Scottish beef and sheep farmer wins NGMC

Scottish beef and sheep farmer wins NGMC

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The 2011 BGS National Grassland Management Competition, sponsored by  DLF-Trifolium and GrowHow UK, has been won by Andrew Nelson from Castle Douglas in Kirkcudbrightshire. The winner was announced at the Dairy Event and Livestock Show.

The judges reported how he shone out as an excellent grassland manager, with clear goals and evidence of achieving them. Beef cattle were the core enterprise with an increase in weight of Charollais x steers sold at around eleven months of age  from 319 kg to 406kg being achieved over the last seven years. This was acheived through improved genetics, managing health and fertility and better grazing quality, following  reseeding after kale and high quality winter forage. The beef herd consists of 140 mostly Aberdeen Angus cross sucklers, 15 heifers and 140 Charolais-sired progeny.

But it was the way the hill grazings and lowland flood plain were integrated into the utilization of the limited areas of silage and good grazing ground without recourse to pasture topping or excessive mechanisation that was most impressive. 550 Cheviot Mule sheep were crossed to the Texel producing around 900 lambs in an outdoor lambing system, with all lambs sold finished entirely from grass, or at a premium for breeding, by November.

Andrew's grazing swards are up to 40% clover and some grass has been overseeded to introduce clover and new grass varieties. To get clover seed on rocky, non-accessible land, he mixes seed with cattle concentrate.

Care is taken to ensure soil pH, P and K remains on track. Soil samples are taken on a third of the farm every year. "Then we can spread the costs of any lime applications needed and can cut costs by allowing a P and K holiday when levels are sufficiently high," says Andrew. 

The judges were John Vipond, SAC (head) <not pictured>, Stephen Brandon (2010 winner) <left of photo>, Elaine Jewkes - GrowHow and John Read - DLF-Trifolium <right of photo>.

The runners up were Richard Fryer - Cheshire and Alan Wallace - Co Antrim.

The judges were impressed with Richard Fryer's aim to simplify a high input system with reduced reliance on bought in concentrates and more on grazed grass for his 200-cow autumn-calving dairy herd. Significant investment in concrete sleeper cow tracks has allowed better access to paddocks on a farm constrained by field access.

Alan Wallace's 220-cow pedigree Holstein herd has some of the highest yielding cows in the breed, whilst making as much utilisation of grazed grass as possible on heavy soil in a wetter part of Northern Ireland. A huge passion for cows was demonstrated to the judges, as was grassland kept in high order with few weeds. Very high quality silage had been made in April, with an ME over 12 MJ/kgDm.



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