Two local farms were among the leading dairy, beef and sheep farms in Northern Ireland to host the British Grassland Society (BGS) Summer Tour, organized by the Ulster Grassland Society and the Fermanagh Grassland Club.
BGS Chairman, Omagh Farmer Drew McConnell handed over his chain of office to his successor, Dr Elizabeth Stockdale, at their annual meeting held in Northern Ireland.
The summer tour took place over three days with dairy and sheep farms in the eastern part of the province on day one, day two featuring Philip and David Clarke’s dairy herd in Augher and the beef and sheep farm in John Egerton near Rosslea.
It was a great honor for both farms to open their doors to visitors from all over the British Isles.
On the third day, delegates visited the hill farm of Greenmount College.
Clarke Farm in Ballylaggan, Augher, is 46 hectares with a Friesian x Jersey herd of 85 spring calving cows based on high quality grass grazing.
The herd is crossed with Jersey, Kiwi Cross and high EBI Friesian bulls. The cows produce 4,166 liters of fodder with 4.53% fat and 3.65% protein.
Some of the take home messages for visitors included growing and using high yields of quality grass; a strong, fertile cow and a compact spring calving pattern; a herd of cows, not individuals; attention to detail in all aspects of grassland management and ease of use of the system to maximize returns for the family.
The family reduces their impact on the environment by pre-cooling the milk, using photovoltaic panels, using low-emission slurry spreading equipment and increasing the clover content of their lawns.
The Lisnavoe farm of John Egerton and his family comprises 72.8 hectares and supports four businesses; 90 suckler cows, 450 Blade calves, 30 dairy heifers under contract and 230 ewes.
All male calves are finished bulls, female offspring inseminated and excess heifers sold in foal.
John participates in the environmental agriculture program and is also involved in the ARC Zero project which focuses on measuring and reducing CO2 emissions.
In 2017 John was a finalist for the BGS Grassland Farmer of the Year, and in 2019 he was Gold Winner Beef Innovator of the Year at the British Farming Awards.
Discussion points included optimizing the efficiency of livestock enterprises and grassland management; the introduction of multi-species grasses, moving towards net zero carbon emissions while remaining cost effective, and the path of succession for the next generation.