Farmers attending RCF Farm Walk at Sean McBride's

Farmers attending a Research Challenge Fund farm walk organised by AgriSearch, AFBI and CAFRE on Wednesday at the farm of Sean McBride, Ballycastle heard how he has maximised production efficiency by monitoring performance, calving down at 24 months of age and maximising the production and utilisation of grass.

Sean farms 450 acres near Fair Head.  He has 55 Limousin, Hereford and Angus cross suckler cows and finishes the majority of their progeny.  In addition he also has 555 ewes and 230 hoggats.

Recent technologies adapted include the regular weighing of cattle to monitor growth and modifying diets in line with animal performance. 

Francis Lively from AFBI explains the benefits of calving suckler replacements at 2 years of ageFrancis Lively from AFBI explained that in order to calve replacement heifers down successfully at 24 months certain liveweight targets need to be met.  Heifers should weigh 60% of mature weight at 14 months for bulling and 90% of mature weight at 24 months for calving.  In Sean’s case he is aiming for a mature cow weight of 585kg to his target weight at bulling and calving is 350kg and 530kg respectively.   A new on-line growth monitoring  tool has been developed to help farmers monitor actual liveweight against targets. This will shortly be available on the DARD rural portal for all farmers to use.

The Bovine Information System (BovIS) will also be launched in the next number of days.  This will use data from APHIS and meat plants to help producers monitor performance with ease.  This can also be linked to CAFRE benchmarking.

Host farmer Sean McBride explains his farming system

Steven Morrison explained that in addition to improving a farm’s technical and financial performance, calving down at 24 months as opposed to 36 months significantly reduces emissions of greenhouse gas.  Other methods of reducing greenhouse gas emissions include reducing age at slaughter, balanced diet formulations, the use of improved beef genetics, minimising animal mortality and morbidity, improving fertility and the efficient use of fertiliser nitrogen, clover and legumes.  DARD and AgriSearch have commissioned AFBI to develop a tool to enable producers to calculate emissions on their own farm.  This will be available on the DARD rural portal later this year.

Albert Johnston from CAFRE highlighted the importance of making the most of grazed grass and of making high quality grass silage.  He explained that a 330 kg continental heifer eating high quality silage (77 D-value) would require no concentrates to achieve a daily liveweight gain of 0.74kg whereas the same animal receiving 66 D-value silage would require 4.5kg of concentrate to achieve the same liveweight gain.

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