“Farmers learning from farmers”, that's how Sligo suckler farmer Trevor Boland summed-up the Teagasc/Irish Farmers Journal BETTER Farm Beef Challenge technical day held on his farm on Tuesday.
Technical days are a regular feature of the BETTER Farm Beef Challenge whereby the participating farmers, along with their Teagasc B&T advisers, have the opportunity to visit a range of commercial farms, demonstration farms and industry sites for discussion group-type events.
The visit to Trevor Boland’s farm in Dromard was the second of the day, after the group visited fellow BETTER farm participant Glen McDermott’s farm in Castlebaldwin that morning.
Trevor is running a 36-cow suckler herd on a part-time basis. Male progeny are sold live at 11 months of age while females are either retained as replacements or brought to finish at two years of age. A store heifer-to-beef system is also in operation.
One of the best
Closely following the BETTER Farm programme has been an enormous influence on the development of Trevor’s suckler herd. “Since phase one of the BETTER farm programme I have regularly been following it through articles in the Irish Farmers Journal, Teagasc newsletters and at the various BETTER Farm events,” he said.
Trevor, who is a full-time accountant added: “I do out the majority of my performance figures, like profit monitor results and grass growth figures, onto spreadsheets and will compare it to the performance of the BETTER farms.”
“For me, it is definitely one of the best farm programmes out there,” he concluded.
The strive for on-farm improvement has clearly worked. Over the last number of years cow numbers have jumped from 30 up to 36 calved in 2018. There are 41 in-calf for the coming autumn.
While numbers have been increasing, calving efficiency has also been moving in the right direction. What was a split calving herd, calving for up on 15 weeks in the year, has now moved to a solely autumn-calving herd with a tight eight-week calving pattern in August and September.
By measuring on PastureBase, he also knows that the volume of grass grown has been steadily increasing. The farm crossed the 10t DM/ha/year mark in 2017 and according to Teagasc B&T adviser Tom Coll, year-to-date figures suggest the farm is on target for over 11t DM/ha/year in 2019.
This has afforded the opportunity for stocking rate and output to increase too.
Trevor’s ultimate aim is the one shared by the BETTER Farm group – to reach a €1,000/ha gross margin figure.
“I’m aiming for between €650-700 this year,” he said. “I took on extra land which kicked the €1,000/ha target further down the road, but I am confident I can hit it in a few years’ time.”
A second technical day is being held on two farms in Kilkenny on Thursday. In the morning, the group will visit John Phelan in Freshford who finishes 1,000 heifers annually in a store-to-beef system.
After lunch, Michael Sweeny will host the group on his 60-cow suckler farm in Johnstown.
For full coverage, stay tuned to the Irish Farmers Journal online next week and see next week’s Irish Farmers Journal.