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By Liam Cronin B.Agr.Sc
The 2017 National Beef Winner of the Grassland Farmer of the year opened up his gates to the public on Friday 15th June. A fine crowd of in excess of 200 people attended just to see what it is that Ger has established that makes his system so successful. The secret to his success he states is “The more Grass I grow the more profit I can make”.
This is very evident in the 60 strong suckler herd that he runs today. Currently Ger grows 14 T DM/ha/yr., a figure that has doubled over the last 5 years, an incredible statistic for any farm especially considering that 30% of the farm would be classified as heavy. The beauty of the system is that waste within it is not tolerated. Calving is compact and as you would imagine but the secret really lies within the conception rates hereafter. Cows that don’t perform or don’t hold to straws during A.I. are culled. This spring an impressive 80% have held after the first straws. During a spring/early summer period like we have just had when cull cow prices were favourable that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad option for non-performing animals. However Ger has combatted this in a few ways, one by separating the cows and calves quite uniquely when coming in and out of the yard and also through the use of concentrates in the diet that were understandably used a lot more this spring than what we all would have liked.
The proof of the pudding and of the system is in the output at the end of the day and here it is quite impressive. A regimental 16 month bull beef finishing system is implemented and as a result the beef output is 1000kg per ha per year. This is done using an intensive feeding system that consists of using a high maize beef ration of 0.93 UFV and a straw buffer feed.
Speakers on the day from Teagasc also spoke regarding how to implement successful grazing management through the use of paddocks, grass measuring, creep grazing, and reseeding. Successful reseeding was discussed as a necessary and cost effective practise that can be done through a number of methods suitable for all types of budgets and requirements depending on the need to do so. The practise of grass measuring was demonstrated, using plate-meters and quadrats and sheers, and the necessity explained for future grazing predictions and also calculating surplus grass that should be taken out for bales. Ger noted himself that he walks the farm once a week with a plate-meter for this exercise and believes this is the most cost effective practise to maintaining a profitable grassland farming enterprise.