Diarmuid Murray runs a dairy and dairy-beef enterprise along with his father, uncle and partner on 290 acres (ac) of land, spread across two farms just outside Knockcroghery, Co Roscommon.

The dairy herd consists of 135 Friesian-cross cows, which graze across 170ac.

The herd is bred using 100% artificial insemination. Sexed semen is at times used to streamline heifer numbers, although the Murrays haven’t completely adopted this method yet, due to a sufficient number of their heifer calves still being born for replacements by using conventional semen on the farm each year.

The Murray family are unique within the THRIVE programme because they breed their own beef animals, and with the use of artificial insemination, they can choose the best bulls suitable for beef production.

The Roscommon-based farm has been part of the THRIVE programme from the beginning; the Murrays are no strangers to dairy-beef production, having finished Friesian bulls in the past out of the shed at 22 to 24 months old.

Dairy-beef production

The Murrays got involved in the THRIVE programme to start using better beef bulls and began weighing their beef stock to monitor their performance.

They run a group of 75 Angus and Freisian heifers and bullocks split 50/50 in both sex and breed, which are split into two batches along with a similar number of 2023-born calves.

All the beef stock are reared on the 120ac outfarm. Lisduff Red Pepper, an Angus bull from Dovea Genetics, was the bull that was used to breed half of their Angus beef this year.

The Murrays have been happy with the Friesian beef being produced, although they are seeing some narrower bulls with negative beef traits as a result of using high EBI sires.

The dairy herd is run on a spring-calving system, with the cows calving this year from the first week of February until the end of April – with the hope of having a more compact calving period next spring.

They are running three batches of cattle this year, with 35-40 calves in each batch. Two consist of beef stock, while the third is made up of replacement dairy heifers with a fourth batch of 2023-born beef calves.

There were slightly less cattle finished last year, with only 60 beef animals reared. All the Angus heifers are run together along with Friesian bullocks. The cattle are drafted into their batches based on their size and weight.


With the cattle due to be weighed soon, Diarmuid hopes that they will average 1kg/day, although he is conscious that the late turnout this spring could have an impact on their thrive.

They entered the shed last year at an average weight of 280kg. The cattle were fed silage, along with an average of 2kg of meal through the winter months.

A Hi-Maize ration will be introduced shortly, with light Angus, butcher-type heifers beginning to leave the farm at the end of August.

The Murray family are unique within the THRIVE programme because they breed their own beef animals.

Most of the stock will be gone by the middle of October, with all animals finished off the farm by the 15 November.

Choosing wisely

Diarmuid is constantly trying to use better terminal bulls to get heavier animals at slaughter that will require less inputs to rear. He highlighted the fact that the aim of any beef operation is to minimize cost while maximizing weight gain, but that weight gain is of no use if you don’t have sufficient fat cover.

Another important thing to note is that your cow will still determine 50% of what sort of calf will be produced, and therefore, artificial insemination allows the Murrays to choose the most suitable cow to produce the best possible calf.

Diarmuid Murray, Knockcroghery, Co Roscommon.

Diarmuid stated that Angus heifers are definitely the easiest to finish early, although an Angus bullock is better for weight gain.


The Murrays operate a paddock system, with paddocks split into two to three acres in size. The cattle are currently grazing the after-grass of first cut silage.

As Diarmuid highlighted, it has been a tough year to manage grass, with lots of grass appearing very quickly once the rain arrived; but the introduction of the after-grass into the rotation relieved some of the pressure.

This year’s calves are grazing 35ac across eight paddocks, while also receiving 0.7kg to 1kg of calf concentrates. They will be moved onto a weanling ration in August. They had received whole-milk for 12 weeks, with meal introduced as early as possible.

A leader-follower system is adopted when possible on the grazing block, allowing the calves to get the fresh grass which is then cleaned up by the calves.

Drought challenges

During the drought, cattle were entering into heavy covers, with the paddocks then being topped and cleaned up before they moved on.

The silage ground received slurry once it was cut and, meanwhile, Diarmuid has been following the beef stock with 25 units of protected urea on grazed paddocks to drive grass growth.

Another disadvantage during the drought was that the outfarm is predominately old grasses, which have a poorer regrowth compared to freshly reseeded ground.

Therefore, the Murrays intend to reseed 10% of the outfarm this year, while also introducing red clover into the system to be able to conserve high protein silage and also reduce the amount of concentrates in the system.