Let me start off by admitting I do believe grass is the only show in town going forward. But lately I am questioning more and more is it doing what we need or are we using the wrong stock to utilise it or are we expecting too much from it.

On this farm we are grass farmers trying to finish lambs and beef heifers off grass we are growing. Some of our pastures have never been reseeded in living memory and some have been reseeded in the last 10 years.

We don’t grow catch crops and we try to use as little concentrate as possible apart from feeding it to in-lamb ewes and to finish the last 20-30 heifers.

Week-on-week, year-on-year, we are told of increasing grass growth rates, increased utilisation, more growth on the shoulders of the season, increased stocking rates per/ha as a result, spreading more fertiliser, and reseeding more ground.

Yet I find myself reading more and more about the usage of catch crops and meal to finish lambs and more and more about the intensive finishing of cattle indoors all year round.

Is the policy of more and more continental breeds influencing the native breeds at fault? Most of these animals’ genetics are based on or around an indoor system. Surely there should be more work done here to match the animals to their environment.


I hate to have to mention it but our dairy farming neighbours are masters at matching cow type to utilise their grass best. I would love to see some bull/ram performance figures based on grass-only diets. It’s the best beef there is.

I must also mention here that the whole premise of our industry’s marketing strategy is a green one of animals grazing contently in green fields. Why even the ads on telly for pork/bacon are of a family walking through green pastures and it’s a long time since I saw hundreds of pigs roaming on green sun-kissed pastures.

Most of the intensively fed animals are also on premium price contracts, yet marketed as coming from the lush green pastures of Ireland.

Should the farming organisations, rather than fighting endlessly with factories over the grid, be trying to advocate for a 100% grass-based bonus?

Some of the European supermarkets are looking for antibiotic-free/GM-free meat now, yet very little is being done to promote our 100% grass-fed, antibiotic-free meat.

I am also fully aware that to produce meat to meet market demands of fresh product 12 months every year that we cannot do it all outside on grass, but what’s wrong with top-quality grass silage and native Irish barley/wheat?

We cannot keep growing all this extra grass to make extra bales to sow catch crops and feed more concentrates. Going forward I do not feel that more and more fertiliser is going to be allowed from Brussels.

Is it the animals or grass that needs to change or just our attitude to it.