ABP Farm Clonegal
(This piece contains extracts from an article that featured on Agriland here)
Recently some members of the Progressive Genetics Salesteam (as well as Munster AI Salespeople & NCBC Salespeople) got to a presentation from Stewphen Connolly and visted ABP Food Group’s R&D farm in Clonegal, Co. Carlow which is home to a herd of mainly Angus and Hereford steers and heifers. Established in 2015, the farm is the base for the company’s research on dairy-beef systems. This work is carried out in conjunction with the ICBF (Irish Cattle Breeding Federation) and Teagasc. It’s also ABP’s largest Blade Farming operation in Ireland.
Owned and operated by Michael and James Sheppard, the 280ac farm carries beef-sired progeny from the dairy herd to slaughter. The Sheppards have been in partnership with ABP for the last three years; they sent 364 cattle to slaughter between the end of 2016 and the start of 2017 (incl. 185 Angus (73 heifers and 112 steers) and 178 Herefords (62 heifers and 116 steers).
The system is primarily focused on grass-based production and, generally speaking, cattle are turned out to grass in early February and are returned to winter housing in mid-November.
Dairy Beef Breeding Programme
The Carlow-based farm plays a central role in the Gene Ireland Dairy Beef Breeding Programme. This is an initiative undertaken by the ICBF, partner AI companies (like ourselves), Teagasc and ABP to help identify young beef-bred AI sires to maximise the beef traits of the progeny produced by dairy dams.
Such traits include: calving difficulty; gestation length; and growth and carcass attributes. The latter also covers feed efficiency.
Since its establishment, 45 bulls from six various breeds (mainly Angus and Hereford) have been progeny tested through the programme. In addition, 15,000 AI straws were dispatched to over 200 herds since the programme was founded in 2015.
A key focus of the Gene Ireland programme is the generation and collection of data. The stringent recording carried out on the Carlow-based farm adds valuable information to this database.
This is a Timely Project
By 2021, it’s expected that 930,000 beef-cross calves will become available from the dairy herd. As a result, the face of the Irish beef kill is expected to change significantly.
Early indications suggest that dairy-origin animals, either beef crosses or pure dairy, will account for approximately 60% of the Irish beef kill in the coming years – up from 45% currently.
Over 1,500 calves have now been purchased as part of the programme; some 364 of these were slaughtered in ABP between the end of 2016 and the start of 2017.
All of this work is being overseen by ABP’s Stephen Connolly, who is undertaking a PhD with Teagasc and the Cork Institute of Technology (CIT).
On the programme so far Connolly has stated "The initial results of the trial demonstrate the strength of genetic evaluations and show that sires with higher genetic merit deliver higher-value, more profitable progeny."
Tour of the Carlow Research Farm
We would like to thank Stephen Connolly & Paul Matthews for their time and the opportunity to get on-farm.
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