Co Fermanagh UFU members have just returned from their 2016 study tour to Germany, where they visited several farms and the John Deere factory in Mannheim.
The beef farms visited both specialised in finishing bulls. The first finisher had space for 850 head of cattle on his farm. These were all kept indoors on a bed of straw which was readily available from the arable side of the farm. In fact the farmer produced 7,000 big square bales of straw, half of which he used himself.
The rest was sold with a large proportion of the straw heading north to Holland. The farmer sourced most of these bulls in France. He previously sourced some cattle from Ireland but transport and lairage costs has made this less attractive. Despite this we did see one bull with an IE tag. The next beef finisher kept 120 bulls, which again were purchased in France. For this farmer the bulls represented only a small part of his business. He farmed 300ha, which included 50ha of raspberries, black berries and asparagus.
The group also visited two dairy farms, one of which also had its own creamery for cheese production and a 250 seat café on the farm. Of the farm’s 1.5million litres of milk 90% of this was used for cheese production. The other 10% is sold to Friesland Campina.
The farmer purchased all of his replacements for his 250 head dairy herd. He is milking in a 30 year rotary parlour but is currently investigation a milking robot, with the plan to start with 60 cows in a separate shed and eventually move all animals to this system.
The other farm milked 180 cows in the middle of an area of arable production. He said that he liked it this way as he had no disease risk nearby and that he was able to cheaply purchase the by products from the local sugar beat industry to feed his cows. This farm is one of the highest genomic value herds in Germany. Herd average is 11,600kg with many cows with a lifetime yield of 100,000kg.
The winter programme kicks off on Thursday, October 6, when the speaker will be the new Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs. A Q&A session will be chaired by UFU Vice President Victor Chestnutt and held in the Killyhevlin Hotel.
A special meeting has been organised by UFU President Barclay Bell to discuss Brexit and the impact this will have on local agriculture. This will be held on November 3.