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Stackyard News Oct 2011

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Beef Up Your Knowledge for Winter!

Three free farm walks on rearing and finishing beef cattle have been organised by AgriSearch, the Northern Ireland Agricultural Research and Development Council.

Understanding and providing tools to help monitor and facilitate efficient beef production key aims of the current beef Research Challenge Project

beef Research Challenge Project

These events, all starting at 2 pm, are on the farms of Roger and Hilary Bell, Kells, Tues Oct 25; Brian Radcliffe, Banbridge, Wed, Oct 26 and Joe McCarragher, Armagh, Thurs, Oct 27.

As housing time looms this is an excellent opportunity for beef producers to see research being put into practice through a Research Challenge Fund Programme funded by the government through DARD and farmers through AgriSearch.

Growth monitoring

Monitoring growth for age in rearing and finishing beef systems is key to make the best feeding and management decisions. In this research programme the farmer ‘co-researchers’ are piloting an AFBI on-line growth monitoring tool designed to enable producers to track and monitor growth against industry blue-prints developed by the Red Meat Taskforce.

These practical on farm events will reveal how such a tool, combined with forage analysis, can direct winter feeding decisions in terms of concentrate feeding strategies with a range of silages.

Improving the efficiency of beef rearing and finishing systems is an effective way of reducing the carbon footprint of the beef sector. As part of the research programme AFBI are developing a simple greenhouse gas calculator which can be used by the beef industry when responding challenges over climate change.

The first phase of this work involves piloting the programme with the farmer ‘co-researchers’ and working out the carbon footprint of the participating 12 farms, prior to the release of the programme to the wider industry.


Over these past 12-months the growth of beef cattle at a range of stages has been monitored with over 1450 cattle weights recorded and each weight plotted on customised growth plans.

After each weighting the producer receives a summary report with individual animal and group performance outlined and management recommendations detailed.

Cattle on each of the participating farms have performed well with, for example, steers on target to finish at 20-22 months at a live weight of 550-600 kg (Figure 1). Dairy bred bull beef production systems are being practiced on three farms in the research programme with current growth rates of up to 1.6 kg/d being recorded.

Print out of monitoring tool showing recent steer weights (red crosses) on farms involved in the programme – producers input live weights and the programme automatically determines performance for age against target (blue-line)

Figure 1
steer weights

Farm walks

The impact of the research project on how the participating farmers are currently managing their beef enterprises, the importance of monitoring animal growth and finishing diets for this winter are just a number of the areas that will be discussed at the series of farm walks. Everyone attending must wear clean clothing and footwear due to biosecurity concerns. For further details contact AgriSearch tel; (028) 8778 9770.

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