UFU holds first grass monitor group
THIS week the Ulster Farmers’ Union held its very first UFU Grass Monitor Group meeting in conjunction with CAFRE.
The Group has been established for UFU beef and sheep farmers to discuss the benefits of good grassland management, and will mirror the discussion based format of the CAFRE Monitor Farm Programme currently being run throughout the province.
UFU member David Hylands agreed to be the host farmer and this week (Monday 11th June) hosted the introductory meeting at his farm in Limavady. David runs a mixed beef and sheep enterprise comprised of 17 suckler cows with the progeny finished on the farm, around 50 store cattle and a flock of 130 crossbred ewes with all lambs finished on farm as well.
Speaking at the event Gill Gallagher, UFU policy officer, said: “We are very pleased David has taken on the role of hosting the UFU Grass Monitor Group for his fellow farmers and it was great to see such a fantastic turnout of UFU members at the inaugural meeting. Our thanks also go to Jim Freeburn and Albert Johnston of CAFRE who are facilitating the Group.
“The UFU Grass Monitor Group has been established with the aim of highlighting the benefits of good grassland management as a means of reducing costs on farm and ultimately increasing the gross margin per hectare of the business. Northern Ireland is known for its lush green pastures and so beef and sheep producers should be encouraged to better utilise grass as a valuable resource, since it is the cheapest form of producing our quality red meat.
“The opening meeting of the UFU Grass Monitor Group focused on the background to David’s farm including the new suckler cow enterprise started by David in the last two years and his plans to expand the herd. It also allowed the Group to study his swards and there was an excellent discussion on how David might improve his grassland management through rotational grazing by splitting paddocks into smaller grazing units using temporary electric fencing. David faces a number of challenges familiar to many farmers in Northern Ireland including several fields with steep inclines and problems with rushes and docken control. These issues were widely discussed amongst the Group and a number of solutions suggested. The Group will return in July to view the progress made from the various ideas proposed and it is hoped that members of the Group will also be encouraged to reassess their own farm’s grassland management and put some of the proposals into practice for their wider benefit.
“The social aspect of the Group makes it easier to discuss issues in an informal setting and learn from the experience of others, particularly those already undertaking more focused grassland management. The fantastic turnout shows the awareness and enthusiasm amongst UFU beef and sheep farmers of the benefits of better grassland management.”
The Group will meet on four occasions during 2012 to discuss a range of issues in relation to grassland management.
Meanwhile, David will measure his swards weekly and weigh his cattle regularly in order to benchmark his performance and evaluate the level of improvement being made to his farm business and ultimately its profitability.
As a farmer-driven discussion group David’s farm will act as a forum where members can debate ideas, observe the action taken in practice and analyse progress, so keep an eye on UFU Watch for regular updates.
Farm Facts: Farm size - 125ha owned land; 51ha leased out; 74ha farmed; 17 suckler cows; 48 store cattle; 130 breeding ewes
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Wednesday 22 May 2013
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