Finishing all animals from a suckler cow herd as 2 year old steers and heifers as well as rearing Friesians from calf to beef as steers, you would think that James and Ger Rochford would never have time to operate a contracting business covering all agricultural activities from slurry and lime spreading to silage making and all tillage operations.
However they have and in recent years have even started to purchase store lambs each Autumn to graze on the farm’s cover crops and finish for the Easter trade. There are a number of crops allotted to the beef enterprise. The land is used for grass, grass silage, barley wholecrop and sugar beet, as well as, barley sown for cereal production.
The pair farm jointly and are employing 1 full time worker and 2 part time workers.
Soil sampling plays a major role in the grass land management and as agents for lime spreading, particular attention is put on the correct ph as well as keeping P & K indices in at least index 3. Once they feel a field is going to drop below this, farmyard manure is spread there in the Autumn and the field receives extra Slurry in the Spring.
The Rochford’s farm to the very best of their ability and are more than willing to move with the times. Annual blood tests are carried out on the entire suckler herd prior to housing for Autumn calving. This ensures that all necessary minerals are fed to cows in their total mixed ration (TMR) which maximises output and also cuts out the use of unnecessary minerals reducing farm costs. They feed a mix of hay, second cut silage and minerals to cows before calving to minimise calving difficulties.
This TMR changes to first cut silage, straw, wholecrop barley, soya and chopped sugar beet after calving. This change is to boost milk supply and allow the cow to stay in an adequate condition to serve for next year’s calving. The Rochfords feel that the cow must be fed very well after calving to ensure she is healthy and fertile enough to hold to the bull. This is achieved by testing each year’s first and second cut silage as well as his wholecrop barley which is then analysed by a nutritionist who formulates his winters TMR.
This is an essential part of him achieving his target of one calf per cow per 365 days. The finishing animals winter ration of sugar beet, first cut silage, straw, soya, ground maize and barley wholecrop is also carefully formulated each year to maximise thrive and reduce the number of days on farm of each animal. Reducing finishing cattle’s age and maximising weight gain is also achieved by the adoption of a leader follower system for his entire farm. Finishing cattle are given first preference to grass followed by the suckler cows to clean out the paddock system in place on the farm
These paddocks are also grazed by sheep for November and December before they move onto forage rape. This is because the Rochfords believe that a light grazing by sheep in that autumn helps thicken the ward and reduce weeds for the following season.
Animal performance is also monitored by constant weighing of animals to ensure that they are in a constant growth stage and never suffer any growth checks or store periods.
Constant awareness and embracing new technologies are the characteristics of top performers of any industry. This typifies the Rochford’s approach. Their never ending strides to reduce labour hours per animal, increase efficiency and animal performance are exemplarily. Hard work, increasing recording, extra analysis and capital expenditure are never seen as obstacles to improvement.
Quite the opposite as both James and Ger feel these are the areas to really focus. It is rare to come across such enthusiasm for the less exciting parts of beef farming such as silage and soil analysis as well as grazing regimes. However they both feel that these areas very much so help to keep them performing to the best of their abilities each year.