Farmer Focus: Beef synchronisation gets under way

The silly season is about to start and although conditions are far from perfect, grass yields will be well up. I hear contractors are complaining about big crops of grass. Already we’ve had a fatality in Northern Ireland, so I think it is important to remind all the young folk driving these massive tractor-trailer units to drive safely during this grass season.

Congratulations to the Royal Ulster Show organisers. Nearly too many visitors attended, with good weather to match. I spent a day meeting supermarkets, meat plants and politicians.

Next week (27 May) I, along with a few other farmers, will meet our minister. Hopefully we can see a way forward for CAP reform that will cause as little disruption as possible to the majority of farm businesses.

She has the chance to be the saviour of NI agriculture or help its demise.

Read more from our other livestock farmer focus writers

Next year’s heifers have started their synchronisation programme and this year we will attempt to also synchronise 70 cows.

 Having sourced semen from high maternal-value bulls, I hope this will up the performance of our suckler herd in years to come, if there is any market for suckler beef.

Our meat plants, which have now become major players in the whole of the UK, are forcing down prices and have got into bed, so to speak, with the large retailers. The beef farmer may pay the price.

The beef price has dropped like a stone this week, even after all major outlets have had a record-breaking sale on BBQ meat.

We need to be strong and convince consumers to only buy British, and that goes for restaurants and hotels. Too many farmers and farmer organisations don’t use their teeth to sharpen up.

My son Robert finished his course at CAFRE this week, however other courses he applied for while there have failed to take place. He has more than a year to wait for a telehandler course and about a year for pa2 spraying, while the fees are long since banked.

This is not unusual, I am told. Farmers are becoming frustrated with the time lag and the farm safety aspect, along with cross-compliance penalties. CAFRE, you must do better or get help to run the course.

A break in the weather meant my friend Michael Tumelty arrived to clip the sheep. I can’t believe I used to do this job myself.

While we got the job done we also did a bit of reminiscing of days gone past of sales of Texels in Carlisle.

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