National Sheep Association invites all sheep farmers to an open meeting

The Northern Ireland Region of National Sheep Association are holding an open meeting immediately after their Annual Regional Members Meeting, which will be held on 6 February in Dunsilly Hotel, Antrim, at 7.30 pm.
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Those attending will get an update on the NSA’s work from Emma Bradbury, Policy Manager with NSA Headquarters. The main speaker will be James Henderson from Seafields Farm, Kilkeel in County Down.

James is following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather on this fourth-generation family farm. Since focusing more closely on grassland management in 2015/16, James and the family have increased profitability and stock numbers without having to increase inputs.

Seafields mainly comprises free-draining, sandy-loam soils prone to drought and nutrient loss. However, James is offsetting those losses by using free nutrients from seaweed to reinvigorate soils. On average, leys last 10 years and any that fall below that average will be reseeded.

Grass is sprayed off and composted, with seaweed and manure applied before the field is ploughed and sown with a break crop of winter barley in October. The field is then returned to grass after harvest. The inclusion of multi-species swards and red clover and ryegrasses in leys is lowering nitrogen use. Fertiliser use has remained at 75kg N/ha after each silage cut and 20kg N/ha per grazing.

“Grassland management is the crux of our farm business. Having the top-performing high sugar grasses in our bespoke mixtures is essential for both maximising grass production and stock performance,” James explained.

“We are currently using a red clover mixture and have found it to be an excellent product. It’s very much part of our plans going forward as we seek to reduce our nitrogen usage and increase our homegrown protein.”

Effective grassland management has helped farm profitability treble in nine years by increasing stocking rates by 40 per cent and lowering inputs by doubling grass production from 6t DM/ha to 12t DM/ha.

“Ten years ago, I would have described this farm as one where we kept beef and sheep. Today, I would say this is a grassland farm where beef and sheep keep us,” James added.

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