The next farmer to be introduced in the Footprint Farmers Programme is Kenneth Reid from Co Limerick.

Kenneth is contract-rearing heifers and rearing some calves to be sold at the mart at about 12 months of age.

Kenneth is studying environmental science at present and farming part-time. It’s a busy time of the year as he purchases bull calves from nearby farms to rear and eventually sell at the mart.

These calves arrive on farm at approximately three weeks of age and receive milk replacer.

In April a new batch of heifers will arrive to the farm.

Heifer rearing accounts for approximately 70% of the total business on the farm and is a profitable enterprise.

Fertiliser use

In recent years Kenneth has been reducing fertiliser use on the farm. As he says himself, he has been weaning the farm off of fertiliser to help to reduce his costs and because of this he thinks organic farming wouldn’t be a big step to take, but his stocking rate would need to reduce and this would not be a possibility if conventional heifer rearing is to continue on the farm, so making the move would be a big decision.

The average soil pH on the farm is 6.1, so it does need to improve somewhat. Some fields are at 6.5 and above, but others need work and since receiving his soil test results Kenneth has applied lime to low soil pH areas on the farm. This can help to improve his phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) indices.

P and K levels need work, as they are both at an average level of index 2 on the farm. At current high prices Kenneth will be focusing on making best use of slurry on the farm. Slurry samples taken in February revealed figures of 6-4-26 and 6-3-24 units of N-P-K per 1,000 gallons. This slurry will go somewhat to feeding his grass, but will not help to build the soil indices.

However, at current price levels building soil indices is expensive, so maintaining those indices might be the right option to take. Applying lime as Kenneth has will also help to release P and K.

Goals for the programme

Speaking on why he signed up to the programme, Kenneth stated: “I would like to have a better understanding of my farm’s sustainability going forward. I want to understand more about biodiversity, habitats, sustainable farming and to practice it.

“Many farmers, myself included, are not educated enough in this area. No matter the size of the farm every farmer has a part to play, big, small or in between. I would like to show to myself and others that farming can be done in a sustainable way, while still returning a profit. The key to this going forward is education. I want to improve my farm practices and the manner that I farm.”

Grassland management is something that Kenneth is keen to improve on. He is beginning to measure grass on farm. At present his average turnout date is 1 April and animals are housed around the middle of October. First-cut silage is generally in early May.

Kenneth is beginning to measure grass on farm.

Kenneth bales all of his silage. Dry matter digestibility was good according to the silage tests carried out. It ranged from 72.6% to 81.8%. Protein content ranged from 11.3% to 13.3%. Knowing the quality of silage allows Kenneth to target it to animals which will benefit most from high-protein for example.