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12 Aug 2022

Offaly organic drystock farmer takes centre stage in Future Beef initiative

SIGNPOST

The Future Beef initiative is part of the wider Teagasc Signpost programme

Progressive Offaly farm Ken Gill farms full time on his own in Clonbullogue.

A few years back he change over to a limited company status and now trades as Ballydermot Organic Farm Ltd.

A full symbol organic producer, Ken operates a suckler to beef system with 70 Autumn calving suckler cows. All progeny are brought to beef with the aim to slaughter at 24 months. 100% A.I. is used to avail of the best genetics available. 

Being organic means that crop rotation is vital to ensure the continued health of the soil and to aid weed suppression in new swards. Oats are grown for sale into the organic breakfast market. Red clover for quality silage and Winter fodder crops are also sown in certain areas of the farm. The farm is 95 hectares in one large block all of which is owned. Soil type on the farm is grey brown podzolic and soil texture is silty clay loam. Ken's farm has a stocking rate of 133 Kgs/Ha.

Grass measuring took place as part of the Better Beef programme. A number of additional paddocks were added at this time also. This has improved both the quantity and quality of the forage available, especially for the weanlings/stores.

Ken's farm has a mix of older buildings and some recently converted housing, ample slurry and FYM storage.

There is currently 22 Ha of forestry on his farm. 12.5 Ha of semi-natural woodland that was under planted with oak, 4.85 Ha of oak planted in 1998, 3.3 Ha under the Native Woodland Scheme and some native woodland under the ESB power lines. There is also 4.8 Ha of short rotation coppice willow used to supply the nearby power station.

Breeding Performance

No. of cows: 70
Cow replacement index: 108
Heifer replacement index: 113
Calves per cow per year: 1.03

Ken's Plan

The plans for the future are: to continue to improve the quality of the cows using 100% AI; to improve the grass swards by both reseeding as part of the rotation and by using an Einbock grass harrow to stitch in grass/clover mixtures on the old pastures. The only change to the current system may be a slight reduction in cow numbers and some additional tillage.

Signpost Programme

Ken is one of two drystock organic farmers in the country who are part of the Future Beef initiative within the wider Signpost Programme and as such various reports including regular updates on his farming business is available to be viewed by the public via the Teagasc website.

Ken’s farm was the location for the recent farmer launch of the Future Beef Programme. The programme was officially launched by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue last December on Oliver O’Hara’s farm in Co. Leitrim, but due to Covid restrictions the farmers and their advisors were unable to attend.

Farmers in the programme travelled from all around the country to learn more about Ken’s system with insights from Organic specialist Elaine Leavy and Nicky Byrne from Teagasc Grange among others.

The two main focus areas for the day on Ken’s farm were his production system and the red clover silage that he is producing on farm.

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