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Bringing home the beef!

April 5th, 2024 7:30 AM

Bringing home the beef! Image
James O’Sullivan with Teagasc advisers Alan Dillon and Liz Duffy at a Dairy Beef 500 farm walk on his land in Myross, Union Hall. (Photo: Denis Boyle)

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Two farms in the Teagasc West Cork Signpost programme, run by James O’Sullivan in Myross and Proinnsias Creedon in Clondrohid respectively, are dairy calf to beef farms and are participants in the Dairy Beef 500 scheme. TOMMY MOYLES finds out more

James O’Sullivan

James O’Sullivan farms 31 hectares in total consisting of a 10ha block near Leap with the remaining 21ha at Myross.

There he operates a dairy calf to beef system, with a target of finishing all stock before their second winter. His target is to have about 90 calves and 90 yearling animals.

A system of excellent farm roadways is one of the keys to his success when it comes to getting cattle out to grass early in the year on his farm at Myross.

Despite the difficult spring, he still managed to get a group of yearling heifers to grass for three weeks in February. The larger land block at Myross, is almost on an island and runs down to the Atlantic. It benefits from mild winters but as it is very exposed it can burn up fast in a dry summer.

He began purchasing all his calves from four dairy farmers three years ago. He knew the farmers through his work as an AI technician for Munster Bovine and that allows him a bit of input in the type of beef bull they are using.

James’ preference is for a calf around three weeks of age. Some calves might be slightly younger, but he buys nothing under two weeks of age. He places an emphasis on early-maturing heifers but James finds it useful to have a few bullocks every year too. Taking slightly longer to finish and going to larger weights they help vary the cashflow.

As many farmers know, the 2023 grazing season was challenging and this meant James was behind his desired carcass weight targets of 260kg for heifers and 310kg for bullocks.

Last year, the heifers averaged 244kg, with an average grade of O=3+, while the bullocks had an average carcase of 295kg and graded O=3=.


Proinnsias Creedon

Prionnsias, Máire, Ciaran, Diarmuid and Aodhan Creedon on their farm in Clondrohid. (Photo: Denis Boyle)


Proinnsias Creedon runs a 33ha farm at Barrathanaknock, Clondrohid, Macroom. The land is all in one block and there are 8ha which are designated land for the hen harrier.

A high farm, it is roughly 720ft above sea level and gets an average rainfall of over 1,300mm/year.

Along with his family, wife Máire and sons Ciarán, Aodhán and Diarmuid, they run a dairy calf to beef farm. Proinnsias works off-farm as a teacher and it was a dairy farm until 2008 at which point they switched to sucklers.

Rearing dairy calves began as a covid project in 2020 when they bought a few dairy calves.

They bought 20 calves in 2020 and now they have moved to the stage where they buy in about 60 calves each year and finish them through to beef at 22 to 24 months.

The preference is for Angus and Hereford cross heifer calves. Proinnsias finds the heifers suit his land type better as they are lighter and it suits his land type.

The calves are sourced from two farmers and are brought in at between three to four weeks of age. It’s a system that suits all parties.

As he works full-time off the farm, the Creedons have developed a system to streamline the work. Calves benefit from a set routine so Máire feeds them at 9am in morning and Proinnsias does the evening feed at 5.30pm.

The calves have access to water, ration and straw at all times.

They have a whiteboard in all the cattle houses so they are able to write a tag number on it if any animal is off form or if there’s something to watch out for.

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