Summer Meeting 2022

Summer Meeting 2022 – Northern Ireland

The BGS Summer Meeting 2022 took place from Monday 27 June to Wednesday 29 June 2022. 

The base for the meeting was the Hilton Belfast Templepatrick Golf and Country Club

To view photo montages of the event on our YouTube channel, please click on the following links.

Day 1: Monday 27 June

Day 2: Tuesday 28 June

Day 3: Wednesday 29 June

Social events and delegates

Day 1 – Monday 27 June – County Down

Farm 1: Beattie, Margaret and Reggie Lilburn, Dromore. The family run a pedigree herd of 250 Holstein/Friesians plus followers. The herd is managed with quality grass and forage as the key to the high levels of cow performance. All the swards are regularly reseeded with the latest grass varieties. Four cuts of silage are taken each year with an ME of over 12 MJ achieved.

Farm 2: Brian and Lynn McCracken, Newtownards. The 147 ha farm supports 230 milking cows and replacement stock. Making grass work through planning, measuring and adopting flexible management practices is delivering sustainable levels of milk production at controlled costs. The herd production figures for 2021 were 6050 l/cow at butterfat 4.55%, and protein 3.66%. Purchased feed for 2021 averaged at 1.1 t/cow. Stocking rate on the grazing area available for the milk cows averaged 2.7 cows/ha in 2021.

Farm 3: John Martin and Family, Greyabbey. John was the winner of the 2019 BGS Grassland Farmer of the Year competition. He farms 73 ha which includes 15.5 ha of short rotation coppice willows for biomass. The main enterprise is a flock of 710 ewes, with 160 lambed in January, followed by 550 lambing in March, including 160 ewe lambs.  All ewes are home bred, with a mixture of Aberfield, Highlander and Belclare genetics used over many years to create a functional home bred composite ewe. Lambs are sold through the local marketing group on a supermarket supply contract. Annually, 40 dairy replacement heifers are grazed and wintered to add income and get benefits of mixed grazing. Six ha of spring barley is grown for home use, and this also facilitates a rotational reseeding programme. Sheep rations are home mixed and based on the homegrown barley.

Day 2 – Tuesday 28 June – Hosted by Fermanagh Grassland Club

Farm 1: Philip and David Clarke, Augher, Co. Tyrone. The farm extends to 120 acres with grass central to the success of this spring calving system. The 85 spring calving crossbred cows produce 4,250 litres of milk from forage. The family farm is focused on managing a very tight calving pattern with herd fertility a priority and the farm has a number of management practices in place to ensure a high six week calving rate.  Simple management systems aim to optimise profitability.

Farm 2: John Egerton and Sons, Rosslea, Co. Fermanagh. This is a family farm operating four enterprises – suckler cows to beef, lowland sheep, Blade calf rearing system and contract rearing of dairy heifers.  The farm adopts the latest grassland technologies to make maximum use of grazed grass across all the enterprises. Attention to detail is evident on the farm and includes the long-term use of AI breeding data to significantly improve the suckler herd’s maternal genetics and weight recording of calves to optimise growth and performance. John is sustainably growing the business as his three sons are all keen to work on the home farm.

Farm 3: Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute AFBI, Hillsborough, Co. Down. Delegates will learn more about the latest R&D work being undertaken across ruminant livestock production, climate change and the environment. The work undertaken by AFBI supports development work on farms and underpins the Northern Ireland agri-food industry.

Day 3 – Wednesday 29 June – County Antrim

Farm 1: Alastair McNeilly, Muckamore. The 66 ha of grassland is made up of 24 ha of owned land and 32 ha rented. A 100-cow spring calving suckler herd in a birth to beef system is managed. Alastair places great emphasis on a short calving period and excellent cow fertility. Males are finished as steers, sold mostly deadweight. Heifers not used for breeding are sold finished, again mostly deadweight. The target is to have heifers sold at 20 months and steers sold at 22-24 months. Replacements are home reared, with a combination of natural service bulls and carefully selected maternal AI bulls used. As a participant in the Northern Ireland Suckler Beef project in association with CAFRE, ABP and the Irish Farmers Journal, Alastair has made significant progress in establishing grazing infrastructure, focusing on fertility and cow type, and increasing gross margin per hectare. The farm also supports a broiler finishing enterprise.

Farm 2: The College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE), Greenmount. This visit will provide the opportunity to see first-hand one of the leading agricultural educational facilities in the British Isles. The Greenmount Campus manages dairy, beef and sheep enterprises with a strong focus on environmental stewardship including constructed wetlands, ammonia mitigation and is LEAF accredited. Delegates will be able to learn more of the knowledge exchange, innovation, and technology programmes where CAFRE works directly with farmers to support sustainable development of their businesses.