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'Don't produce anything that you don't have a market for'

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Yearling bulls Penrose 07 Johnjoe and Penrose 07 Johnson, both by David's stockbull Blakestown Gladiator, by Blakestown Artiste, who will be sold for breeding, in the foreground with freshly calved cows who are out to grass by day behind

Yearling bulls Penrose 07 Johnjoe and Penrose 07 Johnson, both by David's stockbull Blakestown Gladiator, by Blakestown Artiste, who will be sold for breeding, in the foreground with freshly calved cows who are out to grass by day behind

Yearling bulls Penrose 07 Johnjoe and Penrose 07 Johnson, both by David's stockbull Blakestown Gladiator, by Blakestown Artiste, who will be sold for breeding, in the foreground with freshly calved cows who are out to grass by day behind

David Johnson is a rare breed. He is one of the few suckler farmers who manages to retain all his Single Farm Payment each year.

He attributes his success to "keeping things simple".

So, for example, he has no diet feeder (apparently this hasn't been for the lack of effort on the part of the manufacturers to sell him one).

"I don't feel I need one. It also means that it is easier to feed each group a different diet specific to their needs," David explains.

The finishing bulls get a finisher ration that is higher in molasses and energy than the younger stock, while the former get roughage in the form of hay and the latter get haylage.

David also does a fair bit of his own machinery work. He now cuts all his silage in the form of bales. He says this allows greater flexibility so, instead of closing up a large area all at the one time, he can take out a couple of paddocks whenever he likes. He does get help with the wrapping: "when you hire the wrapper, you get the driver too and I can be drawing while he's wrapping."

Disease prevention is an issue on all farms and David's health programme includes routine vaccination with Rotavac for scour. Also, the area is low in selenium so it is routinely administered.

They have identified a problem with P13 virus. This is part of the suite covered by Bovipast but, as they don't have an issue with any of the others, he is able to use a more targeted alternative.

And insofar as it is possible to judge from a brief short visit, the newborn calves are very vigorous and up in search of a drink minutes after hitting the ground.

The paddocks around the home yard have dedicated walkways to the sheds so animals can be moved easily between indoors and outdoors, which is especially valuable this time of year as a few cows and calves are gradually being moved out.

His advice to anyone is also simple, "don't produce something you don't have a market for."

All his finished stock go to Slaney Meats and he was recently involved in the negotiation with them of a new scheme for cull pedigree and cross-bred Charolais cows.

He believes it makes more sense in the long term to do business with one factory. "Some fellas would go elsewhere for a fiver, which is fine in a rising market but this can come back to kick you when cattle are plentiful."

But, while some farmers may feel that he's probably getting some special preference because he has a certain profile, David says this is not true.

"It's not a case of getting more than anybody else but rather getting as a good as what's going."

Indo Farming