Father and son partnership Gerard and John Grieve are the Donegal participants of the Teagasc/Irish Farmers Journal BETTER farm beef challenge.

The land base comprises of 45ha, a portion of which is leased in. The land would be described as predominantly heavy.

Gerard and John are running a suckler and sheep system.

Since the commencement of the BETTER farm programme, suckler cow numbers have increased from just above the 30-cow mark to 40 suckler cows.

In turn, ewe numbers have decreased slightly to just over the 100 mark.

Adviser John Greaney with John and Gerard Grieve.

The farm system has also undergone a slight change, with all male progeny now being brought to under-16-month bull beef – a shift away from what used to be a weanling system.

Last year, 10 2017-born bulls were finished under 16 months as a trial. Satisfied with the performance of these bulls, all male progeny from 2018 are now in the shed for finishing in this system.

A bull in the under-16-month system.

Down the road, the Grieves are even looking at the option of constructing a finishing shed and purchasing in bulls to go along with their own stock to supplement output and gross margin.

All 2018-born males are being finished.

A small batch of dairy bull calves were purchased in this year and reared.

They are currently housed and will be turned out to grass as early as possible, with the plan being to slaughter these at 20 months.

The dairy bull calves.

Not fully sold on the system, John and Gerard are not planning on buying dairy calves this spring and will instead opt to hold on to their heifer weanling for the winter as opposed to selling them as weanlings.


Last year was an excellent year for the farm.

Given the heavy nature of the land, it was a bumper year in terms of grass growth.

Looking at Pasturebase figures, in excess of 3t DM/ha extra grass was grown over the course of the year.

This is further reflected in the fact that the date for making second-cut silage was six weeks earlier than the previous year and even allowed for an unprecedented third cut to be made.

Performance was also very high.

Scanning saw 41 females out of 42 in-calf, while average daily gain for the bull calves was 1.2kg throughout the summer and autumn.

Those 41 females scanned in-calf have just begun calving, which will continue until mid-March.

Calves sired by the new CF52 stock bull.
Calving has commenced.

For more on the Grieve farm, see this Thursday’s Irish Farmers Journal in print or online