My requests are simple when it comes to what I want from my shopping trips with my wife. A comfortable seat and good wi-fi will do, as I am left with other retail weary husbands in the corner of Next.
In the time of COVID-19, the shopping experiences are limited, apart from a recent trip to purchase an Aberdeen Angus bull.
We use two Angus bulls to sweep up after the AI season, one with maiden heifers and the other with the milking herd. They are swapped over after a number of weeks to minimize any damage done by a bull suddenly becoming infertile or sub-fertile.
As a dairy farmer, I occasionally get asked why we persist in rearing beef cattle through to slaughter (although we do sell a number as stores). My reasoning is simple – I have no desire at present to expand our dairy herd, as I believe we can improve its profitability more effectively by increasing the efficiency of the current herd. I am a strong believer in getting better before getting bigger.
As a result, we have the capacity to carry a beef enterprise.
The Angus breed has much to offer in a world that is increasingly concerned about carbon counting – their ability to convert even poor quality, permanent grassland into protein is astounding. These cattle were implementing regenerative agriculture long before someone (most probably with suspiciously clean hands) invented the term.
I am particularly impressed with my Angus calves out of Fleckvieh cows. The size of a Fleckvieh, coupled with the easy calving nature of the Angus, ensures a particularly smooth birthing process.
My one criticism of the breed is that their extremely placid nature means that they will greet me at the gate, each animal competing for my attention and a head rub, to such an extent that they will pull at my coat until they almost have it off. Perhaps there is some truth in the theory that the beef industry would steal the clothes off your back.
In the current era of so much change, I was delighted to see that Glanbia Ireland is introducing a payment system in NI that places greater emphasis on the production of higher milk solids.
With milk composition in NI below the rest of the UK, and behind many countries in Europe, there is a clear need for change.
In a country where the vast majority of milk is processed, it has to make commercial sense to improve transport and production efficiency by encouraging farmers to produce milk with higher fat and protein percentages.
It is highly likely that the Government and supermarkets will seek to apply greater pressure on processors to improve energy efficiency at every level. For example, Morrison’s pledge that by 2030 it will be supplied by zero carbon farms.
However, if other NI-based processors are also considering moving to a system that places greater emphasis on milk solids, it is imperative that they communicate this intention to their suppliers as soon as possible, so that farmers can begin to make the required changes.
For some, such a transition will take a considerable period to achieve the desired results.
I understand that many will be sceptical and others utterly opposed to any movement that places greater prominence on milk quality. But I believe such a revision is required, and that if it implemented correctly and fairly, it will improve the competitiveness of our dairy industry.