The Better Farm Beef Challenge NI programme recently held two events on the farms of programme participants Barry Carty, at Garrison Co Fermanagh and Paul and Thomas Jamison at Dromore Co Down.
The programme is a joint initiative between CAFRE, ABP Food Group NI and the Irish Farmers Journal. Ten farmer participants from across N Ireland are used to highlight technologies and practices which are helping them improve their profitability. Over two hundred farmers attended these two recent events.
At the event in County Down, Paul Jamison explained how he has been able to increase farm stocking rate and output by introducing a paddock grazing system. He stated that his farm stocking rate has increased from 1.40 Cow Equivalents per hectare (CE/ha) in 2016 to 1.78 CE/Ha in 2018, with plans to further increase this to 2.6 CE/ha in the next two years. This focus on good grassland management means Paul is on course to grow over 10 tonnes of dry matter per hectare over his grazing platform in 2019.
Paul and Thomas operate an intensive bull beef system. Male calves born in spring 2018 and slaughtered in early summer 2019 achieved an average daily carcase gain from birth of 0.86Kg per day resulting in an average carcase weight of 397Kg, and average grade classification U+ 2=. Paul highlighted the breeding policies on the farm with Aberdeen Angus and Stabiliser genetics being introduced to cross with mainly Limousin bred cows to improve hybrid vigour.
Paul explained how reducing his calving index from 389 days in 2018 and compacting his calving spread from 16 weeks to 12 will be highly beneficial to gain better feeding efficiencies in the bull beef system. The farm has recently invested in modern handling facilities and Paul outlined how stock can now be handled in a safer environment with a much faster throughput.
In Fermanagh, farmers who attended the event at Barry Carty’s farm saw and heard how Barry is focusing on producing high quality calves with excellent carcase traits from his 60 cow suckler herd. These calves are in good demand at local livestock marts as weanlings or year-olds. Due to heavy clay soils and multiple land blocks Barry explained how he has split his calving period. Forty cows calf in 8 weeks during August and September with a further twenty calving during January and February.
Barry used elite Charolais genetics through DIY Artificial Insemination. Conception rates of 70% to first service was achieved in 2019. Replacement breeding stock are purchased locally. Barry highlighted how he is increasing output by carrying offspring to heavier weights, tightening the calving period and harvesting excellent quality silage (74 D-value). Winter born 2018 steers had an average sale weight of 446Kg at 13.5 months grossing £1,024 per head. Performance of winter 2019 steers has ensured that Barry’s winter calving cows weaned 48% of their weight at 200 days.
Farmers also heard from Phelim Connolly, CAFRE agri-environment adviser about how the Environmental Farming Scheme can be used to improve environmental sustainability while also demonstrating good farm management practices.
The event concluded with Barry outlining the main features of a newly constructed cattle shed to winter forty of his cows and calves. Design of this shed with particular emphasis on ventilation was discussed. Barry also highlighting how the design has facilitated restricted suckling leading to earlier onset of heats.
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