- Date: 19 Jul 2012
- Venue: Farm of David Wallace, near Muckamore in Co Antrim
A group of 80 CAFRE students and YFCU members gained a unique insight into the work of the Ulster Grassland Society (UGS) when they recently visited the Focus Farm of David, Alan, Gloria and Julie Wallace, near Muckamore in Co Antrim.
The initiative had been organised by the UGS as a means of encouraging young people to join the society.
“This is the second year that we have organised a specific visit for prospective young members.” confirmed UGS President Norbury Royle.
“We had a very encouraging turnout on the evening in question and it was tremendous to see so many students and YFCU members with a real interest in grassland management. And we could not have invited them to a more relevant dairy farming operation, as Alan Wallace won the 2011 Ulster Grassland Farmer of the Year Competition and then went to be selected as one of the three finalists in this year’s British Grassland Management Award.”
“The Wallace family has a long tradition of achieving the highest possible grassland management standards. This reflects their total commitment to invest both their time and resources into the development of a farm where the production of milk from grazed grass and preserved forages is the number one priority.”
Ashdale Farm consists of 110 hectares owned, with a further 54 hectares taken in conacre. Sitting at 350 feet above sea level, heavy to medium loam soils predominate. Average annual rainfall is in the region of 43 inches. Currently there are around 220 pedigree cows and 200 young stock on the farm.
The objectives set for the farm include the attainment of reasonable profits, maximising milk output from grazed grass and forage while – at the same time – attaining the highest possible animal welfare standards.
Regular re-seeding is a key feature of the Wallace family’s approach to grassland management. Fields are soil tested every three to four years and fertiliser policy formulated accordingly. Zero P fertilisers are applied on those parts of the farm where Phosphate levels are already adequate Slurry is applied to silage ground and those parts of the farm grazed by heifers.
This proof that such a strategic approach to grassland and dairy cow management is working can be discerned from the current performance of the Ashdale herd. The rolling 12 month performance results confirm an average milk yield of 8410 litres per cow at 4.13% butterfat and 3.23% protein. Milk hygienic quality is extremely high with TBC at 34 and SCC at 118. Significantly, the milk from forage figure currently amounts to 3415 litres. Approximately 0.3 kilos of concentrate are fed per litre of milk produced.
Ongoing investment has been a feature of the commitment made by the Wallace family to the development of Ashdale Farm. Over recent years this has included the purchase of additional land, the construction of new cubicle accommodation and additional underground slurry storage, plus a swale for the collection of run-off from the concrete lanes. A new 36:36 Dairy Master milking parlour with a cluster flush system was installed in February this year.
In 2009 the business was selected for the Focus Farms programme and has proven to be an extremely popular visitor attraction for farmers from all over Northern Ireland.
Norbury Royle concluded:
“Everyone attending the recent visit was more than impressed with the innovative grassland management practises implemented by the Wallace family.
“And on behalf of the Ulster Grassland Society I would like to thank them for being such gracious hosts.”