Beef Cattle grazing at Sloan's FarmThe role of high quality grazed grass and silage in maximising margins was highlighted when Lisburn farmers Robert Sloan, sons David and Martin hosted a farm walk.

An event organised by AgriSearch with AFBI and CAFRE as part of the Research Challenge Fund project to cut carbon emissions from beef farming by improving efficiency and thus profitability.

The Sloan family farm 500 Co Down acres with enterprises including vegetable growing and a 280 cow Holstein Friesian dairy herd from which bull male progeny are transferred to the beef enterprise.

This enterprise is based on a 24 month Holstein steer beef system with calves reared on the farm achieving an average daily liveweight gain from birth to slaughter of 0.78 kg/day.  Carcass weight for Holstein steers averages 322kg at fat class 3- and a conformation grade of P+.  Continental X Holstein steers are achieving a slaughter weight of 350kg with a fat class of 3= and a conformation grade of O+.

By maximising use of grass the concentrate input is kept down to a total of 350kg per head to leave a gross margin of £208 per animal, well ahead of industry averages.

Welcoming over 70 farmers to the beef unit at Lisnastrean Martin Sloan explained that production efficiency was maximised by monitoring animal performance on good grass and grass silage.  Cattle are weighed regularly to monitor growth with diets being modified in line with animal performance.

Other speakers included farm advisor Albert Johnston from CAFRE as well as AFBI researchers Dr Francis Lively, Jason Barley and Dr Steven Morrison.

Dr Steven Morrison gave the assembled farmers a preview of a new on-line growth monitoring tool to be launched in June.  This enables farmers to input weights against the animal’s ear tag and, by specifying a target age at slaughter and a target slaughter weight, plot a graph showing how the cattle are performing against target.

An on-line greenhouse gas monitoring tool is also being launched this summer linked to the animal counts from APHIS and will enable farmers to benchmark their herds.