Cool Brae Farm to host Grassland Society visit
FOCUS Farmer and Ulster Grassland Society (UGS) Farmer of the Year Sam Chesney will host the organisation’s 2012 summer visit on Wednesday August 8. Events get underway at 6pm with tea/coffee the farm walk which follows gets underway at 6.30pm. The visit has also been arranged to include members of the National beef Association (NBA).
Cool Brae Farm, near Kircubbin in Co Down, is home to this highly respected livestock producer who, in 2011, beat off stiff competition from across the UK to bring the coveted ‘beef award’ to Northern Ireland. Over the past number of years Sam Chesney has focussed on implementing excellent herd health programmes, implementing innovative grassland management systems and utilising superior genetics.
Cool Brae Farm has a 100 plus herd of Limousin suckler cows mated to British Blue and Limousin sires. This gives Sam Chesney the option of finishing animals for beef or selling them as stores and replacement suckler heifers. He has also incorporated Angus bloodlines into the herd, due to the growing commercial demand for this particular type of crossbred animal.
Sam’s impressive attention to every aspect of his business – using accurate data costs and benchmarking in order to guide the development of his production system and invest in inputs – have marked him out as a winner.
His rationale is to run his beef enterprise like a dairy unit. His grassland management is like that of a dairyman, with strip grazing broken up by 48 miles of electric fences and a computer package used to indicate just how many grazing days he can get from each specific paddock.
This focus has enabled him to adjust and conquer rising input prices. Having no control over the price of beef has forced Sam to explore every “efficiency” angle. This includes better forage quality to allow him to significantly reduce the amount of meal fed to his Limousin cross suckler cows, as well as tackling herd health by having a health plan and vaccination policy in place.
And the production figures at Cool Brae speak for themselves. The herd is spring calving, with a growth rate target of 1kg a day for heifers and 1.4kg for bulls. Heifers are calved at 24 months, with an estimated breeding weight of 385kg at 13 months of age and a calving index of 353 days for heifers and 338 days for second calvers – way above the 400-day average in Northern Ireland.
“It costs £1.50 not getting a cow in calf every 350 days, which equates to £75 a cow over 50 days,” Sam explains.
“The drive is to get the maximum from every acre. It only costs 16p/kg liveweight to finish an animal off grass – there’s no room for poor grassland management here,” Sam explained.
Health is also a top priority, with cows vaccinated for leptospirosis, blood profiled eight weeks prior to calving and then fed diets to suit mineral deficiencies. This has enabled him to stop annual vitamin E injections and include iodine in the water.
Members of the UGS executive committee recently visited Cool Brae.
“We look forward to welcoming as many as possible to Kircubbin on August 8th,” commented UGS president Drew McConnell
“We are also delighted that members of the National Beef Association will be joining us on the evening in question.”
The farm walk will be followed by a barbecue – fee £10. Those wishing to attend should contact UGS secretary George Reid, telephone: (028) 90 592235; mobile: 07920 037 910, email: firstname.lastname@example.org; web: www.ulstergrassland.co.uk.
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