Beef Open Day: Sustainable Beef Production – Charting The Way Forward
very successful Beef Open Day was held at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), Hillsborough
on Saturday 23rd September. Farmers and Industry representatives were provided with an update
of current AFBI Beef Research Programmes and had the opportunity to hear leading experts provide an
insight into the beef industry.
Sean Hogan (AFBI Chairman) with Jelmer Hania (LMC),
Dr George McIlroy (AFBI Chief Executive) with Steven Johnston (CAFRE, Greenmount). Jelmer and Steven
were speakers at the seminars held during the Open Day.
The key research theme running
through all the talks at the Open Day was the importance in improving the efficiency of beef production
by a combination of reducing input costs and improving output value.
Desmond Patterson (AFBI, Hillsborough) highlighted preliminary results from a research programme which
is examining the potential of beef cross calves sourced from the dairy herd. An integral component
of this research programme is to identify mechanisms by which the labour inputs associated with rearing
calves can be reduced. Results to date indicate that group housing calves and offering milk replacer
through a feeder designed to feed up to 30 calves once per day reduced labour inputs by up to 2/3rds
relative to calves housed in groups of 4 and fed twice per day via a bucket feed systems. However
there was a greater incidence of disease in the group fed calves relative to those bucket reared, although
performance up to 5 months of age was similar for the two groups.
Pat McCambridge (DARD) then went on to identify the key factors affecting profitability in a dairy to
beef system including buying price, selling price, management and health.
recognition of the major difficulties faced by suckler producers in Northern Ireland the objectives
of suckler research programmes at AFBI, Hillsborough have been to identify the main factors influencing
the efficiency of suckler beef production in terms of the number of calves reared per cow and the output
value of the progeny.
At the Open Day, Mr Francis
Lively (AFBI, Hillsborough) outlined the results from a large scale on-farm suckler research programme
which demonstrated that fertility is a major problem on suckler farms with only 51% of cows calving
again with 390 days. The results of this work also indicated that crossbred cows e.g. Limousin
X Holstein Friesian, crossed with a terminal sire, have the potential to optimise output on suckler
farms mainly due to improved fertility. Dr Norman Weatherup (CAFRE, Greenmount) went on to identify
replacement strategies for suckler producers including sourcing replacements from the dairy herd, criss-cross
breeding, three-way crossing and purebreeding.
Lynne Dawson provided key messages to suckler producers on methods by which sustainable suckler cow
systems can be developed.
Following on from this Dr Lynne Dawson (AFBI, Hillsborough)
provided key messages to suckler producers on methods by which sustainable suckler cow systems can be
developed in Northern Ireland. Dr Dawson emphasised that the main objectives for a profitable
suckler cow enterprise should be produce one well-conformed, weaned calf of good growth potential per
cow per year through optimum choice of cow genotype and terminal sire and to develop easy care systems
of suckler production. Dr Dawson indicated that the main aim of the newly established suckler
research programme was to identify mechanisms by which these objectives could be achieved.
of the heifers which make up the newly established herd were on display and included Limousin cross
Holstein-Friesian dams and Stabilizer dams.