Speaking on the subject “Planning for Beef” in Newtownards last week, Mr John D Aicken re-emphasised the need for a planned approach to beef production.
He gave two local examples of the production of 18-month-old beef and suggested that this type of beef production was very suited to Northern Ireland conditions as it made good use of grass.
He described the unit of Dickson Bros at Seaforde as a “good example” of the planned production of young beef from spring born suckled calves.
“The Dickson’s house about 500 bought in calves weighing about 500lb. They are fed on good quality silage or hay with a supplement of 4lb barley.
“The aim is to keep them growing steadily during the winter period. Fattening is completed on grass and the animals are sold in late June and early July at 850 to 900lb,” said Mr Aicken.
Mr Aicken, who has special responsibilities for all the Ministry’s advisory effort in County Down, explained that the secret of the success of this enterprise was that the animals were growing steadily from birth to slaughter and were marketed at a light weight.
The second farm he described was that of Mr H Walker at Tullykevin, Ballywalter, where Mr Walker and his father farm 102 acres, including eight acres of “rough”.
Mr Aicken said that Mr Walker was a young man just started beef production seriously after a year at Greenmount Agricultural College.
In 1968 he was not satisfied with his production per acre so in 1969 increased his nitrogen application from 63 units to 120 units per acre. He increased his tonnage of silage from 350 tons to 600 tons. He had done this by making 350 tons in unroofed clamp silos covered with polythene.
Mr Aicken described this as a good example of the sensible use of capital to provide additional accommodation. Existing buildings had also been cheaply converted as labour-saving cattle, housing, he said.
Mr Walker planned to produce young 18 month old beef but has had difficulty getting suitable animals, said Mr Aicken.
He pointed out that suitably well reared autumn born calves were difficult to obtain and said that, in his opinion, there was room in County Down for small farmers to specialise in rearing calves bought from dairy herds.
“There must be some co-operation between rearers and fatteners so that fatteners could be assured of well-reared calves which would produce young lean beef,” he said.
Mr Aicken went on to describe the three lots of cattle being fattened on Mr Walker’s farm at present. Each lot were, he said, being fed to be marketed at different times depending on their present weight.
The majority were planned to be marketed before mid-April but some would be finished off grass either grazed direct or zero-grazed before mid-July.