An overview of Newford and the financial performance being achieved

Newford welcomed visitors today, where the changes that have occurred since the farm was established were discussed at detail. Padraig French and Paul Crosson, Teagasc, along with Matthew Murphy, Dawn Meats, provided an overview and discussed the levels of profitability being achieved.

System overview

Since the project started in 2015, Newford land area has seen slight changes due to development of Athenry town, while TB issues in 2022 reduced cow numbers. A decision was taken to reduce land base and land block numbers and, as result, the lease of 13ha of grassland and a farmyard located 12km from the Newford farm yard was not renewed.

Cow numbers have been reduced as well, with stocking rate reducing from 2.65 to 2.41 livestock units per hectare for the years ahead. Over the last eight years, 100 animals have typically calved down each spring. Cow type is Angus and Hereford first cross cows bred from the dairy herd. This hasn’t changed since 2015. This cow type works well and is delivering offspring which are easily finished at an early age without the need for excessive concentrate input.

Over the past eight years, heifers born on the farm were finished from 18-20 months of age and males were finished as steers from 20-22 months. By extending the grazing season, the 2021-born beef heifers were slaughtered under 18 months of age, which lead to a significant saving in concentrate and silage requirements.

One of the biggest changes to come about during the project has been the move to 100% artificial insemination. This change has allowed better use of genetics through matching good terminal beef sires with suitable cows to improve the beef characteristics of progeny, while still retaining calving ease. For example, Newford's 2021-born heifers were slaughtered under 18 months of age, with minimal lifetime concentrate input, with a carcass weight of 296kg and grading R-3=. Steer carcass performance has been fairly consistent over the years, while age at slaughter has been reduced to 20 months, producing 355kg, R=3- grading carcases in 2020, which is on average eight months earlier than steers slaughtered at a national level.

Grassland management has been a major focus in terms of production efficiency with 14t DM/ha achieved in 2022. The farm has 38 paddocks across the three land blocks. All of these can be subdivided using pigtails and a geared reel. Animals graze covers of 1200-1,500kg DM/ha. Paddocks with covers greater than 1,500kg DM/ha are removed as surplus bales, producing silage testing at greater than 75% dry matter digestibility. These high-quality bales are fed back to finishing steers and weanlings during the winter and this also helps reduce the need to feed expensive concentrates over the winter.

Financial performance

The 2022 Teagasc eProfit monitor analysis shows the farm generated a gross margin of €596/ha. As detailed in Table 1, the farm achieved a relatively positive level of output of 64,800 kg liveweight or 913 kg/ha liveweight. This gave the farm a gross output value/ha of €2,284, and the level of output per livestock unit of 392 kg which has increased by increasing the average carcase weight of progeny. The variable costs were €1,689/ha and fixed costs were €754/ha. Improvements in silage quality and an earlier age of finish has resulted in the average animal consuming little concentrate over their lifetime also saving in meal annually. Significant increases in input prices for feed and fertiliser has had a significant impact on variable costs, even though the input level is low.

Through the inclusion of clover in grazing swards, it has reduced the system’s dependence on chemical nitrogen. Contractor costs for the farm were €28,065 comprising of slurry spreading which was €6,125 due to the slurry being spread in Cones farm, which is 12 km from the home block. The phosphorus and potassium indexes are index 1 and 2 for P and K and silage was cut off this ground. Contractor Other was €6,077, which includes the cost of reseeding, lime and surplus bales being hauled from out farms.

Going forward the silage will be harvested on the home block to reduce contractor charges for harvesting and slurry spreading. Fertiliser spreading was previously contracted out and it will be spread by farm staff going forward.

The Newford farm has a relatively high casual labour cost (full labour costs not included)a high loan interest payment and a high depreciation cost stemming from the farm implementing an interest-only payment on the stocking loan, working capital loan, overdraft facility, capital infrastructure loan, investment depreciation and the fact that all labour is hired.

Table 1. Newford 2022 profit monitor

Total Per Ha

Gross output(kg) liveweight 64800 913

Gross output (€) 162205 2284

Variable costs

Purchased concentrate 20893 294

Forage carried over 3020 42

Straw forage 8568 121

Fertiliser 28420 400

Lime 3521 50

Veterinary 8208 116

AI/breeding 7117 100

Contractor - silage cutting 7577 107

Contractor - slurry spreading 6125 86

Contractor - baled silage 8286 117

Contractor - other 6077 86

Seed & spray 2665 37

Silage additive & polythene 2167 31

Levies & transport 2058 29

Sundry variable costs 11244 158

Total variable costs €/Ha 119906 1689

Gross margin 42299 596

Fixed costs

Hired labour 12000 169

Mach running 9883 139

Loan interest 11769 166

Car (farm) 1131 16

E.S.B (farm) 1560 22

Depreciation 10365 146

Repairs and maintenance 2345 33

Insurance 2150 30

Professional fees 1500 21

Sundry fixed costs 863 12

Total fixed costs 53539 754

Net profit -11240 -158

Fodder scheme 1000 14

Premia: BDGP 8590 121

Premia: BEEP 6050 85

Net profit Including BGDP beep 3400 48

The Newford Farm was established by Teagasc and Dawn Meats, with the support of McDonald's and the Irish Farmers Journal, to demonstrate best practice in sustainable suckler beef production. This article first appeared in the Newford Suckler Open Day book. Access the full book here.

Source: EMM/ The Agriculture and Food Development Authority