Welcome to the Thrive dairy calf to beef programme spring 2021 update.

The Irish Farmers Journal, alongside Bord Bia, ICBF, Kerry Agri, Aurivo, Dovea Genetics, Progressive Genetics and Munster AI launched the Thrive programme in 2019 with the aim of addressing key challenges faced by the sector.

Core aim

Its core aim is to increase the profitability of dairy-beef systems through the use of the best available beef genetics coupled with a high level of technical efficiency.

Dairy beef is a growing industry in Ireland. Over the past eight years, we have seen the Irish dairy herd expand from around 1m cows to over 1.5m cows calving in 2021. While more cows were mated to dairy genetics during the years of expansion, in 2020, almost 50% were mated to beef sires. This has seen the number of beef calves coming from the dairy herd increase from 400,000 to over 700,000 in the same period.

This increasing proportion of beef genetics used on the dairy herd is set to continue over the coming years as dairy expansion gradually slows.

Huge shift

This change has resulted in a huge shift in where Ireland’s beef is derived from. Over the past decade, the proportion of the national kill coming from the dairy herd has increased from 47% in 2010 to over 57% in 2020.

The industry is not without its challenges. With year-on-year declines in carcase weights and conformation grades of dairy-beef cattle being recorded, there is a job of work to be done to ensure that these beef calves coming from the dairy herd have the genetic potential to produce a profitable animal for the beef farmer.

The Thrive programme looks to address these issues through use of better genetics, using the ICBF Dairy Beef Index to identify suitable sires. While the challenges within the industry are many, so too are the opportunities.

Best practice

Together with the support of our key industry stakeholders, the Thrive programme aims to demonstrate best practice in all aspects of dairy-beef systems such as animal health, genetics, and grassland management.

This publication pulls together some of the key learnings from the project from both the Irish Farmers Journal demonstration farm on the farm of John Hally in Cashel, Co Tipperary, as well as our programme farmers throughout the country who are implementing these systems on the ground.

Keep up to date with the latest news from the programme with weekly updates available at www.farmersjournal.ie as well as regular updates in print throughout the year.