Broughshane farmer aims to increase farm profit from pasture in challenging times
“It is no surprise to anyone when I say that farm input costs are at an all-time high,” comments James Brennan, Business Development Group Facilitator.
With this being the case, many farmers continue to alter management practices on farm to ensure a return on their investment.
One such farmer is William Fleck. William farms in Broughshane, at the foot of Slemish on 192 acres made up of 152 acres of hill grazing and the remaining 40 acres for cutting and grazing.
William, who is farming part time, has always been interested in furthering his knowledge in agriculture and trying new concepts. It was this keen interest which led him to completing a Level 2 qualification in agriculture with CAFRE and subsequently becoming a member of his local CAFRE Business Development Group (BDG).
Currently, William is running 50 Charolais bullocks, 25 at 1 year old and 25 at 2 years old which are all finished off grass with minimal meal usage. Historically, William would have purchased 150 Mule ewe lambs annually and sold as hoggets but this year has decided to run the strongest of them with a Texel ram to help increase productivity.
“Due to rising costs of materials and feed, it’s now more important than ever to cut costs and increase productivity naturally”.
Since joining the BDG programme and working with James Brennan (Group Facilitator), William has benefited greatly from the various group discussions and farm visits that have occurred looking at technology adoptions across many farms.
One such technology adoption which William has now brought to his own farm is that of paddock grazing. William made the change as he seen the benefits that many other BDG members were gaining in terms of increased grass growth as well as increased grass utilisation.
“Utilising more grass and cleaning out the sward to ensure a good regrowth is key and has led to an increase in grass grown on farm and a longer grazing period”.
Since paddock grazing was established, William has started to close off paddocks with excess grass in the peak growing season, in 2022 this left him with an extra 50 bales of silage which prior to paddock grazing wouldn’t have been available without the use of expensive artificial fertiliser.
These bales made from young leafy grass are a great addition as they are of superior quality.
William knows the nutritional value of these bales as he avails of the up-to-date technology which is available through BDGs via the NIR 4 silage analyser. This technology provides an analysis report on a given silage sample indicating many factors with the CP%, ME and D Value being just a few.
This type of report allows silage quality/feed value to be known and allows appropriate action to be taken regarding meal inputs etc, vital in preparing sheep for lambing this year.
“As a member of the BDG I have had the opportunity to visit farms to see how farmers operate their business and overcome the various challenges within farming. Classroom training is fine but there is no comparison to on-farm, having that first-hand experience direct with a farmer that has implemented/adopted better farming practices.
"Another change I have made through attending the BDG meetings is the erection of new handling facilities. These have been a great addition as they have not only reduced the labour required to complete tasks but allow me to do so in a safer manner as well.”
William aims to build on the benefits of group participation and improve his farm’s efficiency and productivity.