For their second on farm meeting of the year, the Banbridge beef finishing Business Development Group, along with their AI Services Facilitator Adam Jones, visited Co Down TDF farmer James Henderson.
James along with his son Scott farm 150 acres of predominantly light loam on the Co. Down coast near the town of Kilkeel. The farm currently has a high stocking rate of 2.74 CE/ha including 180 dairy origin beef heifers and 300 sheep.
Grassland management was the main talking point of the evening especially with the challenges that James and other BDG members have faced this year. James measures grass weekly across his farm using a plate meter and records the measurements on Agrinet software. With this information he can make the best decisions on daily grass allocations and which paddocks to take out for silage.
James added: “Grassland management is key, we started off small five years ago just splitting a few fields around the main farm into paddocks and now five years on we have the whole farm into paddocks, I can see the benefits. Good quality grass in front of stock and by using the grazing software and weekly grass measurements we’re able to keep an eye on our grass covers.”
This year James has trialled mowing paddocks before stock start to graze them. The paddock is mowed off every other rotation as the cattle enter it. James was happy with the results and explained to the group that there was stronger regrowth across the whole paddock and improved grass utilisation by the cattle.
With James experiencing a period of drought in three of the last five years he is looking to become more drought tolerant. This year the farm has only recorded 300mm of rain up until the start of September and grass growth measurements were zero for the month of July.
To combat this continual cycle of drought James has decided to reseed three and half acres with a six species sward mix inspired by a visit to fellow TDF farmer Dale Orr, Strangford. The mix contains late PRG, mid PRG, chicory, plantain, and red and white clover. James is hoping that the deep rooting properties of the plantain and chicory will provide some drought tolerance in the years ahead.
James also stressed the importance of improving silage quality. Last year he sowed a PRG and red clover mix to produce a high protein silage to finish cattle over the housed period and reduce his concentrate use further. He is also planning on grazing ram lambs on it this autumn to finish.
James finished the evening with a look at his most recent financial benchmarking carried out through his own BDG. It showed an impressive gross margin of £1,237/ha. James has undertaken financial benchmarking since he joined the BDG scheme six years ago. It has allowed him to annually critique the business and make continual improvements year on year.
If you would like to visit James’s farm, details of all TDFs, including James’s, and how to book a visit are at the CAFRE website. At the moment CAFRE is taking group bookings only by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) and the European Union fund the Business Development Groups Scheme and the establishment of Technology Demonstration Farms across Northern Ireland under the Innovation Technology Evaluation Demonstration (ITED) Scheme, as part of the Rural Development Programme.
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