Farmer’s praise for Business Development Groups

A County Tyrone farmer has lauded the work of Business Development Groups (BDGs) in helping to develop an even stronger interest in his agricultural business.

By Community Reporter
Monday, 24th February 2020, 1:01 pm
Ronnie Boyd on his farm at Drumquin with a group of replacement heifers which calved at 24 months in spring 2019
Ronnie Boyd on his farm at Drumquin with a group of replacement heifers which calved at 24 months in spring 2019

Ronnie Boyd is a full-time beef and sheep farmer whose land stretches from upland to hill land between Omagh and Drumquin.

At its extremity some of Mr Boyd’s land is 300 metres above sea level – an environment which presents challenges to a business managing a flock of 250 ewes and 20 suckler cows. However, Ronnie says his membership of a BDG has focused his attention to detail as factor in maintaining the viability of his business.

The Tyrone man views output as being key to his farm’s performance. And this was borne out with his sheep flock achieving a weaning percentage close to 1.8 lambs per ewe in 2019. All lambs are finished on farm with Ronnie weighing lambs regularly. This ensures lambs are sold at the correct stage of production to meet market specification. The information recorded at weighing is later used to highlight areas of the sheep enterprise which can be improved upon. Next on the agenda for his sheep enterprise is to reduce the size of the paddocks to improve grass quality and quantity.

These issues and many more are discussed at BDG meetings. Ronnie said: “Among the group there is lively debate. We exchange information, share ideas and learn from each other. We are exposed to new ideas and are kept abreast of new technologies and developments in farming. Members are both part time and full time farmers, with a mixture of small, medium and large enterprises.”

The work of the BDG is no less important when it comes to Mr Boyd’s suckler herd. Ronnie artificially inseminates all of his cows and Charolais and Limousin sires are used which results in quality calves being produced which receive a premium price at sale. Success is evident in the fact that the herd’s calving index has averaged 358 days over the last four years. A strict culling policy is maintained with all heifers calved at 24 months of age.

In recent years Ronnie has carried out a programme of drainage, reseeding and fencing on his most productive land. Soil analysis has been used to detect and correct deficiencies in pH, phosphorous and potash. Ronnie has increased his grass yields from his upland swards through reseeding. Where possible minimal cultivation is used as this reduces cost and shortens turnaround time. Ronnie operates a rotational grazing system with his suckler enterprise to try and maximise grass utilisation.

Mr Boyd has a clear focus on improving productivity through continually improving output from his land resource. And, to help future planning he undertakes CAFRE benchmarking annually which he sees as a really beneficial management tool. Benchmarking allows him to compare his farm performance year on year while also comparing his results against other farmers with similar enterprises and land types. The data gathered through this process also allows Ronnie to determine areas of the business where improvements are required.

For all these reasons, Ronnie is very positive about his BDG group membership and continually values the interaction with other like-minded people.

The Business Development Groups Scheme is part of the NI Rural Development Programme and is part funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.