Barry and Liz Powell farm 170ha and operate a spring-calving dairy herd in Ballycrenode, Co Tipperary.
At the moment, Barry is hoping to sell some cows, as he is slightly above his target herd size of 420. The cows were scanned at the beginning of September, with a 13% empty rate after 10 weeks of breeding, something Barry is hoping to improve on. The heifers will be scanned in the next week or two.
The heifers are contract-reared, and have been coming back to the home farm in the past few weeks.
Otherwise, attention on the farm has turned to preparing for winter and carrying out repairs.
Soiled water samples were taken from the farm last week, as part of the Footprint Farmers Programme, which will now be tested for N, P, K and dry matter.
At the minute, the focus on the farm is building up grass covers, which are behind target at just under 1,000kg DM/ha. The cows are on 3kg of meal and the aim is to maintain this for the next month.
Farming more sustainably has always been a focus on the farm, and some of the ways in which Barry has been doing this is increasing his use of protected urea and over-sowing clover.
In the future, he has plans to continue to do this, and has purchased an Erth AgriSeeder, which is a direct drill, to do so. Stitching in red clover into the silage mix is something that has worked very well in the past, and so Barry plans to continue this.
He has also earmarked areas of the farm to put in more hedgerows, as well as one acre of land for an orchard.
Barry’s wife Liz and their kids have been collecting acorns and other seeds to start a nursery so they will have their own trees to plant around the farm. Barry will also be carrying out the underpants test on his farm to check his soil health.
There is also plenty of wildlife around Barry’s farm, and several owls have been spotted around the farmyard. To encourage this, owl boxes will be put up around the farm over the coming months. The barn owl is a red-listed Bird of Conservation Concern in Ireland, but the provision of nest boxes for barn owls has been a huge conservation success story in recent years, so it is hoped that this will also be the case on Barry’s farm.
The herd is made up of Jersey cross cows, and in the past few years Barry has started incorporating Wagyu genetics into the mix to increase the value of the beef.
Wagyu is a cattle breed that originates from Japan, and is highly sought after for its intense marbling which gives a very distinctive flavour.
Wagyu beef has unique health benefits. The marbling results in a higher ratio of healthy mono-unsaturated fats along with a high concentration of beneficial Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids in comparison to other beef products. Barry took inspiration from some farmers he has known in New Zealand, and decided to try it on his own farm, buying 10 Wagyu straws in the first year.
Out of the six calves, he sold two for further finishing and kept the rest for the freezer.
One was killed last November at 19 months, but Barry believes this was too early.
It is recommended that Wagyu cattle are killed at 27 months-plus to take full advantage of the marbling in the meat.
Barry slaughtered another animal recently at a later age and has been very impressed with the quality of the beef. Barry also joined a group of farmers who contract-breed Wagyu beef, and he has used 100 Wagyu straws this breeding season under a contract where the calves will be sold at two weeks old.