Key technologies drive BDG farmer’s efficiency
Steven Campbell farms just outside Bellaghy and is currently running 100 suckler cows.
Eighty are west of Ireland Simmental and Limousin cross and twenty are pedigree Belted Galloway. The calving season is typically 12 weeks and runs from October to December. Calving cows in the autumn time suits Steven’s workload as he has other enterprises to manage.
The west of Ireland Simmental and Limousin cross animals within Steven’s herd were recently introduced with the aim of breeding his own replacements in addition to weanling sales from the herd. The target mature cow weight of these animals is 650-700 kg.
The initial decision to establish the new herd was because Steven wanted to move towards compact calving for ease of management. The decision was taken following a Farm Innovation Visit (FIV) in September 2019 run by CAFRE and part funded by the EU Rural Development Programme to a farm in England operating Genus RMS (Reproductive Management System).
Steven set in place a similar management system with his local insemination service provider, Cogent. They ran a 12 week program with Steven’s herd which involved walking and chalking cows daily during the breeding season and using sexed semen from bulls with high milk traits and maternal figures which would produce suitable replacement heifers. Going forward sexed semen will be used on heifers and conventional semen on mature cows within the herd. The offspring will be weaned each July-August at target weights of 400-450kgs. Heifers will then be pelvic measured for selection as suitable replacements. The male calves will be sold to a beef finisher as bulls again with a target weight of 400-450kgs for a 90-120 day finishing period.
Scanning results have shown that over 90% of the heifers were settled in calf to AI. Steven is happy with these results and counts the implementation of the technology on his farm as good value for money. There had been an issue picking up cows with silent heats and Steven would consider investing in collars to aid heat detection in future. He has invested in 360° cameras for the cattle houses which he stated was a super investment as they assist with heat detection and calving. Steven has also updated his handling facilities and invested in a Clipex Squeeze crush which he finds invaluable for health and safety of the operator and animal now that cows are handled more frequently. Steven like many others has experienced the impacts of COVID. In particular the affect it has had on BDG Group Meetings. Steven commented: “I enjoy the group meetings and seeing the different farming techniques used by other group members. This sometimes leads to those lightbulb moments for improving your own farm practices. Let’s hope we are on the road to recovery and will be enjoying the benefits of on-farm meetings again very soon.” The BDGs Scheme is funded by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.