Fermanagh Grassland Club’s first annual Spring Outing in several years took place at the end of April when 40 farmers visited two excellent farms in the Republic of Ireland.

The trip began with a visit to Daniel Rundle’s dairy farm near Ardee, Co. Louth.

The cow grazing area is something of a challenge for Daniel, with some of the closest fields to the yard amongst his wettest, and around 40 per cent is on a steep hill.

Daniel’s grazing management is excellent and he was the runner-up in the Teagasc Dairy Grazing Competition.

Grass covers are measured each week and annual grass production usually exceeds 13 tDM/ha. Compact calving begins in late January, and in 2021, cows averaged 508 kg of milk solids on 710 kg of meal.

The herd has a calving index of 367 days and 93 per cent of cows calved within the first six weeks of the calving period.

Discussion flowed naturally and there were many questions for Daniel about his approach and system, and he frequently began his responses with “Grass is the focus...”

After lunch, the club visited Tateetra Farm near Castletown, Dundalk, which is managed by John Kingham.

Together with Rathmore Farm, it’s one of the largest suckler farms in the Republic, with almost 1,000 acres and carrying more than 500 cows plus replacements and progeny.

John is passionate about suckler farming and producing high-quality commercial cattle. Since John became the manager in 2018, the grazing area has been divided into paddocks, with excellent roadways throughout the farm.

Most of the swards have been reseeded and John has found this beneficial in terms of grass and calf growth rates.

Cattle are put to grass in early April and housed late November.

The land is flat and dry, but occasionally the east wind can cause problems for young calves.

Breeding is by natural service, with some AI, and the cows have Simmental, Limousin, Shorthorn and Belgian Blue genetics.

Calving is split between autumn and spring to ease the workload for his team. The farms have an active presence on social media, and online sales have recently been used to market in-calf cows and weanling bulls.

The next club event on Monday, June 27 is part of the British Grassland Club Summer Meeting to NI, when top dairy and beef farms will be on the itinerary (and a sheep enterprise).

If you would like to join club members on these visits, contact the secretary, William Johnston, at 07733 100703.