On Tuesday, November 17, 50 farmers from across Northern Ireland set off with National Milk Records (NMR) and Norbrook for the second annual educational trip to Scotland.
The objective of the trip which has been sponsored for the past two years by Norbrook, is to help local farmers experience life on farms which are different in scale or use alternative farming methods to their own.
The trip commenced with a visit to Gary Mitchell’s dairy farm in Stoneykirk, Stranraer. Gary is a native of Northern Ireland but moved to Scotland with his family more than 35 years ago.
He currently has a dairy herd of more than 800 cows with yields of 9,500kg across 500 acres.
The visitors were treated to a tour of a business focussed organisation where the attention to detail and level of measurement is exceptionally high.
Gary emphasised the needs for measuring performance and cost to make farming a profitable business.
He challenged the group to think more strategically about how they manage and run their business.
Gary has reduced his feed costs significantly over the past year by implementing zero grazing, a practice which is not widely used in Northern Ireland.
The second visit was to Robert Veitch’s Ve-Tech Farm. This is a prime example of an impressive fully robotic farm.
This relatively innovative method of farming requires a substantial investment but returns significantly higher milk yields than traditional grazing mechanisms.
The visitors were particularly impressed with the standard of the cows and the relatively low labour requirement because of the use of four robots.
The visit concluded with a trip to AgriScot – one of Scotland’s premier agricultural events.
Marcus Scott, NI sales manager, Norbrook said: “The trip was highly informative and the feedback was very positive.
“It gives farmers an opportunity to step back from their own farms for a couple of days and to review what others are doing in the industry.
“While we may not see 50 farms in Northern Ireland converting to fully robotic mechanisms there were definitely learnings and ideas for all of us to take away.”
Marcus added: “I would like to thank NMR for the opportunity for Norbrook to once again be involved in this very useful and educational trip.”
The trip took place from Tuesday 17th to Wednesday 18th November with an overnight stay in Edinburgh.