CAFRE BDG membership helping Drumquin farmer develop his business.
By Kevin McGrath, Beef and Sheep Adviser, CAFRE, OMAGH.
Ronnie Boyd is a full-time Beef and Sheep farmer from Drumquin in County Tyrone. A member of two locally based Suckler Beef and Sheep Business Development Group’s (BDG’s), he has a keen interest in developing his farm business. Ronnie’s farm stretches from upland to hill land between Omagh and Drumquin with some of his farm up to a 300m above sea level. Farming this area can be challenging and requires good attention to detail to ensure its viability.
He has two enterprises a flock of 250 ewes and 20 suckler cows . Ronnie sees output being key to his farm’s performance with his sheep flock achieving a weaning percentage close to 1.8 lambs per ewe in 2019. All lambs are finished on farm with Ronnie weighing lambs regularly. This ensures lambs are sold at the correct stage of production to meet market specification. Ronnie uses the information recorded at weighing to highlight areas of the sheep enterprise which can be improved upon. Next on the agenda for his sheep enterprise is to reduce the size of the paddocks to improve grass quality and quantity.
The suckler herd is spring calving with the majority of calves sold as weanlings with the exception of those kept as replacements. Ronnie artificially inseminates all cows. Charolais and Limousin sires are used which results in quality calves being produced which receive a premium price at sale. Cow fertility is important to Ronnie. The herd’s calving index has averaging 358 days over the last four years. A strict culling policy is in place with all heifers calved at 24 months of age.
In recent years Ronnie has carried out a programme of drainage, reseeding and fencing on his most productive land. Soil analysis has been used to detect and correct deficiencies in pH, phosphorous and potash. Ronnie has increased his grass yields from his upland swards through reseeding. Where possible minimal cultivation is used. This reduces cost and shortens turnaround time. Ronnie operates a rotational grazing system with his suckler enterprise to try and maximize grass utilisation.
Ronnie has a clear focus on improving productivity through continually improving output from his land resource. To help future planning he undertakes CAFRE benchmarking annually. Ronnie sees this as a really beneficial management tool. Benchmarking allows him to compare his farm performance year on year while also comparing his results against other farmers with similar enterprises and land types. The benchmarking data also allows Ronnie to determine areas of the business where improvements are required.
Ronnie is very positive about his BDG group membership. He values the interaction with other like-minded people and highlighted, “Among the group there is lively debate. We exchange information, share ideas and learn from each other. We are exposed to new ideas and are kept abreast of new technologies and developments in farming.” Members are both part time and full time farmers, with a mixture of small, medium and large enterprises.