New Year: January is usually a quiet month giving us a chance to catch up and plan ahead for the incoming year.
Cattle: The annual TB test was clear, which is always a relief, with negative herd tests for BVD, Johne’s and leptospirosis, leaving us well on the way to achieving full accreditation.
Calves were wormed shortly after housing and then treated for fluke six weeks later. They are due to be weighed shortly and hopefully weights will confirm this crop has performed well and benefited from weaning at grass.
Cows are now on silage and due to start calving on April 27, with Te Mania Emperor the main AI sire used and one cow in calf to the home-bred Drumcorn Egghead, who had a quiet season.
Attention to heat detection and AI protocols have allowed us to tighten calving into eight weeks and our next target will be to maintain this but start in early April.
We also own some dairy cattle in partnership with Potterswalls Jerseys and are currently ‘looking after’ Dairy Shorthorn and Jersey maiden heifers, giving us a chance to brush up on our heat detection skills.
Land: We depend on land rented via conacre, which is an informal land tenure arrangement. Last year’s Common Agriculture Policy reform created many complications for landlords and tenants but we were fortunate to retain our existing acreage and acquire additional land – including a stubble field allowing us to grow some spring barley and use home-grown straw this winter.
Shows: It is only 16 weeks until our first show so a team has been selected and preparatory work is well underway. Shows are an important marketing tool, with all our bulls sold at home last year – some to repeat customers, which suggests we are doing something right.
At this time of year judging invitations also start arriving and I am looking forward to my first ‘Royal’ judging assignment in June.
Oxford: I managed a few days off work after Christmas and made my annual pilgrimage to the Oxford Farming Conference. This provides the opportunity to take a high-level, long-term view of the industry and network with many industry stakeholders. I took away lots of useful ideas, but particularly liked the quote from fellow Nuffield Scholar Aled Jones, who said: “When farmers see light at the end of the tunnel, some of them order more tunnel.” Perhaps a lesson on positivity for us all.
The Drumcorn Angus herd was established in 1992 and is shown extensively but operated commercially with a focus on production from grass. He also works off-farm as Head of Agricultural Relations at Danske Bank – known as ‘the farmers’ bank’ in Northern Ireland – and is heavily involved in various industry organisations, including AgriSearch and the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society.