Northern farmers learning a lesson from Emerald Isle

A group of Northern farmers visited Northern Ireland for an Eblex and NFU livestock study tour. Matthew Sharp joined them

The group of farmers from the region on their visit to Northern Ireland
The group of farmers from the region on their visit to Northern Ireland

Farmers from across the North of England headed to Northern Ireland to look at a range of different farming systems from the uplands to lowlands, from intensive to extensive.

The group were visiting Sam Chesney, past Farmers’ Weekly Award finalist and an innovative, forward-thinking farmer.

Mr Chesney runs 120 continental suckler cows over 61ha producing suckled calves which are reared as bull beef and sold fat to ABP or sold as bulling heifers. Cattle put down lean growth quickly, leaving a large shapely carcass which kills out between an E and U grade.

“My focus is on high herd health, good genetics, grassland management and maximising production of every cow, which incorporate British Blue, Limousin and Aberdeen Angus genetics,” said Mr Chesney.

“The introduction of rubber slats has enabled the business to save money on the ever-increasing price of woodchip, but also on straw, which was proving a big cost.”

His attention to detail allows him to scrutinise every area of the business to make cost savings and to create efficiencies.

Despite Mr Chesney farming in the lowlands, continental genetics were favoured in the uplands too. A trip to Glenwherry Hill Farm, part of the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise, provided a good insight into how continental and native breeds can work hand in hand.

The 1000ha farm carries 100 suckler cows and 1,100 breeding ewes with cattle being a three-way cross between Limousin, Aberdeen Angus and Beef Shorthorn and the sheep flock a mix of Blackface, Primera and Highlander.

Their cattle system works well, producing a closed herd of cows which are medium-sized and fit the land while giving a strong calf which grows well and can be sent on to their lowland farm for finishing.

The choice of sheep system at Glenwherry isn’t very common but is a system also favoured by sheep farmer Crosby Cleland.

Mr Cleland runs 750 Lleyn, Primera and Highlander ewes focusing on flock management. He keeps meticulous records through the Shearwell EID and Frameworks programme. His main aims are to increase growth and numbers of lambs weaned to achieve greater output while trying to have an easier care sheep system.

His method of trying to produce more per hectare and to run a more extensive system means his labour is decreased.

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