The increasing reliance of Irish livestock enterprises on imported feed was attracting more attention long before the recent escalation in concentrate costs and concerns surrounding feed availability.
John Fraser’s farm in Garrons, a short distance outside Stradbally in Co Laois, has been striving in recent years to develop a more holistic system where the enterprises of beef, sheep and tillage deliver mutual benefits.
The farm was traditionally predominately tillage, along with finishing some continental cattle.
However, since taking over the running of the farm, John has developed a sheep enterprise which has grown to in excess of 300 head and a dairy calf-to-beef enterprise, which now numbers 90 to 100 head.
The focus on the farm is to drive production where at all possible from feed grown on the farm or in close proximity in the case of the purchase of fodder beet and grazing of catch crops grown by neighbouring farmers.
The tillage crops planted on the farm are mainly winter barley and winter oats, with winter as opposed to spring crops balancing workload across the year.
Homegrown feed is converted to high-quality lamb and beef while nutrients are recycled to tillage lands.
Animals are drafted at their most efficient stage of production for the farm, with dairy-beef animals drafted through Irish Hereford Prime and lambs sold to Kildare Chilling.
The aim in the first half of 2022 is to ensure performance of livestock is maintained and sufficient silage is saved for next winter.
The farm purchased its normal fertiliser requirement for the first half of the year.
“It is hard to comprehend the cost of it but if we don’t put it out we will be in a much worse position. For now, I am concentrating on keeping the performance of stock on track and ensuring we grow enough silage for next winter.”
The farm is busy but the different enterprises combine to good effect to utilise labour and facilities. Another significant benefit of the different production systems and numerous sale dates across the year is a more balanced cashflow.
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