Ger McSweeney farms on just under 40ha outside Millstreet, Co Cork.
His farm is mostly heavy in nature and is split in two. However, the outfarm is less than a five-minute drive away.
Ger is currently running a herd of 33 suckler cows, predominantly Limousin-cross. The plan is to reach 50 suckler cows by 2020.
The herd has also been split-calving, spring and autumn, in recent times, but this is set to come to an end this year, as Ger looks to streamline labour input with a 100% spring-calving herd.
Calving will begin in December and run to the end of February.
Ger explained that December to February calving allows him to “get the full benefits from grass with strong calves” and allows him to “have an animal for sale at off-peak times”.
Previously, a weanling system was in operation, but this has moved to an under-16-month bull and 22- to 24-month heifer beef system.
As the herd expands, Ger is also hoping to expand his use of AI.
Incorporating terminal and maternal characteristics into a herd to cater for the beef system and breeding replacements on farm is something that Ger says can be challenging so AI, he said, “could give me a greater opportunity to use bulls high up on both traits”.
Capitalising on grass potential
Good grassland management is something Ger has really embraced over the last two years.
The adoption of a paddock system and the uptake of grass measuring on a weekly basis has been, and will continue to be, an underpinning factor for the future progression of the farm.
Ger said: “This year, I took out between 80 and 90 surplus bales. I never would have had these before.”
For the future, the plan is to turn attention to soil fertility.
With local Teagasc B&T adviser Ellen Standish, soil samples will be taken in spring and nutrient deficiencies will be addressed accordingly.
This year, a big reclamation job was carried out on 3ac of ground unfit for grazing.
Firstly, ground was turned-up with a digger before last winter.
Then in June, during the drought, the whole field was cleaned off. Springs were then marked and drained into a nearby stream.
The land was then levelled before reseeding with a heavy soils mix using a one-pass system. It also received lime and four bags of 10:10:20 during seeding.
Since then, it has received a post-emergence spray and a further two bags of 10:10:20.
Ger said: “It is so important to utilise what you have on the farm first before looking at anything else.”
To read more about Ger and his plans as part of the BETTER Farm beef challenge, see this week’s Irish Farmers Journal in print and online.