Farming in Ballyhale, south Co. Kilkenny is Jimmy Madigan, a suckler-beef farmer running a split-calving herd.

Every year, 100 suckler cows go to the bull on the farm, with half of the cows calving in autumn and the other half of the herd calving in spring.

The autumn herd calves down in August/September time and the last of the spring-calving herd calves in March.

The farm consists of 190ac of grass, 10ac of winter barley and some forestry and Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) ground.

All cattle are finished on-farm with cull cows and prime cattle all sent to ABP Food Group. Heifers are finished at 19-20 months and bulls are finished under-16 months, excluding a few smaller bulls that go back to grass.

50-60 bulls are also bought in to finish alongside the home-produced cattle and 150 store lambs are bought in August and are finished around Christmas.

The spring 2021-born bulls were finished this year and had an average carcass weight of 395kg.

The cattle are bought both at the mart and direct from farms and are finished together with Jimmy’s home-bred cattle.

Spring-born heifers are finished off-grass in October and Autumn-born heifers are finished in the shed around early April.

Jimmy’s cattle are all processed at ABP Ferrybank. They are sent to the factory as they come fit, which is generally about four or five cattle at a time.

Advantage Beef Programme

Jimmy is a member of ABP Food Group’s Advantage Beef Programme and receives an additional 20c/kg bonus on all eligible cattle finished through the programme.

The Advantage Beef Programme allows farmers to buy their inputs anywhere they like. The programme bonus is paid on members’ eligible cattle, at any of the ABP sites across Ireland.

The Kilkenny suckler farmer first heard about the Advantage Beef Programme in January of this year. He said he examined the requirements of the scheme and decided he “was very happy with it”.

Continuing, Jimmy explained: “The bonus is 20c/kg on top of everything else. We finish between 130 and 150 cattle on the farm every year so the programme is worth about €8,000 extra to us every year.”

There is an Advantage Beef Programme liaison team available across Ireland to help interested farmers sign up to the scheme and advise them if it is suitable for them or not.

Sean Maher is Jimmy’s Advantage Beef Programme liaison officer and Jimmy outlined: “He is never more than a phone-call away”.

“Sean is available at any time to look at the stock and offer advice on all things from cattle breeding to grassland reseeding,” said Jimmy.

Sean explained that he visited the farm when Jimmy expressed an interest in joining the programme.

The farm was already Quality Assured and was in the Beef Data Genomics Programme BDGP and because of this, Sean noted: “Most of the Advantage Beef Programme’s requirements were met already.”

The future

Looking to the future, Jimmy plans to keep improving the breeding of his suckler herd every year and further improve the farm’s efficiency. This year, he plans to incorporate more red clover swards in his grassland.

This month, on June 14, Jimmy will host the Irish Grassland Association’s annual beef farm walk on his farm in Co. Kilkenny.