Ray and Mary Dempsey took over the 105-hectare sheep and beef farm in County Offaly, Ireland, in 1977. Since then, they have reduced the size of their sheep flock while increasing the number of cattle on the farm, and now have a suckler herd of 70 cows.
“We have established a good suckler herd capable of producing good beef cattle. Our Limousin cross replacement heifers are purchased from known herds of good husbandry and health status.”
All cattle are reared under the Beef Quality Assurance Scheme, which involves a code of practice covering topics such as stockmanship, animal welfare and nutrition. It also covers the use of medicines, animal traceability and environmental controls, and it is independently audited by Bord Bia (the Irish Food Board).
The farm is also committed to environmentally favorable farming systems and helping to find ways of using agricultural land to improve and protect biodiversity.
A number of measures have been introduced on the farm to improve animal health and welfare, including:
- Rubber slat covers in winter housing for finishing cattle. As well as improving comfort levels, it has also led to increased growth rates and finishing weights, and delivered higher financial returns.
- Straw bedded calving pens and calf creep areas.
Other measures have included ensuring that heifers are 20–22 months old before being mated with the bull, to calve down at 30 months and over. Waiting until the heifers are older helps to reduce incidences of calving difficulties.
Good handling facilities allow routine health checks to be undertaken in a timely and cost-effective manner, with reduced incidence of worker and animal injury.
The farm regularly conducts soil testing for nutrients to prevent over-application of fertilizers and promote more efficient use. The farm also plants clover in its pastures to capture atmospheric nitrogen and convert this into soil nitrogen, reducing the need for artificial nitrogen applications.
A concrete tank has been installed to harvest rainwater, capturing around 200,000 liters of water a year, with an annual saving to the farm of €472.
A reed bed has also been established to clean and filter water that runs off the farm’s concrete yard.
One hectare of habitat and one hectare of Linnet (Land Invested in Nature, Natural Eco-Tillage) have been planted to provide winter feeding and foraging zones for wild birds.
Learn more about Ray Dempsey’s story
Explore the case study, where you’ll find extra details on how the farm has performed against the program’s good practice standards and criteria, what external research reveals about the producer’s actions and how improved sustainability benefits them.
“We feel privileged that Dawn Meats nominated our farm; and to be selected by McDonald's to participate in their Flagship Farmer Program is an honor. There is also a personal sense of achievement as over the years we have worked hard in our farming business to achieve and maintain a good standard of beef production, recognizing the requirements of the consumer and their expectations of traceability and animal welfare.”
“Ray has a fairly typical family-run farming business. What makes Ray different is his foresight and confidence in the future of the industry. A large amount of investment has been undertaken to upgrade animal housing and the handling facilities on the farm and this in turn will improve animal welfare and performance, resulting in an increase in profits. Ray has also looked at all areas of the business and is trying to reduce inputs while still maintaining/improving current production levels. Along with this, the farm is working in a more sustainable manner, which will ensure the farm’s future success into the next generation.”