Michelle Curley


Co Kildare

  • Suckler and dairy-beef farm
  • Stocking rate: 1.55LU/ha
  • Over the last two years we have decided to reduce suckler cow numbers and increase the dairy calf to beef enterprise on the farm. This main reason for this change comes down to labour and safety around calving time.

    Luckily, the reduction in cow numbers last year meant we made a lot more silage than needed and have 40% of this winter’s requirement sitting in the yard.

    Initially the plan was to increase the number of calves (Angus and Aubrac bullocks and heifers) reared from 30 last year to almost 50 this year. But with increased cost of milk replacer and meal, it was decided to keep numbers the constant and reassess the situation next spring.

    The lower requirement for grass this year will allow us to reseed another few acres to increase herbage growth for future years. We have done this over the last few years by letting a grazing paddock grow on for silage, spraying off pre-harvest and stitching into the stubble after cutting with a mixed species sward.

    I am planning to keep meal feeding to calves for the next month to six weeks as they are only mid-March born calves. If conditions are good and grass quality is where it should be I will cut out meal for the second half of June, July and hopefully August to reduce meal costs.

    If weather conditions are poor in September then we will reintroduce 1kg/day meal to the calves. I am not using enough meal to buy in bulk but pricing around has saved us €3/bag or €120/t for a similar ration.

    John Brosnan


    Co Kerry

  • Dairy calf to beef system
  • Stocking rate: 1.3LU/ha

    Our stocking rate will remain similar to recent years which has never been overstretched. Housing is the first limiting factor on farm, so that has meant the land could always carry more stock than we have had. In recent years I have sold some excess silage or hay, which will probably not happen this year.

    I usually spread slurry on the silage and grazing ground in early spring but such was the growth over winter that some covers were too high to spread once ground conditions allowed. I have held back the rest of the slurry for the silage ground after the first cut.

    I will aim for a cool damp day for spreading and use a trailing shoe system. I have some nitrogen spread on the grazing ground now to make the most of high growth rates but I hope to reduce fertiliser use overall this year which my stocking rate will allow.

    Grass supply is good, I am trying to keep stock moving more often and into lower pre-grazing covers to improve live weight gains. It takes a bit of getting used to having less grass ahead of stock on the farm than normal.

    Seven of the lightest 2020-born stock were stored over the winter, turned out to grass in early-March and slaughtered off grass in late-April. They did 1.2kg/day at grass over a seven week period.

    Usually we finish as many cattle off grass as possible in autumn at 20 – 22 months old and sell a few of the lighter cattle in the mart. However, doing this we added around €450/head to their value at a cost of less than €250/head to do so.

    Martin Keating


    Co Mayo

  • Dairy calf to beef system
  • Stocking rate: 2.2LU/ha
  • Stocking rate on the farm has remained the same this year, with over 50 calves’ purchased in for rearing and a similar number of yearlings on farm that will be finished off grass in autumn.

    I am fortunate in that over 30% of the silage requirement for next winter has been carried over from this winter. I had thought about selling bales but with the cost of replacing them it was decided not to sell.

    We have been working hard over the last number of years on soil fertility and improving the grazing infrastructure to increase the amount of grass grown and utilised. The reseeding programme has also looked to increase the amount of clover on the farm. There are still a few paddocks that need to be reseeded but we are getting there.

    From these improvements, I have seen an increase in the amount of grass grown and the stock holding capacity of the farm. The plan now is to see if we can maintain our stocking levels and farm output while reducing our reliance on chemical nitrogen.

    Over the last few years I have continued to feed 1kg/day concentrate to calves throughout the grazing period. I believe feeding 1kg/day over the first summer it is worth it at the other end of the system as we have no issue in getting stock finished off grass at the end of the second season.

    However, with the increase in meal prices, if the weather is good towards the end of June, July and into August, I will look at cutting meal feeding to the majority of calves for those weeks.