Dairy farmers David and Alan Wallace run a herd of pedigree Holstein cows. The dairy enterprise dates back to 1944, and there is strong emphasis on grassland management and animal welfare.
Third generation farmer Alan Wallace, was keen to discuss various challenges currently impacting on farm businesses across Northern Ireland.
The hotly debated climate change legislation has been of major concern to farmers for some time; but in recent weeks it has been overshadowed by escalating costs for energy, fertiliser, fuel and feed.
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Farmers are supportive of climate change action, but they want government to adopt a sensible, evidence and scientific-based approach. Industry leaders are calling for a level playing field rather than unfair and disproportionate measures.
David and Alan Wallace are award-winning and progressive farmers, and have been focused on expanding the farm and investing in modern technology to future-proof the business for the next generation. They have also participated in previous Focus Farm schemes aimed at mentoring and promoting best-practice to other dairy farmers.
The pedigree dairy herd at Ashdale Farm is managed in two groups, with concentrate usage targeted according to individual animal yield. The farm is a member of the CHeCS approved herd health scheme operated by AFBI (Agri Food and Biosciences Institute) at Hillsborough, and is also a member of the FQAS and Red Tractor scheme.
Well ventilated spacious sheds with modern milking and handling facilities, cubicle mattresses, cow brushes, and electrically-charged robotic scrapers, provide five-star status for bovine inhabitants. Animal welfare is further enhanced with regular hoof care, and Cow Manager technology helps to monitor individual cow health and fertility on a daily basis.
The Wallace’s operate a closed herd policy which helps to maintain the herd’s high health status. Sexed semen is used to breed herd replacements, and routine vaccinations and vet visits are carried out in line with the herd health plan.
Cattle are grazed during spring and summer months. Grazing paddocks are accessed by an extensive network of laneways throughout the farm.
There is adequate slurry storage, and slurry is applied using a dribble bar, with fields sampled regularly to check pH. This helps to ensure efficient use of artificial fertiliser.
Three cuts of silage are taken annually, with surplus grass from paddocks made into round bales.
The farm uses family labour, employs one full-time worker, and provides placement for two Greenmount College students working on a rota basis.
Commenting on the visit TUV election candidate Mel Lucas said: “Ashdale Farm is a great example of how farmers have been custodians of the countryside for generations.
“The centrality of our farming and food sector to Northern Ireland’s economy means its future must not be jeopardised by pursuit of an anti-farming ideology associated with climate change activists. We must be careful to ensure that we have a viable industry to hand on to the next generation.”