- Date: 8 May 2013
- Venue: Harpur Family Farm, Bessbrook Dairy Farm
Roy Harpur, who farms with his sons David and Robert, hosted a visit for members for the Ulster Grassland Society (UGS) to the family’s Bessbrook dairy farm on Wednesday May 8th.
There was a tremendous turnout for farmers from across Northern Ireland for this week’s UGS Spring Meeting, hosted by Roy Harpur and sons David & Robert. The family milk 400 cows on the outskirts of Bessbrook The focus of the farm visit was a demonstration of just how well zero grazing can work under local conditions, if approached in the right way. The centre piece of the demonstration given by David Harpur was the use of a specifically designed forage wagon with a tilting floor, which can be controlled from the tractor cab. This ensures a continuous supply of grass to a feed out mechanism, located on the right side of the wagon. Simple in design, yet very effective, the wagon and its accompanying tractor combination can supply a more than adequate supply of freshly cut grass to many hundreds of stock uin a relatively short space of time.
Another factor which facilitates the zero grazing approach to cow and youngstock nutrition is the excellent design of the housing on the Harpur farm. A case in point is the new heifer rearing accommodation on the farm.
“We had wanted to rear all the cattle on the home farm for some time. And last December’s completion of the new heifer unit has allowed us to do this. It has cubicle accommodation for 237 animals and will allow us to manage the heifers from the post weaning stage right through to calving within the same building,” David Harpur explained
“We have included a bubbler system in the slurry tank under the new shed. This allows us to remove slurry without moving the stock out of the house. It also constitutes an important safety feature.”
The Harpur herd is currently -averaging 9,000 litres at 3.95% butterfat and 3.32% protein. The family’s business model is based on a commitment to ongoing investment, which will deliver long term sustainability.
“The cows are kept in the year round and are milked three times per day,” David explained.
“Our overall aim is to produce milk by maximising the output achieved from every acre that we farm. Perhaps the best example of this is our commitment to zero grazing. By taking this approach we can increase grassland utilisation from 55% to 60%, which one would normally expect from grazing paddocks, up to 80%.”