Making the most from grazed grass will be the key discussion point at an upcoming AgriSearch-AFBI-CAFRE farm walk, to be held on the farm of Wayne Acheson on the outskirts of the village of Sandholes, County Tyrone on Tuesday 21st August at 7pm.

The farm finishes approximately 1,200 cattle per year and consists of 400 acres of lowland (200 acres fixed grazing platform and 200 acres dedicated to silage) and a 520 acre hill.  The fixed grazing platform is laid out in hectare paddocks with approximately 100 paddocks grazing 600 store bullocks throughout the grazing season.    The farm’s 100 cow suckler herd are grazed on the hill.  An additional 500-600 store cattle are purchased in late summer to graze silage aftermath, prior to be housed for a 90 day finishing on high quality silage plus concentrates.     

Wayne places a strong emphasis on good grassland management across the farm to ensure optimum performance can be achieved from grass, with a target daily live weight gain of >1kg/day. An 8 paddock grazing system is used for each group of cattle (cattle are grazed in groups of 40 – 50). Wayne commented, “To maintain sward quality we regularly take big bales off the platform if covers go past our grazing target”.

Jason Rankin (AgriSearch), Andrew Clarke (Foyle Meats) and Francis Lively (AFBI) discussing the upcoming GrassCheck farm walk at Wayne Acheson’s farm.
Jason Rankin (AgriSearch), Andrew Clarke (Foyle Meats) and Francis Lively (AFBI) discussing the upcoming GrassCheck farm walk at Wayne Acheson’s farm.

Wayne is one of 23 beef farms participating in the GrassCheck project which involves weekly recording of grass growth across the grazing platform. “Measuring grass growth on a weekly basis has clearly identified poor performing paddocks for reseeded which enables us to maximise our beef output per hectare” comments Wayne.

At the farm walk event located on this 45 acre grazing platform on the outskirts of Sandholes visitors will be able to view 120 beef bullocks which have been managed   in 3 groups throughout this grazing seasons.  Visitors will have an opportunity to hear how the grazing plan aims to extend the grazing season into the autumn.  “Moving into the autumn forward bullocks (>550 kg) will be drafted from each group for finishing thereby reducing the grazing demand as grass growth declines but enabling an extended grazing period on the land”, Wayne continues.

At the event there will be the opportunity to hear about the GrassCheck project and the 2018 season so far, the farm’s grazing management approach, and options to get the most out of grass this autumn. The event will also focus on forage budgeting for the winter months.

AgriSearch’s Elizabeth Earle commented “Grass growth this year has been extremely variable across N.I. and it’s important looking to the autumn that farms are well placed to make the most of grass at the end of the season and reduce pressure on winter forage supplies.”

The four farm walks will take place on:

  • 16th August – Henry Stewart (Dairy), 27 West Street, Stewartstown, BT71 5HT at 10.30am
  • 21st August – John & Andrew Dale (Dairy), 287 Ballyquin Road, Limavady, BT49 9HB a 10.30am
  • 21st August – Wayne Acheson (Beef), Tullylagan Road, Sandholes, Cookstown, BT80 9AZ at 7:00 pm
  • 29th August – Paul & Frank Turley's (Beef), 11 Struell Wells Road, Downpatrick, BT30 6RL at 6:00 pm

 In the interests of biosecurity those attending are asked to wear clean clothing not previously worn while in direct contact with their own animals. Outdoor work boots should not be worn. Protective overalls and footwear will be provided.