Investing in a weighing scales was key to improving gross margin for Sligo beef farmer Trevor Boland.

The part-time farmer in Sligo spoke at the Teagasc Grange Beef Open Day recently, about his suckler farm. The herd, which is autumn calving, is mainly made up of Limousin and Simmental. The heifers are finished on farm or sold as weanlings or kept as replacements.

He recently bought a Saler bull to increase the amount of milk in the herd and have easing calving cows. Over the last few years he got involved with Teagasc to work at increasing his gross margin. The improvements he’s made include introducing paddocks to his fields, with 18 paddocks instead of three big grazing blocks. However, he wants to introduce more paddocks so he can improve his grassland management and weekly walks every paddock on the farm.

His other big addition to the farm was the purchase of a weighing scales to measure the performance of all the cattle on the farm, and weights calves every week. He has also worked on improving his silage quality on farm.

Finishing heifers at 20-22 month with a carcass weight of 280-330kg, he says.

Bernadette Earley, Teagasc Grange, said herd health planning is important for farmers because national herd health statistics in Ireland show that over 100,000 calf deaths. This is a considerably cost to the economy and farmers, she said.

Calf pneumonia and scours are two of the main causes of calf deaths. BVD, she said, in 2013 there were 14,000 cases of BVD identified in calves. Through the BVD scheme it is necessary for farmers to remove these calves. There are still 2,146 persistently infected (PI) calves on farms, she said. The only way to address issues like this is to have a very firm herd health plan, she said.