The annual Senior Conference, organized and run by the Youth Development Programme of the Aberdeen-Angus Cattle Society was staged in Ireland over the weekend.
The three-day event hosted participants from the United Kingdom as well as host country, Ireland, with a packed itinerary of diverse and informative workshops, farm visits, speakers and events throughout the course of the weekend.
The tour began at Ballard Organic Farm, Kilbeggan, Co. Westmeath with a detailed look at the mechanics of a successful organic enterprise under host farmer, Pat Lalor who operates a 300 acre farm, split between tillage and beef. The second farm visit saw the group stop at the Teagasc-run ‘Grass on the Bypass’ project just off the N52 on route to Tullamore. This project focuses on the effective utilization of grass as one of the main drivers of efficiency and profitability in a commercial beef system.
Finally, the last farm visit took the group to beef farmer, Mark Maxwell, Ballynagore, Kilbeggan, Co. Westmeath who is a participant in the BETTER farm programme. This suckler-to-beef farm system is calving between both autumn and spring with all youngstock finished to beef. A stand-out participant of the BETTER farm scheme, Mark is currently achieving a 357 day calving interval for his beef cow herd with all progeny being slaughtered between 20-26 months with an overall aim of achieving a profit margin of €1000/ha.
Aside from the educational and practical visits to farms, the senior conference itself took place at the Central Hotel, Tullamore with an exceptional line-up of distinguished speakers from a variety of agricultural disciplines, including Ciarån Costello of the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation, who gave an overview of the BDGP scheme and its impact on beef farming, Rob Farrell of the popular supermarket chain, Aldi, gave a synopsis of the retail trade in Ireland and spoke of the continued rising demand for premium, quality beef. Louise Denvir of the Irish Farmers’ Journal, gave a very interesting and topical report on the rise and impact of social media on agriculture. Louise cited the online social media campaign, Save Our Sucklers (SOS) which was launched by the Irish Farmers’ Journal earlier this year and aims to secure a support payment of €200 per cow for suckler farmers.
Joe Dooley, a newly qualified vet from the local Tullamore area gave a very detailed speech on the complex animal health issue of antimicrobial resistance. Joe spoke about the rising resistance animals are showing to antibiotics and the concern about the potential damage excessive use of antibiotics are having on the national herd. The conference was rounded off with the keynote speech from Paul Nolan of Dawn Meats who spoke about the specifications for premium cattle at factory level and future challenges and trends for the commercial beef industry in Ireland.
The Aberdeen-Angus Cattle Society has a jam-packed spring and summer schedule of exciting workshops, farm visits and other events planned for the youth membership in the UK and Ireland for 2018.
If you would like to get involved with the Youth Development Programme, please contact Gayle (firstname.lastname@example.org) for the dates of any upcoming events in your area.