Focus on regular weight recording in Fermanagh

Enjoying their recent visit to the Tamlaght Focus Farm of David Henderson l to r: David Farrell, LIsbellae; Richard Bell, Newtownbutler and Niall Wallace, Florencecourt
Enjoying their recent visit to the Tamlaght Focus Farm of David Henderson l to r: David Farrell, LIsbellae; Richard Bell, Newtownbutler and Niall Wallace, Florencecourt

TAMLAGHT Focus Farmer David Henderson recently hosted a visit by a group of suckler beef producers from Co Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

Co-ordinated by CAFRE Beef and Sheep advisor William Johnston, the farmers in attendance were given an over view of the farm business plus specific insights into the benefits to be accrued from the regular weighing of stock, particularly breeding heifers.

David farms 100 hectares on the shores of Lough Erne. He has a herd of 80 plus high quality Limousin x Simmental suckler cows. Although his land is classified SDA, it has all been drained and is highly productive grassland. David specialises in producing top quality Limousin x Simmental suckler replacements. He also produces Aberdeen Angus beef from the progeny of the first calving heifers.

His key focus points include the selection of top quality breeding stock to meet performance and market requirement; demonstrating easy care systems to improve labour productivity; improving the fertility performance of the suckler herd and the use of benchmarking – focusing on costs/market returns post subsidies.

The farm also features a key environmental focus. David has established new woodland areas while, at the same time, improving hedge management, habitats, breeding sites and waterways. He is also committed to making better use of farmyard manure and slurry. David took part in the Erne Nutrient Management Scheme: targeting fertiliser use and reducing grassland costs.

Last week’s visiting group had the opportunity to assess David’s current group of Springing and weanling heifer replacements.

“The average weight of the mature cows on the farm is 600 kilos,” William Johnston explained.

“On that basis David will be targeting to serve his heifers at 65% of their mature weight, or between 390 and 420 kilos. David weighed all the weanlings at the beginning of January. The average weight recorded was 310 kilos. Current daily liveweight gains from silage and meals are averaging 0.6 kilos. An average spring will see the young stock turned out to grass at the beginning of April and thereafter achieving daily liveweight gains of approximately 1kilo. This means that the animals will have an average weight at service of 450 kilos.

“Alternatively, David can afford to cut back on feeding levels now, if necessary, as 0.3 kilos of gain per day up to turnout will still see his heifers weighing 425 kilos on average by the middle of May.”

William Johnston concluded: “The key take home message is that regular weighing allows suckler producers to amend their management programmes to best meet the overall objectives of their businesses.”

Eamonn Matthews is the Focus Farms and Benchmarking Liaison Manager.

“The current Focus Farm programme will continue for the foreseeable future,” he confirmed.

“It has a proven track record in allowing farmers throughout Northern Ireland to improve their management skills base and to improve the efficiency levels within their own businesses.”

The Focus Farm Programme is part of the broader Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme and is part funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD).

For information enquiries, or to receive a Focus Farm location map and list of Focus Farmers, or to book a visit, please contact the Focus Farm Centre at 0845 026 7536, or through the website at