The farm: “I run a dairy calf to beef system, alongside a pig fattening enterprise, on 160 acres outside Ballymena, Co Antrim. Most of the farm is in grass with the exception of 14 acres of winter barley and 10 acres of spring barley.”
Family help: “I am married to Kathy and we have a three-month-old boy called Harry. I also get plenty of support from my parents, Brian and Hillary-Ann. It is great to have family help to call on.”
Rearing calves: “I have been rearing dairy bred calves for one year now. I had a suckler herd of 60 cows, but sold them to focus on calves as I felt it was more profitable system for the farm. I buy calves in batches of 30 animals at a time. I bought in five batches over the past year which were a mix of Angus and Friesian and plan on doing the same this year. Calves are primarily male animals and should be finished as steers at around 18 to 24 months of age.”
Focus on profit: “I have no real preference for any one calf breed at the minute. It’s all about what can leave the most money. Buying a good-quality calf is more important as you need calves that thrive and kill out well.”
Lessons learned: “Moving from sucklers to calf rearing has been a steep learning curve, but I am enjoying it. With sucklers, the cow looks after the calf. With calf rearing, I am responsible for making sure that calves are fed on time and get enough milk.
Fieldwork: “This week I am getting fencing sorting to get more cattle out to grass. I turned some cattle out last week. I also got fertiliser spread last week, as well as planting 10 acres of spring barley. The only other jobs in the pipeline include getting slurry out on heavier ground and spot spraying weeds in silage swards.”