The IGA are delighted to announce that award winning Welsh farmer Glasnant Morgan will be giving a keynote address at the 2016 beef conference in the Radisson Blu Hotel and Spa, Limerick on Wednesday April 27th. Farming 450 acres, Glasnant runs a herd of 50 autumn-calving sucklers and a flock of 850 ewes. Grazed grass is integral to the farming system. Glasnant farms to get the most from pasture to maximise self-sufficiency. In the spring 10% of the farm has grass seed stitched in with a grass harrow and hopper. According to Glasnant, “Our sole aim is to produce offspring so we graze the grass hard, that’s the only way to keep on top of it.’’ Glasnant is a mentor in the Welsh Government’s Young Entrants Support Scheme, and was the National Farmers Union Wales Brecon County Chairmen for two years.
Continuing the theme of grassland management, the IGA beef conference will also feature Michael O’Leary and Michael O’Donovan (Teagasc, Moorepark) who will present the most recent findings from PastureBase Ireland. PastureBase is entering its third year and this paper will look at grass production on drystock farms in 2014 and 2015. The variation in annual DM production and seasonal DM production, especially during the critical spring period, will be presented. PastureBase is showing that very little grazing is occurring on beef farms in this spring period imposing higher feeding and slurry management costs. The first rotation on the majority of farms begins in late spring and as a consequence do not finish until May. Given that this is a critical time for setting up pastures for subsequent grazing rotations, poor spring utilisation has a detrimental effect on pasture quality later in the season. Are there opportunities to turn light stock out early? The number of grazing from each paddock and grass management targets for different times of the year will also be covered.
Given that the attention of farmers with spring-calving herds will be turning to the breeding season at the end of April, the beef conference will also feature the latest results from the large-scale DAFM-funded all-Ireland beef cow fertility research programme. An overview of the most recent findings will be presented by Mervyn Parr (Teagasc, Grange). This project is examining a range of factors affecting the fertility of beef cows and includes two large on-farm trials. The objective of the first trial is to develop a heat synchronisation protocol for beef cows to facilitate cost- and labour-effective use of AI and remove the need for heat detection. This has a very large potential to increase the use of AI on suckler herds and to reduce calving intervals thus, improving the compactness of calving on many herds. This trial is already showing very promising results which could have significant implications for the suckler sector. The second on-farm trial is examining the effect of infectious diseases and trace elements on suckler cow fertility. There is a widespread perception that these factors are having an important detrimental effect on cow fertility and so the results of this trial are of great interest. These studies represent the most comprehensive analysis of factors affecting suckler cow fertility and the results will have significant implications for management and policy decisions.
The IGA beef conference will also include a focus session on financial management. Cash flow is a major challenge on beef farms given the intermittent nature of cattle sales. Peter Young of the Irish farmers Journal will give a presentation on his initiative, Operation Cashflow. This is a program that follows six farmers who have committed to prepare a cashflow plan for 2016 and to share this information with other farmers.  There are two dry stock farmers among the six participants farmers. The first farmer is a mixed sheep and beef farmer. He has 25 suckler cows and 150 ewes on 100 acres. His goals for the year are to remain full-time and ensure that the farm makes €20,000 to contribute to the household. The second farmer is a drystock farmer who rears calves to two-year-old stores and also buys weanling heifers to beef. He owns 120 acres and rents 50 acres. His goal is to improve his planning and finances. He wants to have a set plan for the farm and stick to it. The importance of cash flow management and the steps to developing your own cash flow statement will be outlined.
The 2016 Irish Grassland Association Beef conference will take place in the Radisson Blu Hotel and Spa, Limerick on Wednesday April 27th. The conference opens at 11.00am following registration from 10.30am, and IGA President, Karen Dukelow will close the conference at 4.00pm. The conference fee is e30 for IGA members (e60 for non-members) and includes attendance at the conference, tea/coffee on arrival and a hot lunch.