On Tuesday next, 9 August, the Irish Farmers Journal will host a national open day on the Thrive dairy calf-to-beef demonstration farm located in Carron, Cashel, Co Tipperary (Eircode E25 AK44).

The farm walk will showcase the dairy-beef system in place since 2019. The first walk starts at 10.30am with groups running every 20 minutes until 1.30pm.

Everything from sourcing quality calves, calf rearing and health, grassland management to finishing strategies and how to draft stock for slaughter will all be discussed in detail.

Most importantly, the economics of the each system will be outlined in detail as well as projected financial performance for 2022.

It is a day not to be missed by dairy-beef farmers or those thinking of entering the sector in the coming years.

The Thrive programme

Dairy beef is a growing sector within the beef industry in Ireland.

In the last decade, the proportion of beef derived from the dairy herd has increased form 47% to almost 60% in 2021.

This increase has come as the dairy herd has expanded from just over one million cows to over 1.6m expected to calve this year.

As the dairy herd stabilises, more cows will be mated to beef sires and so the quality of beef sire being used on the cow will have a huge effect on the quality of the calf for the dairy beef farmer.

The aim behind the Thrive project, which is run by the Irish Farmers Journal with the support of the stakeholders ICBF, Bord Bia, Kerry Agri, Aurivo, Dovea Genetics, Munster Bovine and Progressive Genetics, is to highlight the potential for profitable dairy-beef systems through the use of the best available beef genetics, alongside demonstrating best practice on the ground in terms of technical efficiencies.

However, another key objective of the programme is to highlight challenges within the sector and provide real-time, farm-generated data to inform the debate for the future.

Demonstration farm

The Thrive demonstration farm and the programme farmers right across the country are central to communicating the messages and learnings from the project.

The demo farm, located in Carron, Cashel, Co Tipperary, is a 45ha farm owned by the Hally family.

John Hally was a dairy farmer up until 2015 when he moved to drystock production. Since 2019, John has been rearing calves and bringing them through to beef at between 18 and 22 months of age for the Thrive programme.

The blueprint for the farm is simple – aim to achieve a 300kg carcase weight at between 19 and 22 months of age, the end of the second grazing season, from a largely grass-based diet

All the stock on the demonstration farm are owned by the Irish Farmers Journal, with a contract-rearing agreement in place with the Hally family.

Each spring, around 150 calves arrive on farm at between two and three weeks old and are reared through to beef at between 19 and 22 months of age.

The majority of calves are early-maturing, Angus and Hereford-sired bullocks and heifers while a small proportion are sired by Limousin, Belgian Blue, Simmental, Aubrac and Charolais.

Every decision made on the demo farm is commercially focused. Where calf prices are too high, the farm will step out of the market.


The aim is to draft as many cattle as possible for slaughter at the end of the second grazing season.

While this means slaughtering animals at lighter carcase weights, it also means lower costs of production as stock are finished primarily off a grass diet and a costly indoor winter finishing period is avoided.

It also allows the farm to carry more weanlings through the first winter as there is no housing requirement for finishing cattle.

Being in south Tipperary, the farm enjoys a long grazing season while excellent grazing infrastructure and farm roadways allow for the long growing season to be utilised to the maximum.

The blueprint for the farm is simple – aim to achieve a 300kg carcase weight at between 19 and 22 months of age, the end of the second grazing season, from a largely grass-based diet.

Over the last number of years an average heifer carcase weight of 270kg has been achieved at 19 months of age, while bullocks a month older have averaged 310kg.