The 2021 British Grassland Society’s virtual Summer Meeting will feature visits to four local farms across Northern Ireland and take the form of two free webinars on the evenings of Tuesday and Wednesday, June 29-30.
On each evening two virtual farm tours, facilitated by BGS Summer Meeting Organising Committee Chairman Ian McCluggage, will take place and there will be an opportunity to ask the host farmers questions about their farming systems.
The Webinars will be chaired by BGS President Drew McConnell from Omagh.
Day one (Tuesday, June 29, 7.30pm) will focus on beef and sheep farming and feature visits to Robert Kettyle, Lisnaskea, and James Henderson, Kilkeel.
The Kettyle farm in County Fermanagh comprises 138 hectares of owned land, including the 43ha Dernish Island on Upper Lough Erne.
The suckler herd has recently reduced to 90 cows and now uses Aberdeen Angus bulls on the Simmental X cows with a new dairy-origin beef enterprise added with over 160 head from both systems finished annually to beef at around 24 months.
Maximum production is targeted from grass in order to improve profitability and sustainability. Agri-environment management is also an important feature on the farm with Dernish Island an important national habitat for breeding waders.
The 60ha Henderson family farm near Kilkeel in County Down, with clear views of the Mourne Mountains and the Irish Sea, has a dairy-origin beef enterprise with 90 British Blue, Limousin and Aberdeen Angus dropped calves purchased annually and taken through to beef at around two years and a Rouge X Texel sheep flock made up of 250 ewes and 70 ewe lamb mated to Primera rams.
Again maximum production and efficiency is sought from grass with extensive use made of new research and technology.
Day 2 (Wednesday, June 30, 7.30pm) will focus on dairy farming with visits to the O’Neill family, Artigarvan, and Alastair Cochrane, Bushmills.
The 106ha O’Neill family farm is situated four miles from Strabane in the rolling hills of north Tyrone where Albert and his brother Wesley farm in partnership with their parents.
The main enterprise is a herd of 200 autumn/winter calving Holstein X Montbeliarde cows. The excellent rolling herd average is 9,300 litres with 3,800 litres being achieved from forage.
Actively involved in grassland and dairy research, the farm tour will also feature the latest protein crop being grown and some of the many inventions developed by Albert to improve productivity, animal welfare and farm safety on the farm.
Alastair Cochrane and his two sons farm 230ha at Glentask, in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, overlooking the stunning north Antrim coast between Portrush and Bushmills.
The dairy herd has now expanded to 400 milking cows and is self-contained with a tight autumn calving pattern and cows run in three groups over the summer – 24 hour grazed group, indoor zero grazed/TMR group and indoor TMR group.
Both webinars are organised jointly by the Ulster Grassland Society and Fermanagh Grassland Club on behalf of the British Grassland Society and are sponsored by the Stapledon Memorial Trust and the Vaughan Trust, whose support is greatly appreciated.