Irish Hereford Prime Monitor Farmer, Aaron Deverell is heavily involved in the family business. This involves a calf to beef enterprise alongside an equestrian and a tillage enterprise. Aaron maximises his resources to achieve the best results.
“We have a tillage, equestrian and calf to store and finish beef system on the farm – we have lots going on here,” Aaron Deverell laughs as he explains his farming enterprise. Aaron has mastered a number of trades in his farming career, his most recent one being a move from store beef to finishing his own cattle this year.
“The price drop of stores is the main reason that we have gone into finishing cattle now,” Aaron explains. “It was getting to a point where it wasn’t making any sense, so we decided to do something about it.” Aaron hopes to finish 90 of his cattle in the coming months.
Currently, Aaron is rearing 90 calves on his farm in Tullamore, Co Offaly. These calves are sourced from Cork and Kerry with the help from a dealer. There are a number of breeds on the farm, however the herd is predominantly made up of Herefords, as Aaron has taken a particular interest in them. “You will never have an issue with Herefords on the farm,” he says. “They are quiet out and very easy going animals. They are easy to handle and probably the most docile out of the lot.” Calves arrive on the Deverell farm in batches of 10 or 20 and are separated from the rest of the animals for one week. In this time, they are injected with Bovipast. The calves are then placed in a large shed, where there are approximately 80 calves in pens of 10.
Calves are placed on a diet of milk replacer when they arrive on the farm. Aaron uses a mixer that is on a timer. Milk replacer is mixed and dispensed using a hose into the feeders. Cooked calf crunch is also made available to them from the first day on the farm. “They are on crunch from day one to get them going as soon as possible,” he says. “Ideally they will be eating 1kg of it for 10 days before I begin reducing the milk replacer in the diet. I prefer going off of that more than age or weights.” When the calves are turned out to grass, this concentrate rate is increased to 2kg.
Utilising his tillage enterprise to the fullest, Aaron mixes his own ration on the farm. Using his own barley and oats, he formulates a feed of 55% barley, 20% soya, 15% beet pulp and 10% oats. This gives a ration of between 18 and 19% protein. “I prefer mixing it up myself as I see a big difference in the minerals compared to the bought ration,” he explains. “We are in a small deficit of copper in this area, so the animals’ coats have an orange hue off of them. As soon as I put them on my own mix, a week to 10 days later you will see the coats improving!” Aaron also favours mixing his own ration as he has more control over the diet and knows exactly what they cattle are getting.
Aaron hopes to finish 90 of his cattle for the first time, over the next number of months. “I hope to finish 60 that are currently at the 550kg mark, before Christmas over an 80 day period. They will be well under the 24 month mark.” He adds: “I have a slower approach to the following 30, which are over 400kg. I hope to get them out for the January/February market by out wintering them on fodder rape, followed by finishing them in the shed, or at grass.” Aaron expects that the finishing stock will be on a diet of 20kg silage and 6 to 8kg of barley ration. This will be formulated using barley, beat pulp, bicarbonate soda and minerals. He hopes that this diet will get his cattle up to a live weight of 700kg and kill out at 350kg.
Aaron also operates a sizable equine enterprise alongside his tillage and beef. For this reason, both cattle and horses graze the paddocks. “The mixture of horses and cattle grazing works quite well here,” he says. “I never use a topper here at all.” Cattle are put into the best grass and are followed behind by the horses who clean out the paddocks. Aaron cuts, bales and wraps all of his own silage. This is then tested ahead of winter feeding. Last year, silage quality on the Deverell farm ranged from 68 DMD to 72 DMD. Aaron tried his hand at grass measuring for the first time this year, however, it did not go to plan: “I started right before the drought came and then that had to be abandoned,” he said. “I will give it another go again next year and hopefully have more luck this time.”
Fortunately, Aaron has very few issues when it comes to animal health on his farm. “We were mainly tillage for the last 20 years, so there were no animals on the farm up until 5 or 6 years ago,” he explains. “Our faecal samples from Irish Hereford Prime have come back to say that there is very little parasite burden on the farm.” “The sampling is the right thing to do going forward, it is a good indicator of what should be done on the farm.” Aaron believes that the horses grazing the paddocks also aid in keeping burden figures low.
Moving into the coming months, Aaron hopes to refine his beef operation on the farm. “It is going to be about finding the balance of seeing how many cattle you can operate on the farm, alongside the horses,” he says. “We are not a straight forward farm,” Aaron admits. “We run a number of equestrian competitions throughout the year. We can’t say that we have this amount of land for this amount of cattle, because these competitions take up a lot of ground.” Aaron also hopes to have a think about improving infrastructure on his farm. The number of cattle to be housed indoors has increased considerably and rationalising potential investments in sheds is something he hopes to look into.