The value of CAFRE’s Business Development Groups should not be underestimated

Date published: 13 March 2020

Farming land classed as a Severely Disadvantaged Area (SDA) is undoubtedly a challenge, but one farmer in such a position has found that the use of readily available tools helps greatly.

Francis Lively Head of Beef Research at AFBI Hillsborough discussing herd BovIS results with James Brennan, Terence Smyth, Andrew McCammond, Neill Fraser and Martin Cunningham.

Terence Smyth, whose farm sits on the outskirts of the Belfast hills between Dundrod and Stoneyford, has found that by increasing monitoring and using the online Bovine Information System (BovIS) tool, he has increased the efficiency of his 75 acre farm. 

Speaking about the BovIs system Terence Smyth said: “BovIS has helped me reduce the total amount of meal fed and time taken to finish animals within my herd. I am able to monitor production from each cow and sire used within the herd.

“I can also look back over 10 years production figures and even follow calves sold as weanlings through to slaughter in another herd”. Last year my Stabiliser bull calves had an average carcass weight of 382 kg at 13.7 months of age and 100 per cent were within market specification.”

Mr Smyth’s farm carries 20 spring calving Suckler cows and 70 ewes. The suckler cows are Stabiliser bred and are all mated back to a Stabiliser bull. Terence’s policy is to retain a proportion of the heifer calves for breeding with any surplus heifers sold.

A rotational grazing system is operated for the cows and calves from turnout in May until housing. The bull calves are creep fed concentrates from July to ensure good growth rates are achieved.

Terence can achieve a 320kg average 200 day weight for his bull calves and 270kg for heifer calves which is excellent. The bull calves are weaned off and housed during September and October. Their concentrate ration is gradually increased from housing until the final 2 month finishing period when they are fed an adlib concentrate diet.

Terence is a firm believer in knowing how well his bulls are performing by regularly weighing them to monitor performance and adjusting feeding where necessary. His last CAFRE Benchmarking report showed that the average DLWG from birth to slaughter of his bulls was 1.47kg/day.

Terence values being part of his CAFRE Business Development Group as it gives him access to CAFRE’s Knowledge Advisory Service.

Where he has the opportunity to meet with other farmers from within the local area who are operating similar farming systems. They discuss topics and share information which will help develop all their businesses. He is also currently in the process of completing a Level 3 in Agriculture through CAFRE.

The Business Development Groups Scheme is part of the NI Rural Development Programme and is part funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.

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