A flavour of farming in Ulster - four virtual farm tours with BGS

The 2021 British Grassland Society’s virtual Summer Meeting will feature visits to four local farms across Northern Ireland and take the form of two free webinars on the evenings of Tuesday 29 and Wednesday, 30 June 2021.

Monday, 21st June 2021, 2:43 pm
Dairy farmer Alastair Cochrane looks forward to welcoming virtual visitors to his farm at Bushmills on Wednesday 30th June during the British Grassland Society Summer Meeting in Northern Ireland
Dairy farmer Alastair Cochrane looks forward to welcoming virtual visitors to his farm at Bushmills on Wednesday 30th June during the British Grassland Society Summer Meeting in Northern Ireland

On each evening two virtual farm tours, facilitated by BGS Summer Meeting Organising Committee Chairman Ian McCluggage, will take place and there will be an opportunity to ask the host farmers questions about their farming systems. The Webinars will be chaired by BGS President Drew McConnell from Omagh.

Day 1 (Tuesday 29 June, 7.30 pm) will focus on beef and sheep farming and feature visits to Robert Kettyle, Lisnaskea and James Henderson, Kilkeel.

The Kettyle farm in Co. Fermanagh comprises 138 hectares of owned land including the 43 Ha Dernish Island on Upper Lough Erne. The suckler herd has recently reduced to 90 cows and now uses Aberdeen Angus bulls on the Simmental X cows with a new dairy-origin beef enterprise added with over 160 head from both systems finished annually to beef at around 24 months. Maximum production is targeted from grass in order to improve profitability and sustainability. Agri-environment management is also an important feature on the farm with Dernish Island an important national habitat for breeding waders.

An interesting feature of the British Grassland Society's visit to Robert Kettyleâ€TMs beef farm at Lisnaskea is keeping suckler cows and calves on Dernish Island over the summer and the environmental challenges associated with protecting and enhancing an important breeding wader site. This virtual farm tour will be broadcast via webinar on 29th June 2021

The 60 ha Henderson family farm near Kilkeel in Co Down, with clear views of the Mourne Mountains and the Irish Sea, has a dairy-origin beef enterprise with 90 British Blue, Limousin and Aberdeen Angus dropped calves purchased annually and taken through to beef at around two years and a Rouge X Texel sheep flock made up of 250 ewes and 70 ewe lamb mated to Primera rams. Again maximum production and efficiency is sought from grass with extensive use made of new research and technology. The farm also features links to WW2 when the USAF was based at Greencastle Airfield when most of the lands under concrete.

Day 2 (Wednesday 30 June, 7.30 pm) will focus on dairy farming with visits to the O’Neill family, Artigarvan and Alastair Cochrane, Bushmills.

The 106 ha O’Neill family farm is situated four miles from Strabane in the rolling hills of North Tyrone where Albert and his brother Wesley farm in partnership with their parents. The main enterprise is a herd of 200 autumn/winter calving Holstein X Montbeliarde cows. The excellent rolling herd average is 9,300 litres with 3800 litres being achieved from forage. Actively involved in grassland and dairy research the farm tour will also feature the latest protein crop being grown and some of the many inventions developed by Albert to improve productivity, animal welfare and farm safety on the farm.

Alastair Cochrane and his two sons farm 230ha at Glentask, in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, overlooking the stunning North Antrim coast between Portrush and Bushmills. The dairy herd has now expanded to 400 milking cows and is self-contained with a tight autumn calving pattern and cows run in three groups over the summer - 24 hour grazed group, indoor zero grazed/TMR group and indoor TMR group. Milk yield is impressive at 9100 litres/cow at 4.30% BF and 3.40% Protein with the original Holstein herd now crossed to Montbeliarde to improve health, fertility and milk quality.

James Henderson's beef and sheep farm at Kilkeel provides an opportunity to see excellent grassland management on an exposed coastal farm incorporating some interesting historical features connected to World War II and the US Air Force and can be seen during the BGS Summer Meeting webinar being transmitted on Tuesday 29th June

More information on all four farms can be obtained by visiting the Ulster Grassland Society’s website at www.ulstergrassland.co.uk where those interested can register for one or both webinars.

These webinars are open to all and will be free to attend but prior registration is essential - just visit the UGS website or contact the Honorary Secretary of the Ulster Grassland Society for more information at [email protected]

Both webinars are organised jointly by the Ulster Grassland Society and Fermanagh Grassland Club on behalf of the British Grassland Society and are sponsored by the Stapledon Memorial Trust and the Vaughan Trust whose support is greatly appreciated. It is hoped that this ‘Flavour of farming in Ulster” will provide an interesting and informative insight into grassland farming in Northern Ireland and whet appetites to encourage BGS members and friends to attend a ‘live’ Summer Meeting in Northern Ireland next year.

British Grassland Society President Drew McConnell from Omagh, who is pictured with his wife Val, encourages anyone interested in grassland management to join the Societyâ€TMs free, virtual Summer Meeting in NI on 29th and 30th June via webinar
The Oâ€TMNeill dairy family from Artigarvan will host one of the virtual farm visits for the BGS Summer Meeting on 30th June and Albert Oâ€TMNeill is pictured discussing grassland with UGS representative Ian McCluggage. In addition to management of the dairy herd to virtual farm tour will feature some of the many labour saving, animal welfare enhancing and labour saving inventions developed by Albert O'Neill