CALEB Howard from Moneymore is a dairy farmer who is continuing to learn and increase his knowledge of agriculture with the support of CAFRE.
He says: “On leaving school I completed both Level 2 and Level 3 day release courses in Agriculture at CAFRE before coming home to farm full-time with my family in Moneymore. We keep 70 dairy cows and followers and rear all non-dairy bred calves through to beef while we also have a pig finishing enterprise.
“I have always loved farming and am keen to learn and keep up to date with new ideas which will help me to continue to develop the farm. I am excited by our next farm development which is the opening of a farm shop on the home farm in early November 2021 where we will sell pasteurised milk and other home produced farm produce.
“Having obtained qualifications in agriculture, I have continued my learning journey through membership of my local dairying Business Development Group (BDG) and more recently on a Dairy Technology Demonstration Farm visit.
“As a member of a BDG, I really enjoy the chance to visit other farms and be updated on a whole range of issues relevant to my farm business. I especially enjoy the discussion aspect of the group meetings and it is always good to hear what others have to say and to learn from their experiences. I also benchmark using the CAFRE Benchmarking Programme which I find useful in letting me see how well my business is performing and also to identify areas that need improved.
“Recently I took the opportunity to attend the CAFRE Dairy Heifer Rearing Technology Demonstration Farm of Rex Wilson at Coagh, Co Tyrone as a member of my BDG group and found it to be a very useful, interesting and informative experience.
“The visit occurred in October and we were able to visit the farm in person which was great. The visit began with a presentation covering overall heifer rearing costs, performance recording, calf rearing, heat detection, pregnancy diagnosis, the use of herd health plans and the criteria used in sire selection. While maintaining social distancing we were then able to view the dairy herd and also heifer calves and dairy young stock.
“One of the aspects of the visit that stood out for me was the fact that heifer rearing costs are the second largest annual expense on a dairy farm accounting for 20 % of production costs and how it was important to monitor and review these costs regularly. It was also good to hear how Rex uses the Sensehub SRC collar in heat detection and also see the new electronic weighing facilities recently introduced.
“The cattle on the farm looked great and the key take home message that I will remember is the need to focus on calving at 24 months of age as this reduces costs and increases lifetime productivity.
“While for many dairy farmers calving dairy herd replacements at 24 months on average remains a dream, Rex Wilson has shown that this is possible, consistently year on year, through attention to all the many details related to heifer rearing.
“There are many challenges facing all farm business including my own at the moment and this is all the more reason to continue to look to see what improvements I can make that are within my control. Having been to Rex’s farm I am now motivated to make a number of changes relating to heifer rearing on my home farm.
“I hope to continue to learn through my BDG group and I would encourage others to take up the opportunity to visit the excellent Technology Demonstration Farms provided by CAFRE.”
The Business Development Groups and Technology Demonstration Farm Schemes are part funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).
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