Meet Northern Ireland’s 4 new Technology Demonstration Farms

The first four farms have been picked to form a new network of Technology Demonstration Farms across Northern Ireland aimed at increasing the rate of technology adoption the region’s farms.

Once Covid-19 restrictions are eased, groups of farmers will be invited to visit the farms to find out about the latest technologies and innovations in place.

The programme will be run by the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) and will demonstrate how technology can ease the workload for beef farmers in the following areas:

  • Pre-breeding health Check of the breeding herd;
  • Heat detection systems;
  • Pregnancy diagnosis;
  • Herd health plan; and
  • Sire selection.

Amongst the participating farms are four Beef Fertility Theme Technology Demonstration Farms. The first four farmers are all passionate about improving suckler cow fertility within their herds through the use of selective breeding, improved animal health and rigorous data collection and are keen to share these with everyone.

Fertility Farm No. 1

Fertility Farm No. 1 belongs to David Henderson of Tamlaght in Co. Fermanagh (pictured top).

The Henderson family run a herd comprising of approximately 90 suckler cows predominantly Simmental, Limousin and Shorthorn cross on 235ac.

The herd has a calving index of 375 days and reappearance rate of 71%. This farm operates a three breed cross-breeding system to maximise calf performance.

Their breeding decisions are based on performance-recorded stock bulls while being mindful of the myostatin gene and cows are scanned six weeks post-breeding with all embryos sexed.

Fertility Farm No. 2

Fertility Farm No. 2 belongs to Douglas McKenzie of Moy in Co. Tyrone. The McKenzie family are calving 90 suckler cows predominantly the Aubrac breed on 190ac.

Image source DAERA

This farm stocks bulls and AI breeding techniques used to maximise genetic gain in the herd with and a percentage of replacement heifers are AI’d with sexed semen.

They have also implemented a herd health programme using blood mineral profiles to determine mineral deficiencies.

Fertility Farm No. 3

Fertility Farm No. 3 is that of Oliver McKenna at Eskra also in Co. Tyrone. The McKenna family run an autumn and spring calving herd comprising of 60 suckler cows on 88ac. The herd has a calving index of 382 days.

This farm uses 100% AI within the herd; Uses genetic data and performance recorded sires to enhance breeding decisions and employs strict replacement heifer selection.

Finally, Fertility Farm No. 4

Finally, Fertility Farm No. 4 belongs to John Egerton of Roslea in Co. Fermanagh. The Egerton family run an autumn and spring calving herd comprising of approximately 90 suckler cows on 183ac.

Image source DAERA

The herd has a calving index of 371 days. The Egerton’s use a 100% AI breeding system; Heat detection collars used with a teaser bull to detect cows on heat; Handling facilities developed to enable one person to move cattle for AI insemination and breeding is focused on maternal characteristics.

It is anticipated that each farm will host between eight and 12 visits for groups of between five and 25 farmers. However, group sizes and visits will be kept under constant review due to Covid-19.