2013-07-01  facebooktwitterrss
Ulster Hosts Euro R&D Cattle Meeting

The practical results of close links between farmers and research scientists impressed visitors attending a European Cattle Innovation Partnership, ECIP, meeting held in Northern Ireland.

Representatives of farm research levy bodies from the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, France, UK and the Irish Republic visited AFBI, Hillsborough and the Kircubbin, Co Down ‘UK dairy farm of the year 2012’ of William Steele, who runs a 450 cow herd with sons Thomas and Samuel

Thomas and William Steele are, from left, James Campbell, AgriSearch chairman, Peter Conway and Drew McConnell, AgriSearch dairy advisory committee

Pictured with Thomas and William Steele are, from left, James Campbell, AgriSearch chairman, Peter Conway and Drew McConnell, AgriSearch dairy advisory committee

All these funding organisations belonging to the European Cattle Innovation Partnerships are committed to sharing results so as to make best use of limited funds by minimising duplication of research work.

The ECIP, whose membership includes AgriSearch, the Northern Ireland Agricultural Research and Development Council, is planning a joint research project relating to phosphorus in agriculture. It is hoped to obtain major funding from the EU for applied research to help solve phosphate problems seen in several member states.

At the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, AFBI, Hillsborough Dr Alistair Carson gave the international group an over view of current and planned R & D projects, including those supported by the dairy sector through AgriSearch. Researchers Tianhai Yan and Dr Conrad Ferris then gave an update on environmental issues before the party were shown around by Chris Johnston, Dr Steven Morrison and Dr Conrad Ferris for further briefings on beef research, BOVIS and the EREC.

The European group was taken to visit the Steele family farm on the Ards Peninsula because it is one of several involved as co-researchers with AFBI. This link between farmers and scientists to extend research investigations across large numbers of cows in practical farming circumstances is normal in NI. However it greatly impressed the visitors from several nations where this system of on-farm research is a novelty.

On arrival the ECIP party was given an overview of management practices on this high input farm currently involved in a Research Challenge Fund, RCF, project examining early lactation feeding strategies and the recently completed RCF project on dry cow feeding.

This 450 cow dairy unit is also one of the farms currently taking part in the EU Dairyman project. During the farm visit Dr Alistair Carson made a presentation on the role of ‘on-farm’ research programmes with Dr Conrad Ferris providing an overview of RCF project results, while John Bailey reviewed the activities of Dairyman.

Then followed a lively ‘question and answer’ time as Thomas Steele took the group on a tour of the Rowreagh Farm’s dairy unit based around a rotary parlour used to milk 450 cows thrice daily.

The evening concluded with a much appreciated Berry barbeque meal featuring local food and drink.

Rowreagh Farm Facts
Details of the Steel family’s Rowreagh Farm visited by the European research group include;
450 cows milked thrice daily
320 replacement heifers, including 165 under a year old.
600 acres farm, split evenly between owned and conacre rented.
100 acres forage maize.
30 acres wholecrop winter wheat
90 acres winter wheat and barley. The grain is treated and fed to the milking cows with straw used for bedding and feeding.
A new feed preparation area is under construction behind the dairy unit.
Average milk sold per cow 9,880 litres
Average milk from forage 3,827 litres
Concentrate fed per cow 2,900kg
Butterfat 4%
Protein 3.25%
AI bulls used include Altaiota, Altasilver, Allemar and Goldday. Sexed Cogent Woodmarsh Metallic is used on maiden heifers.

Agrisearch

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