Two local farms were among a number of leading dairy and beef and sheep farms in Northern Ireland to host the British Grassland Society's (BGS) summer tour, organised by the Ulster Grassland Society and Fermanagh Grassland Club.

The President of BGS, Omagh farmer Drew McConnell, handed over his chain of office to his successor, Dr. Elizabeth Stockdale, at their annual meeting held in Northern Ireland.

The summer tour was held over three days with dairy and sheep farms in the east of the province on Day One, with Day Two featuring Philip and David Clarke's dairy herd at Augher, and John Egerton's beef and sheep farm near Rosslea.

It was a great honour for the two farms to open their gates to the visitors from across the British Isles.

On Day Three, the delegates visited Greenmount College's hill farm.

The Clarke's farm at Ballylaggan, Augher, is 46 hectares in size with a 85-cow spring calving Friesian x Jersey herd based on grazing high-quality grass.

The herd is crossed to Jersey, Kiwi Cross and high EBI Friesian sires. The cows yield 4,166 litres from forage with 4.53 per cent butterfat and 3.65 per cent protein.

Some of the take-home messages for visitors included growing and utilising high yields of quality grass; a robust, fertile cow and compact spring calving pattern; a herd of cows, not individuals; attention to detail in all aspects of grassland management, and making the system easy to run to maximise the return to the family.

The family reduce their impact on the environment by pre-cooling milk, using photovoltaic panels, using low-emission slurry spreading equipment and increasing clover content of their swards.

John Egerton and family's Lisnavoe Farm comprises 72.8 hectares supporting four enterprises; 90 suckler cos, 450 Blade calves, 30 contract-reared dairy heifers and 230 ewes.

All male calves are finished as bulls, female progeny inseminated and surplus heifers sold in-calf.

John participates in the Environmental Farming Scheme and is also involved in the ARC Zero project which focuses on measuring and reducing CO2 emissions.

In 2017, John was runner-up in the BGS Grassland Farmer of the Year, and in 2019 he was the Gold Winner Beef Innovator of the Year at the British Farming Awards.

Talking points included optimising the efficiency of livestock enterprises and grassland management; introduction of multi-species swards, moving towards net zero carbon emissions while remaining profitable, and the pathway to succession for the next generation.