Foyle cattle finishing unit and 1100ac research farm

For this week’s beef focus, Agriland Foyle Food Group Co. Visited Farms of Excellence in Tyrone. The total farming operation covers an area of ​​1,100 hectares. Of this, 570 ac is mountain type land, 250 ac is lowland pasture, and the rest is lowland silage.

The farm continuously conducts research and trials to provide Foyle’s beef suppliers with practical and up-to-date information on ways to further improve the economic and environmental sustainability of their farms.

Some of the areas the farm is currently researching include advanced practices in pasture management, soil health, animal nutrition and bedding for livestock.

Foyle Food Group procurement director Wayne Acheson explained the farm has three parts: “Our hill farm aims to showcase suckler-beef systems using superior genetics.

“Our pasture farm aims to demonstrate best practice with multi-species sable grazing in paddocks and our beef finishing farm aims to show farmers best practice in housing design, bedding, feed supplements and a focus on animal welfare.”

The farm manager is Darragh McManus and a team of staff assist him in the day-to-day running of the farm.

Foyle suction unit

Foyle Farm currently has 120 suckling cows and is in the process of expanding their dairy herd to 200 cows.

The herd calves indoors in March, and after calving, the cows go directly to fields near the farm where they graze until mid-April. Once the conditions are right, the cows and calves head up the mountain for summer grazing.

Calves are gradually weaned using quiet weaners in November and after weaning the cows are held until calving time in March.

Dairy calves stay outside on a low grazing platform and also graze from the silage area. They are usually kept for a month in February when conditions are very wet.

These cattle are then put out to grass for the second grazing season and held for finishing when they reach about 550kg live weight.

This year, spring 2021 born cattle were finished after 45 days in the barn with an average carcass weight of 354kg and an average grade of R at 19 months of age.

Wayne explained: “We’re building a herd of up to 200 dairy cows at the moment, so all the heifers have come back to breed this year.”

Blue-gray cow

All heifers calve at 24 months of age. Commenting on the breed of dairy cows kept at the hill farm, Wayne explained: “We start with a Galloway and breed them to a white shorthorn to get a blue-grey color for the hill country.

“We have a sandy-type hill farm in Pomeroy where we keep half-breed Angus cows and then breed them to Angus bulls, so we get a 75% Angus calf from them.”

The primary objective of the ‘Hill Suckler Project’ is to demonstrate that under hill conditions served by a highly genetic mother, a medium-sized suckler cow can produce superior weaning that will specifically finish at a younger age. All this is done in a low-cost system.

Andrew Clarke, agriculture and supply at Foyle Food Group, added: “What we are looking for is a low mature weight cow with high maternal traits that we breed with an Aberdeen Angus bull that is in the top 1% genetics of the breed. for mother and last signs.

“When selecting a bull we look for short gestation, easy calving and good growth numbers.”

Lowland grassland

About 250 hectares of land is reserved for lowland pasture. It is divided into 16ac blocks.

The farm grazes around 1200 kg live weight/ac and aims to achieve 400 kg live weight gain per year.

Wayne explained: “We’ve got 400kg cattle and we’ll graze them on a 32-day rotation on multigrain, with rye being a 21-day rotation.”

As soon as the grazing season begins, the stock of cattle gradually increases, and from the end of July heavier cattle are sent for finishing.

Many types

The farm first introduced multi-species swards (MSS) in 2019 when it joined the European Innovation Partnership (EIP) project on multi-species spiers for beef and lamb.

Commenting on the new pasture hunting facility, Andrew said: “We are still fine-tuning the management of CNS but what we have seen is that we have not used any anthelmintic products to treat parasites on cattle going to CNS.

“Cattle perform equally well on multi-species and perennial rye, but we haven’t had any chemical exposure to our multi-species.

Tow and Fert

The farm is paying more attention to feeding the soil with biological strengthening products and for this purpose this year it invested in a Tow and Fert sprayer.

Andrew explained: “It has two functions. We use it to feed soil microorganisms and apply products like molasses and humus to promote plant growth.

“Lime meal helps meet the high calcium requirements of legumes and we apply it ‘little and often’ during the growing season.”

While MSS received no chemical fertilizer, perennial ryegrass received foliar fertilizer at half the rate of granular fertilizer application.

Foliar fertilizers are applied 11 days after grazing and the application consists of granular urea mixed with water at Tow and Fert.

Wayne added: “When we bought Tow and Fert we thought it would take three to four years to pay for itself, but with fertilizer prices going up, it’s already paid for itself in a year and a half.

“We don’t spread any granular fertilizer at the moment, the fertilizer spreader is down and we may have to sell it,” he said.

All grass growth is measured weekly by clipping. About 10 t of Perennial rye and 10 t of MSS are grown in the farm.

The farm has also seen an increase in earthworm populations in the MSS, and since no worms are used, dung beetle populations are also increasing.

Foyle Finishing unit

The finishing unit on the farm finishes 80-100 cattle per week, or about 4,500 cattle per year. The finishing section has a combination of 30, 60, 90 and 120 day old stock.

The aim of the finishing division is to show farmers best practice in finishing cattle and deliver cattle to the Foyle Omagh and Foyle Campsie areas.

The graduate unit is involved in a knowledge transfer partnership (KTP) with South West College and is looking for more efficient ways to use farm products such as bedding and feed.

Slurry from the finisher is treated with enzymes and bacteria to reduce mixing time and is treated using a process known as “”bed bed”.bokashi‘.

Because access to bedding materials is limited in the region and straw is expensive, maximizing the use of materials is critical to reducing bedding usage and increasing material efficiency.

The bedding is composted and the bedding under the cattle is rotated daily. The heat of the composting process dries out the bedding, and as it becomes moist, more fresh bedding is added.

When the bed is cleaned, it is covered and anaerobically fermented for eight weeks.

New warehouse

This year, a new barn was built to accommodate 180 head of cattle. The shed is 48m long and 20m wide, with 8m trouser area and 12m dry bed area.

The bedding area is on a precast slab above the tank with perforations that allow moisture from the bedding to seep into the tank.

The new warehouse was designed as part of the KTP and has a mono-pitched roof covered with a transparent coating. Designed to capture sunlight into the sleeping area.

The open area behind the sleeping area has a windbreak connected to the weather station on the roof of the barn. In windy conditions, the wind deflector rises, and in calm conditions, the wind deflector automatically lowers.

The solution tank has a foaming system to eliminate the need for stirring.

Ending single feeding programs

Cattle are fed a total mixed ration (TMR) via tractor and diet feed. The amount of uneaten food is included every day and the ration changes accordingly.

The table below is an example of a typical TMR and typical beef mix used in the Finishing section:

Typical TMR Typical beef mixture
Feed plan kg/head/day Composition kg/head/day
First cut silage (28% DM) 16 kg Corn meal 3,194 kg
Beer grains (21%DM) 6 kg Rolled barley 1,638 kg
Molasses fodder cane – FGN 1.5 kg Sugar beet nuts 1,638 kg
Chopped hay 0.5 kg Rapeseed dish 0.334 kg
Beef mixture 7.5 kg Romanian Aid 250 0.225 kg
GlycoPass 0.225 kg
Beef is a developing mineral 0.112 kg
Urea (feed grade) 0.084 kg
Ruminate 0.030 kg
Elensis 0.018 kg

The beef mixture is pre-mixed with TMR to increase the precision of the included ingredients.

The diet is well regulated because the cattle show high performance. Wayne explained: “It is difficult to determine how 30-day-old cattle are performing, but 60- and 90-day-old cattle are achieving an average live weight gain of 1.6kg to 1.8kg/day.

“Angus cattle on our grazing platform have been 1.7 kg per day this year. “We prepared them to eat before we came in, but they did so after they became hosts.”

All cattle on the farm receive the same feed. However, new cattle are gradually transitioning to this diet.

Wayne explained, “A 90-day-old finisher will start on 50% of the diet with ad lib hay and build up gradually over 14 days. A 60-day-old finisher will start on 70% of the ration and ad lib hay and build up over 10 days. black goes directly to the finishing ration.

All cattle entering the finishing unit are vaccinated against infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR) and follow a registration protocol for treatment of external and internal parasites of cattle.

Automatic cattle brush

As part of the Foyle KTP partnership research, the farm investigated how environmental enrichment could affect livestock productivity. As part of this, an automatic swinging cattle brush was installed in one of the garages.

A second trial has been completed and initial indications are that the live weight of cattle increased by 0.2 kg per day when brushed. It has also been noted that cattle spend longer periods of time lying down and being penned with brush. The farm is now looking to place additional brushes in other pens to see if the test results can be replicated.

Looking to the future, the Foyle farm aims to continue its research and demonstrate to farmers how adapting better cattle genetics and new management practices can help the industry reduce its carbon footprint and become more environmentally friendly while improving the economic sustainability of beef farms.

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