Friday, January 28, 2022
HomeRural YouthInitiativesMoving from sucklers to finishing bought-in calves

Moving from sucklers to finishing bought-in calves

MY name is William Chesney and I graduated in 1989 with a National Diploma in Agriculture. I am currently farming 40 hectares near ‘The Largy’, Portglenone.

The farm is somewhat fragmented and it consists of a diverse range of soils from good loam to heavy clay and some dry moss. There are two 4ha blocks of trees planted under the Woodland Grant Scheme to establish woodland in the more boggy areas of the farm, as grazing was becoming more challenging.

I am a member of a Business Development Group (BDG), facil-itated by James Brennan. I have gained a better insight into the performance of my cattle enterprise and an opportunity to improve the management of it due to regular workshops covering seasonal topics which have been hosted by the other members.

My farm is currently in a two year transition from a small 20 cow suckler herd with progeny sold as stores, to a finishing enterprise using purchased dairy bred calves reared or bought in as weanlings. This change came about through the mechanics of the BDG benchmarking requirement for its


It highlighted to me that change was needed not only to increase profitability but also to remain sustainable at the same time.

It was decided to run between 55 and 65 cattle, either heifers or steers, finishing at 20-24 months, either out of the house over winter or off grass during the summer/autumn, depending on their DLWG. FR x AA heifers and FR bullocks are the preferred choice of animal for the enterprise, coming onto the farm in batches of 8-10, preferably reared. These stronger calves are easier managed, less time consuming and fit in with my full-time employment off the farm.

Objectives and goals will hopefully be achieved by consistently monitoring performance using CAFRE’s physical and financial benchmarking system, as the use of technology and simple changes start to show results.

Some of the improvements that I have made as a result of membership of the BDG programme are;

Regular testing of the soil to correct the pH using lime;

I now plan to reseed at least 10 per cent of the farm each year as the new grass varieties produce higher grass yields and cattle daily liveweight gains;

I have introduced a paddock grazing system to make better use of grazed grass. The excess grass can now be baled and fed during the winter or sold;

I let out ploughable high P and K indexed fields for potatoes, then take a crop of winter barley before reseeding with new grass. This provides me with grain to feed and straw to bed with or sell.

Unfortunately, Covid-19 has cur-tailed our group on farm visits and practical sessions, but we have been able to utilise technology and meet online. Although not as good as an in-person meeting, online has allowed the group to continue to share information and ideas whilst also stimulating thought.



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