Members of Fermanagh Grassland Club travelled to Scotland earlier this year for a series of farm visits. Club secretary, William Johnston, sent this report and photos.

A straw poll at the Club’s Annual Dinner in February showed considerable interest among the membership, in favour of an overnight trip to Scotland for our spring outing.

With valuable input from South-West Scotland Grassland Society, three farm visits were made on April 16 and 17.

The first visit was to father and son team, Lamont and Daniel Hair, from Drumbreddan Farm near Stranraer.

The Hairs run a herd of 360 dairy cross suckler cows which are managed in three similarly sized batches.

Two of the batches have seven-week service periods, and the other batch has a six-week service period.

Cows are predominantly bred to Charolais bulls with growth and carcase EBVs in the top 5 per cent.

Male progeny are slaughtered as bulls at 12 to 13 months with females finished at 18 to 19 months.

When housed, the cattle are on solid floors and fed home-grown grains. At grass, a mixed, cattle and sheep rotational grazing system is implemented.

With an early start the following morning, members visited the 520-cow dairy farm of Allan, Robin, Janice and Charlie Campbell at Cally Mains, which was just a short distance from the hotel where members were staying.

This was a confinement system with three times a day milking.

The herd comprised 450 high-yielding Holsteins and 70 Jerseys, and the farm extended to some 650 acres with four or five cuts of silage taken annually. On average, 70 acres are reseeded each year.

The Campbells have been genomic testing their herd since 2022 and US genetics (Alta) are used in their breeding programme.

Milk is sold to Arla, where the price is based on a milk solids scheme.

The third visit was to Johnny Wilson’s dairy farm, near Kirkcolm, north of Stranraer. Johnny, originally from Church Hill, Co. Fermanagh (and a former Grassland Club member). is now in his third milking season on this 490-acre farm.

The 280 cows are calved in two six-week calving periods – one in autumn, one in spring and are bred using a three-way cross, aiming to produce a robust grazing cow with high milk solids.

Cows were at grass since early February with some interruptions, given the inclement spring. On the day of the club visit, they were enjoying the Scottish sunshine.

All calves are reared to light stores. Milk is marketed, through a solids-based contract, to Yew Tree Dairy based in Lancashire.

The club says they were grateful to the three host farms for their welcome and hospitality and for sharing information on how they ran their businesses.

The trip was blessed with fine weather, and was deemed an informative and enjoyable experience.