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2023 UGS Summer Beef/Sheep Visit

Event Details

  • Date: 22 Aug 2023
  • Venue: Kilkeel

The Ulster Grassland Society recently held a successful farm walk on the farm of James & Brenda Henderson and family at Seafields Farm near Kilkeel when around 60 members and friends attended. Proceedings got underway after a welcome cup of tea with UGS President David Linton welcoming everyone and introducing host farmer James Henderson.

The Henderson’s have farmed in this area for a number of generations with the present farm, which had been used by US troops as an airfield during World War II, purchased by James’ Grandfather after the war. At that time the farm included 30 acres of concrete which over the years has been mostly broken up to create the present field boundaries. Today the farm extends to 150 acres of which 135 acres is down to grass with the remainder in cereals. Given the sandy soil and seaside location the farm is prone to drought. Over the years soil nutrition and fertility has been improved with the benefit of soil sampling and today boasts pH of 6.2 across the farm with a P Index of 2 and K Index of 3.

The main enterprises on the farm are a dairy-bred calf to beef enterprise and a flock of 250 breeding ewes. The overall objectives on the farm with these enterprises is to operate the farm business as efficiently as possible with consideration for the environment; to optimise production and utilisation of grass to reduce concentrate feeding and to produce high quality beef and lamb.

The dairy-bred beef enterprise centres on purchasing Aberdeen Angus / British Blue heifers in October / November mainly from marts which are then reared on the farm and finished at around two years with a carcass weight of 320-340 kgs and a mix of O+/R grades. Calves receive up to 300kg meal during their first winter and rely on quality silage during their second winter with no concentrates fed at grass. Heifers rotationally graze 2-day paddocks (1.5 acres) and receive minerals through the drinking water with calves wormed twice during their first summer.

Sheep are also rotationally grazed with part of the flock now grazing a multi species sward. Adult ewes lamb indoors during March with the year olds lambing a month later with Primera rams used. Last year 1.71 lambs were weaned per ewe with 56kg concentrates fed per ewe. The average days to slaughter for lambs is 140 days and considerable improvements in this figure have been achieved in recent years.

Reseeding takes place every ten years with mainly diploid perennial rye grasses and some tetraploids and white clover used in both grazing and silage swards. Silage is now based on a three cut system – early May; late June and late August with big bales used to better utilise surplus grass and provide buffer feeding during periods of drought. Silage ground receives 2,500 gallons per acre for every cut along with 80 unit N/acre for first cut and 60 N for subsequent cuts.

The farm has also undertaken Carbon benchmarking with 21.9kg C / kg beef and 26.4 kg C / kg deadweight lamb with no account taken of carbon sequestration.

During the farm walk there were plenty of opportunities for questions from visitors and a good discussion on recent improvements in farm performance particularly around utilisation and performance from grass and better grass management. Following the farm walk visitors enjoyed a BBQ meal after which UGS President Elect John Egerton proposed a vote of thanks to our hosts and all who attended. Society members now look forward to their Grassland Farmer of the Year competition with entries currently being accepted

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