Farmer Focus: Beef heifers grade exceptionally well

I can hardly start my monthly rant without mentioning the weather. I can’t complain; it’s a bit wet and windy, but my thoughts and prayers go out to my contemporaries in southern England. I don’t know how you are coping with the devastation to your property and farmland.

This is yet again only another sign we are one disaster away from food security crisis and a shortage of our nation’s most valuable commodity: food.

The NI focus farm project comes to an end this March. Thousands of farmers visited farms throughout NI and learned from host farmers’ experience, as did we from our usually well-informed visitors. It was an excellent way to transfer information throughout the north of Ireland. Well done, DARD, for an excellent programme. But there are still plenty of legs in it yet.

I’m busy on the farm with bulling heifers. They’ve been vaccinated for BVD, lepto, blackleg and Schmallenberg pre-turnout in preparation for synchronisation.

Beef heifers sent to the factory graded well with one R+ and everything else U and better. One slipped into a 4+ but her mates made up for her. Weights were a perfect average of 348kg in specification. When we produce cattle that fit all the customer demands, especially weight we need to get paid well, and for this load I did.

Calving is around the corner. I had an early arrival yesterday, which is a bit weak, but hopefully will come along. Calving pens need sorting out asap. I’m starting to add 0.5kg of pre-calving nut into cow feed. This has worked well and helps boost milk without growing calves, previous years’ experience show.

Searching for a new Limousin bull with figures is hard to find and I didn’t end up buying at Stirling. Maybe Carlisle. However, I did notice bulls without figures made a lot less. Why have farmers here in NI not picked up that point yet?

Mistake of the month: I was in a rush the morning of Ulster grassland conference and backed the handler into my new feeder wagon, breaking the lights. The only consolation came later that day when I won Ulster Grassland Farmer for 2014. Lesson: more haste less speed.

Sam Chesney runs a spring-calving herd of 120 Limousin cross sucklers in Kircubbin, Northern Ireland. He was 2011 Farmers Weekly Beef Farmer of the Year

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