same approach for the breeding season in 2020,” Liam said.

Kevin Barron, Mike and Liam’s Teagasc dairy advisor, notes that this relationship is ideal.

He said: “You have no negative impact on the milk production traits; it’s a guaranteed route to market for the dairy farmer and the beef farmer is getting a superior animal.”