Farms show success from improved grassland management

Published: 19 Jul 2012 13:000 comments

A group of 41 local farmers recently undertook a three-day CAFRE study tour to Dumfriesshire, Scotland. The group visited four farms and this report summarises the highlights of the visits on the tour.

Fermanagh farmers on their study trip ot Drumfriesshire.

Andrew Nelson of Cogarth, Parton, Castle Douglas runs a 200 hectare farm with 150 cows (including Angus x Friesian, ¾ Angus and Montbeliarde) and 530 Cheviot Mule ewes . He breeds his own replacements and sells calves as stores at one year old. Ewes are put to the Texel with all lambs sold off grass. The Spring calving herd recorded its last birth on May 31- a calving period of just eight weeks where 97% of cows calved and only two required assistance. Bulls had been with the spring calvers for nine weeks last summer. Charolais bulls are selected on the basis of their EBVs for 200 day and 400 day weight. Lambing occurs in March and April and vasectomised rams run with the ewes for two weeks before tupping begins to produce a tighter lambing period. Good grazing management was a feature on this farm and Andrew won the British Grassland Society National Grassland Management Competition in 2011.

Doug and Lorna Greenshields, South Mains, Sanquhar farm on a former 685 hectare Monitor Farm where 190 Stabiliser or Stabiliser cross cows produce forward stores or heifers and 600 Blackfaced and 700 Mule ewes produce fat lambs. Doug started using Stabiliser genetics in 2000 and likes their easy calving and hybrid vigour. Fertility performance is good with just six barren cows out of 150. The Greenshields are focused on maximising calf and lamb growth rates and production from grass and a rotational grazing system has been set up - first there were five grazing paddocks and then this was extended to seven. Additional water troughs were installed. Cattle graze swards down tightly to maintain leafiness and palatability and only move on to the next paddock once this has been achieved. By maintaining a good supply of quality grass Doug aims to achieve an average liveweight gain per day at grass of one kilogram.

Andrew Hamilton, Marr Farm, Thornhill, is a tenant farmer who has rented this farm from the Duke of Buccleugh since 1987. He runs 140 suckler cows - 115 spring calving and 25 autumn calving. Cows are predominantly Angus or Limousin crosses from the dairy herd. Cows are bred to Charolais and Limousin bulls with EBVs which indicate a low incidence of calving difficulty. This year there has been no veterinary assisted calvings and only one cow turned out to be not in calf. With quality replacement breeding stock proving difficult to source Andrew decided to breed his own from Limousin bulls with good maternal traits.

The visit to Sam Carlisle, Nether Dargarvel, Dumfries was an interesting one for the group. Sam is a native of Templepatrick who relocated to Dumfries in 2002. In recent times Sam has reduced the number of suckler cows to 150 (from 300+) and increased the number of stores he purchases to finish. He aims to finish 2,000 head of beef in the current year. He uses potatoes, silage and forage maize in his finishing diets. Compact calving and good grassland management are important features of this farm. Seventy West of Ireland bulling heifers were purchased and served with an easy calving Simmental bull.

Farmers on the study tour were able to see examples where efficiency and farm output were being increased. The study tour was awarded funding from the Vaughan Trust and the group would like to express their thanks to the Trustees for their generous support.

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