Tuesday 27 September 2016

Farm walk highlights room for improvements

Published 02/03/2016 | 02:30

Green Acres programme advisor Gordon Peppard with Ben Sweeney at a farm walk in Enfield, Co Meath.
Green Acres programme advisor Gordon Peppard with Ben Sweeney at a farm walk in Enfield, Co Meath.

During the recent Teagasc Green Acres Calf to Beef farm walk on his farm in Enfield, Co Meath, Ben Sweeney outlined the farming systems on his farm at the start of the programme and the plans he has for the next few years.

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Ben, originally from Galway moved to Enfield in the 1980s and today he and his son Joseph farm over 260ac of owned land with a further 80ac rented.

There are 25 suckler cows and followers on the farm at present and up to 200 calves are reared each year. These calves are primarily Friesian bull calves that are intended for slaughter at 18 to 20 months.

It is critically important that anyone intending to produce bulls at this age would talk to their factory agent in order to ensure that you have an outlet for this type of animal.

Ben also has some tillage on the farm, with triticale grown in 2015 which is currently being used as whole crop silage. Previously Ben grew maize but this practise has ceased since joining the programme.

The calves are reared using different methods. Around 120 calves are reared on a Volac automatic feeder with the remainder on teat feeders and this year Ben had 50 calves reared on contract off farm. These will be returned to the farm after they are weaned.

To maximise use of the automatic feeder, a number of batches are reared throughout the year, with one batch reared before Christmas and generally two batches reared in the spring.

Ben plans to tighten up his many finishing systems. Friesian bull calves bought in the autumn and the early born spring calves will be left run as bulls for finishing at 18 months or earlier.

The later spring born Friesian bulls will be castrated and finished as bullocks at 26 to 30 months off of grass. Some rented ground maybe dropped which will increase stocking rate and also improve grassland management on the overall farm.

Grassland plan

There is a grassland plan in place and Ben intends to make better use of grazed grass through the introduction of a paddock system and also reseeding some old pastures.

Ben generally buys Angus and Hereford heifers, but this year this system will be seriously analysed to see if he will proceed with it in the future.

On the day Ben highlighted a number of areas where he feels that he can make improvements on the farm. Improving soil fertility he said will be key to growing more high quality grass on the farm, also the installation of a paddock and water system will greatly help to utilise this grass.

Establishing a defined health plan to minimise disease risk where so many animals are coming from a number of different sources and thereby maximising animal performance will also be a key focus on the farm over the next two years.

Indo Farming

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