The 2020 Irish Grassland Association Beef Event, sponsored by Mullinahone Co-op, was originally scheduled to take place on this Summer at Country Crest’s beef unit in north Co. Dublin. This year, the format was set to differ somewhat, with the entire event taking place on-farm. The Beef Event has now been put on hold because of the Covid-19 crisis. A new date will be confirmed to IGA members when available. Please ignore the date on this post.
Country Crest was originally established by Hoey brothers – Michael and Gabriel – to grow and pre-pack potatoes for the retail sector back in 1993. Since then, the company has gone from strength to strength and, in 2008, Ballymaguire Foods was born – a prepared foods division of the wider enterprise. Building on this success, in 2014, Country Crest invested in its own on-site beef unit. The following year, the company evolved yet again – with the opening of a farm shop.
The beef holding spans approximately 300ac of grassland, with 1,000-1,200 animals passing through the system annually. The farm is managed by Leitrim native, Niall Maguire – who took the reins in December 2019.
The unit consists of U and R-grading continental heifers (60%) and Aberdeen Angus-cross steers and heifers (40%). Specific cuts are used in the prepared food division, while beef is also supplied to the craft butcher market and well-known chef Nevin Maguire.
Steers and heifers are purchased all-year-round and arrive on-farm in batches of 20-30 every seven-to-10 days – to offset the 20-30 cattle that are processed every two weeks. As animals arrive on-farm from numerous different sources, a strict animal health plan is activated – all stock are quarantined on arrival in an isolation unit.
Every animal is vaccinated after 48 hours of arrival, as well as being weighed, dosed, clipped and treated for lice. The continental heifers are bought in weighing 460-590kg; heavier heifers move into the finishing unit, before being built-up slowly – over a two-week period – onto a fattening diet. Regular weighing is an intrinsic part of the system.
Depending on the time of year, lighter continental heifers (less than 500kg) are either fed a store diet or batched according to weight and turned out to pasture. The land can be described as heavy, with typical turnout achieved by early March every year (weather depending).
Aberdeen Angus steers and heifers are purchased weighing 380-420kg and brought to finish aiming for a 300kg carcass, with all cattle slaughtered under 30 months-of-age.
Niall plans to achieve as much liveweight as possible from the cheapest resource at his disposal – namely grass. While some larger paddocks are present on the farm, more paddocks will be installed with temporary wires allowing cattle to graze following the ‘grow in three weeks; graze in three days’ mantra.
Grass measurement and management
Grass is measured using a Grasshopper with measurements recorded on PastureBase Ireland, which allows precise management decisions to be made accordingly, including the cutting of ‘strong’ paddocks for silage. Through grass measuring – coupled with soil sampling – Niall can identify poorer-performing paddocks, which are earmarked for reseeding each year. Approximately 200ac of pit silage is harvested in two 100ac cuts, with the first cut aimed to be ensiled mid-May (weather depending). All silage cutting, as well as slurry and fertiliser spreading, is carried out by the on-farm team.
Additionally, a small pedigree herd of Aberdeen Angus and Hereford animals also resides on the holding, consisting of 15 cows of each breed and their followers (yearlings and calves) and two stock bulls. Going forward, Niall also plans to graze 400-500 sheep over the winter months on the 300ac of available grassland.
The Irish Grassland Association is immensely grateful to Mullinahone Co-op for its support of our 2020 Beef Event. This event is not to be missed. This is a farm that demonstrates: a combination of good grassland management practices; exemplary animal health protocols and biosecurity; excellent facilities; and solid technical performance. Discussions around environmental best practice and sustainability will also feature on the day.
The event is free to all IGA members. Members are also welcome to bring a guest or friend.