Thursday, December 9, 2021
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Grassland club glad to be back

Fermanagh Grassland Club secretary William Johnston expressed it neatly: “It’s great to be back!” as the first indoor meeting since March 2019 got underway.

Sixty five members attended the October meeting, which was addressed by Albert O’Neill from Artigarvan near Strabane.

Albert, together with his father John and brother Wesley, farm 270 acres and run a herd of 200 Montbeliarde X Holstein cows and their followers.

Most of the farm is in grass but they grow 37 acres of spring barley and this year they did a trial with spring beans.

Albert likes the crossbred cows which are averaging 9,300l per annum from 2.4 tonnes of concentrates.

His milk from forage is impressive at 3,800l.

“Our crossbreds are delivering 4.44% butterfat and 3.35% protein,” said Albert, “with higher cull cow prices, higher dropped calf prices and improved fertility.”

The O’Neill’s cows are milked in a 24 x 24 herringbone and sexed semen has been used extensively across the herd.

Albert told members: “We focus on grazed grass – in 2019 we grew 14.85tDM/ha.”

His cows strip graze 12 hour grazing blocks with separate rotations for day and night time.

Pre-mowing is a major feature of the grazing regime and especially this year due to the favourable weather.

Grass measuring helps identify the poorer performing swards and Albert targets these for reseeding in August/September.

The grazing swards are pre-dominantly late diploids with Timothy and clover in the seed mixtures.

In recent years 1.3 miles of laneways have been constructed to facilitate grazing with some of these covered with Astroturf.

The Danish concept of Compact Feeding is another feature of the farm where concentrates are soaked in water at a 1:1 ratio for several hours before being added to the TMR.

Additional mixing with forages reduces the particle size of the feed. The target dry matter of the TMR is 36%.

Albert listed the advantages as “reduced sorting, less acidosis, higher milk yields and solids and better rumen fill”.

Albert’s address covered a range of topics and members were shown video clips of some of the inventions which he had developed to reduce the labour demand on the farm.

Besides labour, he also en-couraged efficiency in nutrient use, concentrate use, breeding and advised members to spare a thought for their contractors.

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