By Senan White
CAFRE Beef and Sheep Development Adviser, Armagh
JOHN Conlon runs a 55-cow pedigree Hereford and Aberdeen Angus herd outside Markethill, County Armagh.
Whilst John operates a high health status pedigree herd, this is still run on a commercial basis. John undertakes regular weighing and monitoring of his stock and any underperforming animals are culled and not kept for breeding.
John is an active participant of his local Suckler Business Development Group (BDG), now into its third year, and has undertaken many technologies in an attempt to make the farm more efficient.
John also undertook the Level 2 course in Agricultural Business Operations and this, in conjunction with the group discussion events, has given John the extra confidence to adopt these new practices.
Some of the areas that John has developed is a more regular approach to soil and silage testing.
However, it is the area of improved grass utilisation, namely through paddock grazing, that has seen the greatest benefits on the farm, and especially in the current climatic conditions.
John firstly erected mains electric fencing around the farm boundary. From this the fields were further split into smaller paddocks (flexible either 1-3 days).
Water drinkers were strategically placed to suit splitting up of the fields and the cattle are moved in rotation to paddocks with suitable covers. The paddocks are then grazed tight or topped with the mower as needed.
This approach has left John in the position that earlier on in the season he was able to skip several paddocks from the rotation.
These paddocks were then mowed and baled. However, like many others, John never envisaged that they would be used so soon.
Due to the dry conditions John has had to feed some of this silage back to his cows. John stated: “I am very fortunate that I have these surplus bales and only for adopting the paddock system that enabled me to cut this grass, I would be in a much more difficult situation.”
Whilst the farm has seen great improvements, John is very aware that there is still work to be done.
“I need to tighten up on the post grazing spreading of fertilizer to the individual paddocks, rather than as a block, which I’m doing now.”
With this is mind John is adapting an older fertilizer sower to enable him to spread fertilizer using the existing farm quad.
John is also measuring grass to give him a better understanding of grass heights and therefore grass availability for his stock. In addition he is also undertaking the Level 3 course in Agricultural Business Operations, facilitated through the BDG.