The Law and The Land are Yours
Tuesday, 09 November 2010 17:06

Brian Walker, a prominent Portadown solicitor specialising in agricultural affairs, proved a thought provoking speaker for a thronged British Blue Breeders meeting in Moira.


“THE law of the land exists to protect the rights of ordinary citizens, including farmers, not to benefit our numerous bureaucrats” Brian Walker, told Blue Breeders and their guests.

“I urge you to use the law to protect your family asset, the land you and yours have and will farm for generations. Making use of professionals, be they lawyers, accountants or valuers with specialist knowledge of rural affairs you can protect your farm from damage by bureaucrats and unnecessary tax!” However, it is the law of economics, which Brian believes will finally generate action on the TB front as regards removing this disease from the badger population.

Solicitor Brian Walker was the guest speaker at this months Northern Ireland Blue Cattle Club Meeting in Moira. Sharing the top table is Robert Johnston, Club Chairman.

“The sheer shortage of funding will finally force a reality check in Defra and the agricultural departments of the three devolved administrations, including DARD. Already senior government vets admit that badgers are part of the reason why, unlike most western nations, we have been unable to control, never mind eradicate this costly killer disease. Government Officials now confirm the question is not whether badgers carry the disease, but the extent to which they do.

“Economic reality, not the lobby groups, will at long last remove TB from the countryside saving money, farm businesses and cattle, a move vitally important for human health.”

For the farm family facing a TB disaster Brian, well known nationally as UK legal advisor to the National Beef Association, had very practical suggestions. “When reactors are found get that camera out and take lots of pictures of the individual animals, isolate them as requested and provide DARD officials with photocopies of paperwork such as mart receipts, pedigree certificates and records of genetic progress.

“Remember the folks from DARD are usually friendly decent people, but they are there to do their job on behalf of the Government.

“Compensation will never, ever cover your true losses, especially if a herd is wiped out. There is sometimes no limit to compensation payable per animal and you are entitled to the true value of the animal as if sold at a dispersal sale.

“Be very careful and realise the dangers of quoting the price gained by ‘an equivalent animal’ at a reduction rather than a dispersal sale!

Visitors to Moira for the recent Northern Ireland Blue Cattle Club Meeting.

“Legislation covering some animals taken by DARD says the owner should get the open market value with no limit shown in law. Talk of a £4000 per animal ceiling is just barrack room lawyer chat from around the mart. “Get you ducks in a row and be prepared to put your case politely and logically to DARD and, if need be, to the appeals tribunal.

“Never, ever attend for ‘a wee interview’ in DARD premises without a solicitor present specialising in these affairs. Many farmers have gone along to find their interviews being tape recorded as seen on TV police series.

“Those tapes can be used for criminal prosecution by DARD so do not think that wee chat is just between you and your friendly local ‘ministry man.’ You could be walking into a huge court case, even a criminal rather than a civil action, under TB, Brucellosis, environmental or other legislation.”

As regards Brucellosis outbreaks Brian Walker suggests DARD is strong on churning out PR, but not on providing scientific facts.

“How can the disease be eradicated in the Irish Republic, but not here and why does the problem become worse every time legislation here is changed in a vain attempt to save money in the short term? This suggests the lack of progress is due to poor government rather than any idea that farmers in Ulster are poorer at livestock husbandry than their peers in the Republic.

“Farmers must understand some key facts. There is not and has never been a conclusive, accurate test for Brucellosis other than by post mortem of suspects. The blood test for Brucellosis is only an indicator of the disease. Live blood tests can give wrong results.

Solicitor Brian Walker, second from left, was the guest speaker at this months Northern Ireland Blue Cattle Club Meeting in Moira and he is pictured here with, from left: Harold McKee, Club Secretary and Gladys, Henry and Natalie Hodgen, Clare, Tandragee.

“Right across these islands Brucellosis has been controlled other than in this tiny province. DARD failure to do so here is a disgrace and a huge threat to human health, not least for farmers, vets and their families. Vets tell me it is almost impossible to handle cattle with Brucellosis safely as just one splash of fluid may give you a disease that may not be cured and may damage key body organs such as the heart.

“When, one wonders, will DARD and our devolved administration deal conclusively with this deadly danger?” 


AS a breeder of pedigree Limousin and Shorthorn cattle on his family farm Co Armagh solicitor Brian Walker was well placed to give practical advice to British Blue breeders.

“As you look forward to your annual autumn export status sale in Moira Arena on Sat, Oct 23 pay attention to every detail of paperwork. Be polite with DARD staff, who often are trying hard to understand confusing paperwork, but do call a spade a spade.

“At home think ahead when TB testing looms and do not, ever, inject an animal on the same side as the reading is taken because some animal health products, however good, leave a small lump. The very last thing you need around the site of a TB reading!

“Remember if a vet was to carry out a TB test according to the EU rule book he would take several minutes with even a quiet Holstein dairy cow. Thus the practical vet may find a compromise between what is possible and what is ideal or theoretical. Therefore do not risk injecting anywhere near TB injecting and clipping sites, ideally inject on the other side of the neck.

“On your own farm ask all DARD staff to maintain full bio security when they visit and keep records, on the day every day, of stock movements and animal health actions.

“The NI Assembly has just pushed into law a new Diseases of Animal Act, which allows DARD to enforce new standards with huge implications for any farm business.

“Wearing the same clothes to the mart as on your farm can now lead to reduced compensation in cases of disease outbreak. Failure to meet the standards laid down such as double fencing and changes of clothing puts large amounts of money at risk.

Visitors to Moira for the Northern Ireland Blue Cattle Club Meeting included from left: Jason Edgar, Downpatrick; Jim Sloan, Kilkeel; Ivan Gordon, Kilkeel, Vice Chairman of club and Richard Cleland, Downpatrick.

“Fail to meet bio security standards when an inspector calls, even if he called on some other matter, and you may be in big trouble. For example, during a test the inspector you have known for years is required to check the percentage of cattle without ear tags and the standard of record keeping. “So if you want Single Farm Payments kept safe and compensation secured keep the farm records as required and be aware of new rules and regulations oozing out of Stormont.”


FARMING families must sit down and discuss plans for passing on their land and update wills every five years if much hurt and high inheritance tax bills are to be avoided Brian Walker says.

“ Tax officials are out to raise revenue so you must plan to pass property on without giving your family problems. With every will, do give enduring power of attorney to responsible family members to act should your mental health fail as diagnosed by your GP.

“Far cheaper to do it with your will than to have your family pay thousands of pounds for a court action when a parent can no longer make their own decisions.

“Naturally I want farmers to use lawyers with specialist knowledge, but also urge you to use accountants and valuers, who are fully qualified and experienced in rural affairs. People, who can appear on your behalf before tribunals and courts to really make a case as expert witnesses.

“Turning to inheritance tax and issues such as conacre land and nursing home care for the elderly please do not panic.

“Using local professionals who know their subject and know you most problems can be avoided at a fraction of the cost likely if matters are let drift. “As ever, record keeping and planning ahead yields dividends, not least when it comes to conacre land and inheritance tax. Show HMRC that you are paying for fencing, cleaning sheughs, hedge cutting, water and public liability cover.

Alex McKinstry, Hillhall; Raymond Boyes, Broomhedge, Moira and Bert Cooper, Rural Support, Lisburn enjoying the speaker at the Northern Ireland Blue Cattle Club Meeting.

“To avoid social services taking a family home to pay for nursing home fees ensure the property is in join names or tenants in common. Again action, even months before full time care is needed, can save huge sums.”


EVEN an errant wife perceived by some as the ‘guilty party’ is entitled to a share of the farm business, as the law does no longer apportions blame for a marital break up British Blue cattle breeders were told.

Brian Walker adding that those married for a long number of years might expect 50% of the farm and more recent wives around a third. Getting a current value at divorce plus records of input to the business was vital. “For example, land with development value three years ago of £1 million an acre is now, typically, worth £80,000 per acre.

“As regards spouses ‘leaving the house to herself her day’ is no longer possible unless by mutual agreement. The law states that the surviving spouse is entitled to reasonable provision.

“The old idea of the farm to the son, but daughters left with little is from another age. At many deathbeds elderly fathers have realised that the one, who cared for them in their final months has not been properly taken care of in the will.

“Hence the need for family members to sit down and discuss their future plans and the future of the farm. Action, which can avoid those horrendous family fallouts after a will is read!

Blue Bus Outing
Monday, 19 July 2010 16:51

All with an interest in first-rate livestock farming are welcome aboard the NI Blue Cattle Breeders Club coach run to two leading Leinster farms on Sat, July 31.

Saunder’s Grove Farm, pictured, near Baltinglass, Co Wicklow has been home to the Kelly family since Eamon and Peggy move from their home farm at Claudy, Co Londonderry 16 years ago.

Saunder’s Grove Farm

Now farming with their son John the Kellys keep 300 sheep and 70 suckler cows, mainly three quarters bred Limousins run with Belgian Blue bulls to produce stock ideal for the Italian export trade. A farm where nothing is left out according to NI Blue Club chairman Robert Johnston. “This is a very successful operation where quality stock, great grassland management, winter housing and animal welfare are always top priority.”

In contrast to the autumn calving sucklers at Eamon Kelly’s the second farm on the Blue Club outing owned by Irish Farmers’ Association out spoken deputy president Derek Deane at Hacketstown, Co Carlow runs 120 spring calving sucklers. No doubt Derek will also be able to supply the Ulster visitors with some lively debate on the future of farming and food marketing!

For tickets and details of collections points on an away day to remember phone Robert Johnston 078154 95868 or Harold McKee tel; 07711483078. Early booking is most strongly advised.

Embise Excellence Impresses
Monday, 19 July 2010 16:49

Belgian agriculture is dominated by family farms where hard work and high standards of stockmanship are the norm as Rodney Magowan found on a visit to this small nation at the heart of European culture and commerce.

Farming on the southern fringes of the Flemish Ardennes Christian Leleux has devoted a lifetime to building up the Embise Belgian Blue Herd, which has produced numerous award winners at home and abroad.

Christian Leleux, flanked by son Laurent, left, and Belgian Blue Cattle Society CEO Pierre Mallieu, right, explains why the ultimate beef terminal sire so dominates livestock farming in Belgium. Visiting agricultural journalists also heard that some Belgian breeders were using British Blue genetics as a means of increasing size and making calving easier.

On leaving Ath Agricultural College Christain worked as an agricultural mechanic until 1976 when he acquired a 25ha farm and stocked it with 60 Belgian Blues.

His new wife Claire devoting her considerable energies to running a Holstein dairy herd and continuing a career off farm!

Over thirty years later they farm 80 ha with the Embise Pedigree Belgian Blue Herd now their primary enterprise though Claire still runs a dairy herd. Their son Laurent, who is equally enthusiastic about Blues, completed an agronomy course at Ath and came home to the family farm in 2003. Currently the family have 35ha under grass, 15ha wheat, 15ha maize silage, four ha hay, five ha sugar beet and another six ha in potatoes. A 70 strong Holstein dairy herd keeps the cash flowing and provides receptors for Belgian Blue embryos.

In all 210 Belgian Blue cattle are kept, both pedigree and commercial, including 50 bulls deemed not suitable for breeding that are finished entire for beef. Aside from continued investment in quality stock the Leleuxs have invested in an impressive array of stock housing. This includes an airy shed for 100 Belgian Blue cattle in easily managed pens opening out onto grazing with a quarter loft for hay and straw down each side of the shed.

Apart from being natural stockmen father and son, Christian and Laurent, make excellent use of data supplied by the Belgian Blue Herd Book, Only first category bulls are used with size, conformation, meat yield and sound legs high priority traits.

“We also take into account working with the breed society traits such as gestation length, birth weight, suckling ability, vitality, mortality and mouth quality,” Laurent explained.

More than a dozen AI stations across the Kingdom of Belgium have acquired Embise bulls, which are also popular with leading breeders in both the Netherlands and France.

Of the many championships won at shows such as Libramont, Tournai and Brussels the family were delighted to emphasis successes by Embise bred stock at the Royal Show, Stoneleigh and in the American National Belgian Blue Show at Madison.

However, with many of their markets now seeking the British Blue larger framed animal with easy calving traits breeders generally in Belgium are looking towards the UK for genetics. Adapting to meet the needs of different markets has long been at the heart of Belgian success in business be it producing beer, boots or bulls!

Take a Farm Walk to More Money
Monday, 19 July 2010 16:42

The Green Glens of Antrim are calling all suckler herd owners next Thursday, July 1 to view a farm where plans are in place to double gross margin per cow.

A farm, reports Rodney Magowan, where results from AgriSearch supported research are being successfully applied to a 100 cow suckler herd. The outcome is to raise margins from each cow just as CAP reforms in Brussels seem set to reduce brown envelope income.

AgriSearch beef committee chairman Harry Sinclair looking forward to the ‘Building an Efficient Suckler Herd’ event at Glenwherry Hill Farm on Thurs, July 1. The 100 cow suckler herd at Glenwherry is based on a three way cross of Shorthorn, Limousin and Aberdeen Angus. Starting at 2pm with a 6pm final tour this is an event no lowland or upland farmer running sucklers should miss.

AgriSearch, in co-operation with CAFRE are running an open day at the Greenmount hill farm in Glenwherry from 2pm with the last tour at 6pm. Located off the Ballymena to Larne line the farm has been building a more efficient suckler herd by applying lessons learned in AFBI research projects selected for support by AgriSearch.

Event organiser Dr Stephen Johnston of CAFRE sees this next few years as a window of opportunity for those keeping sucklers for a living.

Farmers are now free from having to keep high livestock numbers to maximise income from EU support mechanisms. Instead payment is based on the farm business’s past history, area and Good Agriculture Practice including caring for the environment.

“Over the next three years, before further CAP reforms cut support for UK farmers, those aiming to maintain suckler herds need to become more efficient. That really means improving the type of cow kept to reduce labour and feed costs”. Thus at Greenmount they are moving to the size and type of cow best suited to the harsh conditions on the hill unit at Glenwherry. “In short, the focus has shifted from calf to cow with a cross breeding program based on three breeds, Shorthorn, Aberdeen Angus and Limousin. Though whatever the breeds used the task is the same. To select bulls and cows carrying maternal traits including easy calving, fertility and the ability to convert poor quality forage into calf weight.

“Touring the farm at Glenwherry farmers will be asked ‘do they keep cows or do cows keep them?’ CAFRE and AFBI staff will show how letting that fancy looking cow run on not in calf for an extra few months never ever makes sense.

“Just as with ewes it is the number of offspring sold that impacts most on income. The cow that produces five fancy calves in six years is never going to catch up with the cow that produces a good calf every year for six years. Poor fertility is a huge cost, one that simply cannot be tolerated any longer in the Suckler herd. Find out your herd’s fertility record by visiting the CAFRE stand.

“Using new technologies the herd at Glenwherry has made tremendous strides with gross margin per cow on track to rise from £200 to £400 a cow. The message is simple; moving with the times makes you more money. “Farmers planning to stay in farming should plan to attend and go home with plans to grow their gross margin per cow. How else can net margins per farm be protected once the EU farm budget slims down and is spread more equally over all 27 nations? Net margins being the money left over after all actual costs to give you and your family a 21st century lifestyle.”

 Over 900 at Super Suckler Farm Walk

 900 farmers flocked to the AgriSearch suckler cow ‘walk and talk, look and learn’ event at Greenmount Hill Farm in Glenwherry, Co Antrim last Thursday. An opportunity to see how the findings of AgriSearch funded trials put to practical use on the 100 cow suckler herd are potentially doubling gross margins.

Event organiser Dr Steven Johnston said the day was ‘very successful with farmers taking home a positive message.’

“There is no doubt applying new technologies to suckler herd management improves efficiency and hence farm income. With EU CAP reform less than three years away the need to make suckler herds more efficient is obvious and urgent.

“Today 80% of income on many suckler units comes from Single Farm Payments and agri environmental schemes. That may well not be the case once CAP reform is complete so now is the time to seize the chance to prepare for this by becoming more efficient.”

Tyrella, Co Down suckler herd owner Edward Carson certainly found the event thought provoking. “ On a lowland unit one might not use the exact same three breeds, for example, in crossing to produce the ideal cow, but the lessons from AgriSearch supported trials clearly work.

“To make profit the aim must be to produce a good calf every year for five or six years from a cow, not three or four eye catching calves from a costly cow that is left roaming about empty for far too many months.”

AgriSearch chairman and Sperrins hill farmer Harry Sinclair was equally upbeat about the opportunities for extra income local R & D had uncovered. “Running a suckler herd like many things in life means striking a balance, for example between having stock that are easy calving yet are also producing good DLWG figures. The way in which the Greenmount suckler herd is run with the emphasis on breeding the cow type that suits the farm is impressive.

“We all headed home from this event with ideas on how to make our suckler herds more efficient by applying lessons learned in good practical research and shown to work on the commercial herd at Glenwherry.” For further information visit website

Return on Research Spend Vital
Monday, 19 July 2010 16:23

Research must show a real return on investment to those who fund it by benefiting our agricultural industry and ailing economy AgriSearch chairman James Campbell told a Hillsborough seminar for dairy specialists. 

AgriSearch chairman James Campbell, second left, at the successful seminar on ‘Dairy Genetics and Heifer Management’ with AFBI staff, from left, Dr Francis Lively, Andrew Brown heifer rearing unit manager, and Dr Andrew Dale.

“Having allocated funds for research projects on behalf of the region’s farming industry AgriSearch wants farmers to see clearly and quickly the results of these practical projects, “ James explained.

“Unless farmers adopt the results of good research not only will our primary industry become less competitive, but the role of research will be diminished. By holding seminars for specialists AgriSearch aims to ensure farm businesses have easy access to R & D that can add to their income and a give real return on their investment in research.”

AgriSearch, the Northern Ireland Research and Development Council, uses funds raised from a levy collected at milk processors and meat plants to help fund research of practical benefit to farmers that will reduce costs, enhance performance, drive innovation and improve welfare.

Selecting Breeding Goals

 Selecting for yield alone has a negative impact on herd health and fertility traits such as udder health and reproductive performance. Hence the drive by researchers across the UK and ROI to develop broader breeding goals that help farmers select stock, which can maximise herd margins.

The Prof is back! When Prof Fred Gordon, left, returned to Hillsborough Park for the AgriSearch seminar he had a warm welcome from staff, including, from left, Mike Davis, dairy unit manager, Bernard Lagan and Brian Hunter.

At the AgriSearch seminar an update on this project linking, AFBI, the SAC at Edinburgh and DairyCo in Warwickshire provoked a useful discussion. The role of the PLI, Profitable Life Index, was explained with its advantages of including a range of fitness traits, as well as production traits in an index, which reflects the profitability differences of progeny over their lifetime rather than just per lactation.

A much more practical approach, not least when concerns are mounting about the lack of longevity in some dairy stock. The PLI figure also takes into account factors such as the incidence of lameness and mastitis plus the fertility. The research programme led by AFBI highlighted the importance of producers in Ulster putting increased emphasis on fertility traits. Looking ahead it is likely that further traits will be included in PLI, for example ability to produce a better beef carcass.

At the same time BovIS, the Bovine Information System, is being developed as a genetics/management database for the NI dairy industry. Work being undertaken by AFBI, CAFRFE, the LMC and DARD in co-operation across the British Isles with the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation and the SAC. Dr Alistair Carson of AFBI Hillsborough told the AgriSearch seminar that he foresees BovIS playing a key role in utilising data from APHIS to offer farmers important management information.

Crossbreeding Suits Some

Crossbreeding using Jerseys does not suit every milk producer and is certainly not an answer to poor management Dr Conrad Ferris, AFBI, Hillsborough told the packed AgriSearch dairy seminar.

Speakers looking to the future of the Ulster dairy industry at the AgriSearch seminar included Dr Conrad Ferris, left, and Dr Alistair Carson.

However, research at Hillsborough and a trial on 11 Northern Ireland dairy farms shows that a well planed and well managed crossbreeding programme can produce robust cows with easier calving, fewer health problems such as mastitis and better fertility.

Dr Ferris noting that although milk yield is likely to be reduced with Jersey crossbred cows they produce milk with a higher fat and protein content so the total fat plus protein yield was unaffected. Though obviously Jersey crosses left farmers with lower value cull cows and bull calves to sell

Dr Ferris agreed crossbreeding has a lot to offer on some farms and is popular in leading agricultural nations such as New Zealand.

“But it must remembered that hybrid vigour is a useful bonus for only one generation. True genetic improvement takes place when the top AI sires for the most economically important traits are used within a breed.

“As part of a longterm strategy cross breeding Holsteins with another breed such as the Jersey can play a part in boosting milk margins on some local farms. Yet I must emphasise this is not a step to be taken lightly as these changes will impact on your business for many years to come.

“Those taking this step must have a clear plan in place as regards suitable herd management and their next step in breeding with the daughters of these crossbred cows. Will they be mated back to one of the two parent breeds? A process that can be repeated for several generations to protect two thirds of hybrid vigour gains.

“Three breed rotational crossing is another option, which can retain 86% of gains from hybrid vigour and, indeed, a fourth breed could also be used. More recently semen from progeny tested crossbreed Holstein Jersey F1 sires has become available.” For further details of this research project visit or contact your farm advisor. 

Lack of Time Slows Change!

Asked why they did not take on board and adopt new ideas Ulster dairy farmers say they face one major barrier, lack of time.

John Ward, stockman at AFBI, Hillsborough at the AgriSearch seminar on dairy heifers with Greenmount College lecturers Stephanie Woods, left, and Claire Wallace. The role of opinion formers such as lecturers and advisors in moving information from formal research papers to on farm use is seen as critical in maximising returns from Ulster’s major industry.

74% of milk producers surveyed by AFBI and CAFRE said sheer lack of time was the main constraint as they battle with increasing levels of DARD and EU red tape in an era of falling levels of return on capital invested.

Another 16.3% of farmers revealed they did not use new practices being quite happy as they are!

Press articles were found to be the major source of new information for dairy farmers with 97.1% reading weekly and monthly farming titles.

By comparison in the past year one in five had not attended farmer meetings and over half had not been to a focus farm. Discussion groups were more popular with 55.2% attending these at least once a year. As regards events evening meetings were the most popular followed by agricultural shows and then farm walks. Only a minority of producers questioned attended farm walks, open days or seminars.

Over 90% of farmers surveyed looked to their local farm advisor and vet as sources of advice on new ideas. Though when it came to technical advice the favoured source varied. For specific products such as milk replacers and choice of sires the views of sales reps were rated higher than those of government farm advisors.

In all areas a significant proportion of producers preferred to have direct contact with researchers for their information.

Young Stock Your Farming Future

Having your heifers calving down at the correct weight for age is critical to future herd performance yet almost two thirds of Northern Ireland milk producers under estimate weights.

Hardly surprising given that few posses a weight bridge and most rarely visit marts so do not gain experience of estimating weights in the way that a beef or lamb producer does.

A key finding from a survey on dairy young stock discussed at the AgriSearch seminar hosted by AFBI Hillsborough. Thus the commonplace delay in breeding dairy heifers until well over 16 months of age was partly due to farmers’ under prediction of heifer liveweight. Many farmers not realising just how good a job they are doing rearing their heifers!

Dr Steven Morrison of AFBI commenting that replacements on Ulster dairy units were generally reared at growth rates, which enabled adequate weights to be reach for calving at 24 months old.

“Monitoring heifer weight for age is the key to success and using a weighbridge or the AFBI weight band developed with AgriSearch is recommended. This will ensure heifers are served early at the optimum age and weight to calve at 24 months weighting 540 to 580kg.

“Making greater use of the PLI breeding index as the main sire selection criteria is also strongly recommended. Generally our survey found that dairy producers make a good job of rearing heifers, but there is considerable room for extra efficiency. The number of grazing days between weaning and calving can be increased and concentrate feeding used more strategically.”

As regards heifers joining the milking herd research has show the benefits of grouping heifers in pairs prior to joining the milking herd, parlour training and introducing the new faces after an evening milking.

Keys to Calf Rearing Success

Good husbandry, not state of the art housing and equipment lies at the heart of successful heifer calf rearing in a province where mortality averages 6.5% yet varies from zero to 26%!

The view of AFBI and CAFRE staff at the AgriSearch seminar on dairy genetics and heifer management.

Yet again the long know link between lack of colostrum and heavy losses was clear in a survey of heifer calf rearing conducted by AFBI and CAFRI staff.

Most local farmers rear calves in old houses using a traditional twice a day bucket system with well managed units producing good results. But at a high cost as regards labour, hence the move towards once a day feeding, early weaning and group feeding as a low cost way to reduce the work load.

However, whatever the system basic good husbandry is the real key to success. Data from the research herd at AFBI Hillsborough showed the longterm effect of calf scour or pneumonia on heifer growth and subsequent milk production. No long-term performance benefit was found at Hillsborough when more than a bag of milk replacer per calf was fed.

AFBI researchers also urge farmers to wean calves at six to eight weeks once concentrate intake is sufficient, thus saving time and money. For larger farms computer controlled automatic calf feeders are proving a boon in saving labour and leaving the rearer more time to actually observe stock and nip problems in the bud.

However, the Hillsborough team are adamant that using high technology is not a replacement for good husbandry; it a tool to be used by a good heifer calf rearers.

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