UGS visits Tyrone spring calving dairy herd

UGS President Sam Watson (centre) with host farmers Philip and David Clarke
UGS President Sam Watson (centre) with host farmers Philip and David Clarke

Tyrone dairy farmer Philip Clarke and his son David will host a farm walk for members of the Ulster Grassland Society (UGS) on Thursday, April 20.

The event will provide a unique opportunity for visitors to see a dairy farm business that operates a sustainable low cost milk production system.

The Ulster Grassland Society visit is focusing on producing high quantities of grass through good management of the soil as the basis of efficient milk production. The visit is being hosted by the Clarke family who manage a 44ha farm stocked with 90 dairy cows of New Zealand Friesian x Jersey breeding. These crossbred cows were turned out in early February and will be out day and night shortly. The philosophy on the farm is to have a simple “system”.

The farm has been focusing on improving soil fertility and all the farm has been soil sampled with a fertiliser and liming programme in place. On average 12-13 tonnes DM/ha of grass is being produced from variable soils on the farm.

Calving takes place within an eight week period from February and towards the end of their lactations milking is once a day with all milking stopped in mid-December. Top EBI AI bulls are used to produce replacements and a sweeper bull is then used. This year Hereford bulls are being used on the herd. Bull calves are sold off the farm as well as excess heifers.

Discussion at the visit will focus on the value of improving soil fertility and outline management to provide quality grazing for the herd which averages around 5,000 litres/cow at 4.30% Butterfat and 3.5% Protein on 0.34 tonnes meal/cow.

The farm walk is located at 17 Halftown Road, Augher, BT77 0BT, which is 0.6 miles on the Augher Road from the Ballygawley Roundabout. Turn right onto the Annaghilla Road and continue for 0.6 miles and turn left onto the Halftown Road. A cup of tea will be available on arrival with the farm walk commencing at 11.10am. A barbecue meal will be available after the walk at a cost of £15 to non UGS members. Those wishing to attend should contact the Secretary at 07920 037 910 by April 18 or for further information please email secretary@ulstergrassland.co.uk.