Farming Connect Study Visit - Anglesey Grassland Society
The following report has been written by the farmers and forester who took part in the visits. All views and opinions included are their own.
Anglesey Grassland Society
Nottinghamshire & Lincolnshire
22nd - 24th November 2016
We wanted to explore feedlot feeding of beef finishing cattle and a pedigree Limousin herd in order to look at ways of improving efficiencies in beef production.
2.1 Day 1
During late November 2016, the Anglesey Grassland Society members visited three farms and the Newark Machinery Show where they witnessed very different farming systems compared to the more common ‘grass-based’ ones at home. The first farm was James Burnett’s 1,500 acre holding which finishes 3,500 animals on a ‘feed-lot’ utilising waste by-products from the area’s vegetable farms. Immediately on entering the farm, large stockpiles of carrots, parsnips, cabbages and potatoes were seen with a question in the back of our minds as to why they are surplus to human needs.
Some 1400 animals at varying stages of the 12-16 weeks taken to achieve the required weights and finish are kept in straw bedded yards. Straw is in abundant supply, again reflecting the eastern counties’ disposition to arable farming.
After coming on to the feed-lot the cattle take about three to four weeks adjusting to the new diet which always contains some maize silage as a source of structural fibre and starch, along with the bulkier vegetable by-products. Good quality haylage - a source of long fibre - also appeared in a corner of each pen, again ensuring good rumen function from the diet. Some 80-90 animals are supplied to Woodheads at Spalding every week.
2.2 Day 2
In contrast, the second farm on the light brash land is a 700-acre holding growing cereals and keeping a pedigree herd of Limousin cattle. The Mereside herd, owned by the Hazard family, has gained numerous prizes both locally and nationally. Having previously been a dairy farm the stockmanship skills and buildings have been adapted for the herd, with one noticeable element being the abundance of straw not only for bedding but also as ‘walls’ for the outdoor silage pits with the former inside pit utilised for cattle housing. The farmyard manure has a huge benefit on light land, demonstrating again the value of stock in eastern counties.
The utilisation of techniques such as AI along with flushing best animals for embryo transfer to speed up genetic gains are all apparent on the unit, with Salers from France proving to be fantastic recipient animals for this purpose, with one individual being regularly used to carry the embryos.
Modern equipment from self-locking yokes to facilitate veterinary work and AI, together with a feeder wagon for mixing rations, along with a new cattle handling facility made organisation and management of the herd extremely efficient whilst also ensuring a safe working environment for both man and stock. This is undoubtedly an element which has contributed to the herd’s success.
2.3 Day 3
The third farm visited was that of brother and sister Jill and Michael Faulks, who run a dairy farm that supplies Colston Basset Dairy for Stilton Cheese production. The family has also invested in modern technology with robotic milking machines and an automatic feed pusher which ensured the ration was in plentiful supply 24 hours a day, aiding animal performance whilst lowering labour costs. A feature which impressed the younger element within the group was the computer package which provides feedback on several key elements of animal performance such as yield and number of visits to be milked, along with relaying information on diet performance. These elements which include rumination ensure the animals are achieving the best of both production and animal welfare, again highlighting the use of modern technologies, very much an aspect of the whole study tour.