John Pringle

Improving the Basics – Reaping Major Rewards

This Month we take a look at the farm of John Pringle from Aughrim Co. Wicklow.

Over the past number of years John’s business has been through a major transformation. He began by setting out his farm’s Key Performance Indicators in conjunction with his Teagasc advisor. These were identified as stocking rate per hectare, kgs. of beef produced per hectare and kgs. of grass utilised per hectare.

In the past 5 years he has made consistent improvements to his farm’s KPIs. He has put himself in a position where he is farming twice the number of cows without increasing the grassland area. He is now stocked at 2.4 livestock units per hectare.  He has also dramatically increased his kgs. of beef produced per hectare from 316kgs per hectare to 350kgs per hectare. This is a figure he is very proud of as it has been done in conjunction with expanding the cow herd and maintaining the ewe flock at its previous size. These two KPI improvements have been achieved principally by improving his grassland utilisation.  Set stocking cattle for the summer and autumn months has been replaced by the setting up of 34 permanent paddocks, as well as, further subdivision when required. The 48 hour paddock moves and the ability to fertilise grassland and harvest silage at the optimum time has enabled him improve his KPIs dramatically.

“The principles of the entire plan are based around identifying the long term goals and then finding the main ways of achieving these goals.”

John decided that along with his major KPI changes he would also improve the farm by using newer technologies. These included the electronic tagging of all cows and calves and the weighing of all animals. Calves are weighed at 6 months old and all animals are weighed pre housing. This is allowing John to establish what areas of the herd are performing to optimum levels and where improvements can be made into the future.

John is running a closed herd and because of this, recording of family lines will become more beneficial as time goes on and recorded information increases. For example he has already found the lines that are capable of best performing after a two year old calving and is selecting replacements on his findings. He has also been testing soil and silage samples for mineral deficiencies.  This has enabled him to make important changes to his bolusing and mineral supplementation regime. Faecal Egg Counting has also become a major part of his farming enterprise allowing him to reduce anthelmintic usage and increase thrive.

In recent years to increase shelter for young animals in exposed fields, John has decided to sow and lay 1200 metres of hedging. As well as this John decided to incorporate clovers heavily into his grazing pastures. He also decided to include chicory into his grazing platform to help increase home grown protein from forage and reduce anthelmintic requirements on his farm.   Furthermore, John has embraced blood sampling and found it a major benefit when mineral supplementation was needed to reduce lameness in the herd.

All the changes that John has carried out have made a very real difference to his farming enterprise. The principles of the entire plan are based around identifying the long term goals and then finding the main ways of achieving these goals.