The Ulster Grassland Society recently organised a successful dairy seminar at Greenmount Campus addressing a number of topical issues facing farmers this year.
Given the challenging weather conditions over the summer months and possible fodder shortages for the upcoming winter it was felt that members might benefit from hearing the experience of other farmers facing similar challenges.
Following a welcome from UGS President John Milligan the seminar opened with a panel discussion involving three young farmers and expertly chaired by Ian McCluggage, UGS Past President. The panelists were Chris Catherwood, Newtownards; Reggie Lilburn, Dromore and Gregg Somerville, Dromara who each outlined their own dairy farming system and how the grass growing season had been affected by the summer drought. The discussion highlighted the different dairy systems on each farm and how each had adapted to climatic and indeed other challenges faced by their business.
The discussion then widened, with questions from the audience, on long term objectives, breeding policy, reseeding and silage systems with everyone very impressed by the enthusiasm of each of the panelists for their business and dairy farming in general.
This was followed by an informative and interesting presentation by Andrew Wright on how he is dealing with the impact of soil compaction on his dairy farm at Omagh. By utilising technology and mapping he has increased his knowledge of compaction on the farm and adapted farming practice and cutting edge technology to minimise the effects of compaction and improve grass yields. Some of these ideas were challenged and discussed during a useful Q&A session which followed.
The morning session concluded with a thought provoking presentation from Dr Mike Johnston from Dairy UK who discussed current market conditions for dairy products and the outlook for milk markets particularly in light of United Kingdom withdrawal from the European Union next Spring.
Lunch followed in the College restaurant allowing delegates to further discuss the morning session and network within the range of farmers and allied industries who attended.
The afternoon was then spent touring CAFRE’s dairy unit, led by Martin Mulholland, looking at herd performance, grazing management, feeding of milking and dry cows and breeding policy. Again good interaction from those attending generated useful questions and debate.
The event then concluded with a vote of thanks from UGS President Elect Jim Freeburn who thanked all the speakers and the hosts at CAFRE for a useful dairy seminar - a new but likely to be repeated event in the Society’s calendar.