An insight to a highly efficient suckler farm in neighbouring Co. Monaghan was given to members of Fermanagh Grassland Club recently.

Full-time farmer, Wesley Browne, from Dunraymond, Co. Monaghan, was the speaker at the November meeting, outlining his farm business on his 58-hectare farm which is divided into three blocks on what he describes as medium to heavy soil type.

He stocks 90 spring calving cows and all male progeny are finished as bulls under 16 months old. He sells heifers for breeding and has a customer base coming back annually for them. His stocking rate at 167kgs/N is just below the 170 cut off.

Wesley began his presentation by outlining the timeline of the development of the farm. He attended Enniskillen College in 1988-89 year, going on to Ballyhaise College and took over the running of the farm in 1992.

In 1995, there were 25 Angus cross heifers and 150 sheep and in 2000 the focus was on animal health.

The farm’s infrastructure was improved in 2009 with the construction of a new slatted shed which can house 180 head and in the following year, the breeding sheep flock was sold.

In 2014, he changed to finishing the bulls and a with a replacement policy to breed cow types.

By 2017 he had expanded the suckler herd to 90 cows and during this year, started the Better Farm Programme. In 2021, he was asked to join the Teagasc Future Beef programme.

His calving report for 2022 shows he had all cows calved within 12 weeks, starting on February 21 and finishing on May 16. This calving index of 359 is well below the national average of 393 days. The percentage of his heifers calving within 22-26 months at 81 per cent is also much better than the national average.

He says he achieves these targets by having the cows fit but not fat, good cow nutrition, good observation and by ensuring the calves get colostrum on time. Cameras are used at calving time and he will only intervene when needed.

Wesley is adamant that cows and new born calves are turned our to grass the day after they are born into sheltered paddocks in small groups with Mg lick buckets provided.

He will have finished his first round of grazing by April 1.

The 42 paddocks get good use of slurry and protected urea as the PH is 6.5.

Wesley has been measuring grass growth since 2017 and sees the benefit of it.

For breeding he uses Salers, Limousin and Simmental bulls with the emphasis on maternal figures as his priority is selling high quality breeding heifers. Of the first 71 cows scanned, four were not in calf and any cow with no calf at foot is culled and not given a second chance.

Bulls averaged 350 kgs at housing with heifers around 300kgs by mid October. Weanlings are fed on 75DMD silage and two kgs of meal. Weaning takes place in mid November.

Heifers are fed up to 1.5kgs daily with bulls pushed on to 4-5kgs by the end of December and up to 7-8kgs by January. Bulls at slaughtered averaged 393kgs and graded U=3- and will have eaten 1.4t of meal in their lifetime, killing out at around 59 per cent with an average livetime gain of 1.42kgs. Wesley has found that a good supply of silage in the bulls’ diets will leave better fat cover.

Wesley’s farm is part of the Teagasc Signpost Programme for sustainability with the aim of reducing gas emissions. The only action he is not currently doing is incorporating clover in his grassland buy aims to begin this during the 2023 year.