The recent trip by fifty Northern Irish farmers to Derbyshire has been hailed as impressive and informative.
The trip which took place during the National Beef Association’s (NBA) Beef Expo 2016, with the aim of experiencing some of Britain’s most progressive beef enterprises, allowed Northern Irish producers the opportunity to meet with, quite literally, the cream of the crop.
First stop on the tour was at Gop Farm, Flintshire, home of Farmer’s Weekly Beef Farmer of the Year, Meilir Jones.
The group were highly impressed with his dedication to animal health and his strict weight programme, ensuring his stock are closely monitored and any problems can be dealt with as soon as they arise. They were also very interested to see how Jones is maximising the potential of his unused farm buildings which he rents out for equestrian enterprises. After hearing about the farm, the tour culminated with a delicious al fresco lunch in Meilir’s garden, before heading off.
The following day started bright and early as the group were partaking in the NBA Beef Expo Farm Tours. First stop was Hopping Farm where, former Farmer’s Weekly Beef Farmer Focus writer, Simon Frost manages his herd of 150 Black Limousin cross suckler cows. Simon talked through his enterprise explaining why he uses the Charolais as his terminal sire. He also highlighted the importance of Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) when selecting a stock bull and the positive impact this can have on the efficiency of a suckler herd.
Next stop was Haddon Hall Estate owned by Lord and Lady Manners. At over 3,800 acres, the Estate is mainly occupied by tenants, however in May 2009 they took back in hand 336 acres of the Home Farm around Haddon Hall which has been organically farmed ever since. Converting to organic status required 70% of the stock to be of native breeds and the Estate opted for Beef Longhorn cattle. For many of the Northern Irish party, it was their first experience of being up close to the Longhorn breed, raising the biggest question, “how do you catch these cows in a cattle crush?”
Back on board the bus, the tour prepared for the last stop of the day. Arriving at Chatsworth Estate they enjoyed a delicious lunch before visiting the farm shop where farm produce from the estate is sold to the public. Refuelled and refreshed, they headed off to view the Estate’s herd of 150 pedigree Limousin cattle, as well as a smaller Hereford herd. The crowd could not be anything other than impressed with the stock, topped off with the view of the mighty Chatsworth House in the background.
The day was pleasantly rounded off with a superb dinner at the Devonshire Dome in Buxton in the evening, where guests were entertained by speaker, Alastair Sneddon, Chairman of the 2016 NBA Beef Expo and Senior Partner at Bagshaws. A wonderful evening was had by all, and the venue really was truly fantastic.
The trip concluded with the main NBA Beef Expo event held at Bakewell Mart. Here a variety of tradestands showcased the latest industry initiatives and developments, and the hugely informative seminars were well attended. The National Spring Spectacular Show (NSSS) revealed the crème-de-la-crème of British beef cattle, which was largely dominated by Welsh producers.
All too soon it was time for the visitors to return home to Northern Ireland. The bus was filled with a buzz of excitement and the burning question on everyone’s lips was “where are we going next year?”