“With prices the way they are at the moment, the two biggest factors that are going to keep a person in business or make them go broke is to produce as many kilos of beef as you possibly can through grass an milk,” said John Flaherty on Tuesday night.

A crowd of 100 people descended on the Flaherty farm in Castleisland, Co Kerry, for the first in a two-part series of BETTER Farm autumn walks. Father and son duo John and James are running a herd of 45 spring-calving continental suckler cows.

It was previously a weanling-selling farm, but bulls are now slaughtered under 16 months, and heifers are either kept as replacements or finished too.


The farm’s Teagasc BETTER Farm adviser John Greaney was on hand at the first board on the day to go through the farm’s system along with the physical and financial performance to date.


Those in attendance will have noticed that breeding on the farm is excellent. Since joining the programme in 2017, the farm has moved towards 100% AI.

The second stop on the day featured an in-depth look at breeding, as well as the latest BEEP weighing results taken a fortnight ago. Teagasc BETTER Farm adviser Tommy Cox and local Teagasc adviser Jimmy Lyons presented.


Being an ex-dairy farm, grassland management and grazing infrastructure is impressive. Since joining the programme, grass measuring and reseeding have created even more potential.

The farm’s local Teagasc adviser Eugene O’Doherty and Michael O’Leary of PastureBase had a good discussion on said topics.


The final stand on the day centred on herd health with farm vet Stephen Murphy. A three-pronged approach – husbandry practices, herd management and targeted vaccine use – is the key to managing herd health.

The Flahertys learned this the hard way, however, after a bout of pneumonia in spring 2018 led to 14 calf fatalities.

Improving ventilation and implementing a rigid vaccination plan have stemmed this issue.

Tommy Holmes

On Thursday 12 September at 5pm, Tommy Holmes opens up the gates of his suckler- and store-to-beef holding in Ballina, Co Mayo. Eircode F26 K7W0.