John Fraser

Garrons, Co. Laois
“My focus is on developing a more holistic approach for the farm, where the enterprises of beef, sheep and tillage deliver mutual benefits.”
I’ve worked on my farm in Garrons, Co. Laois for many years, running mixed enterprises of sheep, calf to beef and tillage.
My focus at the moment is to make the business more integrated, so that each element of the farm works in harmony with the other.

The farm was originally mainly tillage, but I have introduced sheep and cattle and now we have a flock of about 300 sheep with their lambs and rear 100 calf to beef each year.
My preference is to get calves on the farm and settled in the first three weeks of March and by the end of the month at the latest. I think that earlier born claves achieve greater weight gain because they get the full benefit of the grass in their first season. I split the calves into groups based on age and size, and that way I can give preferential treatment where necessary. I turn them out as early as possible, and the calves usually graze from April to November. Although, this year I am experimenting with a mobile milk feeder, which I hope will allow me to turn them out even earlier.

“My cattle are marketed through Irish Hereford Prime, and I am happy to secure their breed bonus payments.”

In 2021 the weaning of the calves had to be pushed back by 2 weeks due to harsh weather, but hopefully this year we will get back to 10 weeks. That way they’ll get more gain from the grass, and we will hit our target weights.

I usually graze yearling cattle on their own, they go out earlier to an out-farm we have and move to aftergrass swards as the season progresses and silage is made. Our land type is quite dry here and growth tends to slow down during some warm summer months due to low soil moisture levels.

I usually have about 70% steers and 30% heifers and I prefer Hereford crosses. I aim to get these finished at 18 to 20 months of age off grass. I find the breed easy to manage and they tend to gain weight well on my farm.

Going forward I would like to increase the self-sufficiency of the farm, introducing new grass species onto the land, such as red clover, and continuing to find the balance between the cattle, sheep, and tillage. At the moment we are focusing on ensuring the performance of the livestock and saving sufficient silage for next winter.

“We try to ensure that the majority of the feed used on the farm is grown on the farm, and if that is not possible, we purchase it close by, from neighbouring farmers.”