Farming in the Felim’s by John Maher

“Three quarters of our farm is mountain type grazing made up of moor grass, heather and an array of wild flowers and scrubs. In these hills, the Slieve Felims, most of these type of ground is left totally ungrazed. Sheep are rare in this area and given current prices and lack of sheep fences it is doubtful they will surge in numbers in the next decade. So if you have this kind of hill the choice is cows or nothing.

This is the story of two farms.
Farm A is my own, I am organic, I keep sixteen cows and I keep their calves to at least stores, all cattle have Droimeann blood and I use my hill.
Farm B is a friend of mine, a conventional farm about the same land, number of cows and cattle but he doesn’t use his hill at all. He keeps his on improved green upland fields and has continental Limosin and Charlois cows.

So is it worth the effort to use the hill which grows less nutritional yet diverse forage?
Given my former life working in Accounts I should be able to work this out!

Price differences between farms equalising stock with approximate costing:

Continental stores v mine, +500 a head price wise for his continentals guesstimate here as his cows are 750kg+ v my 450 kg Droimeann cows.

+ 8000 extra revenue  Farm B

To achieve this extra revenue does involve feeding some meal(6tn), my Droimeanns get none.

2500 extra cost  Farm B

I outwinter all my stock, slurry spreading is and extra cost for the other farm

2000 extra cost Farm B

Given smaller area actually used and size of the continentals on farm B average time indoors is 6 months for cows and 5 months for other cattle, I feed hay outdoors for 3 months to cows and two months for other cattle. Farm B makes and uses 100 extra bales a year.

3000 extra cost Farm B

Vet cost is lower for myself, I put this down to outwintering and I use a Droimeann bull on my cows also. I do not dose or vaccinate except for Blackleg.

500 extra cost Farm B

So my friend takes in 8000 more than me in sales but also has 8000 more in costs.

So no difference in financial outcomes?

There is, when it comes to grants.

Because of my Droimeanns, I can easily fit into the organic farming scheme and have more eligible land to claim on. I look to be doing well on stars too for the new suckler scheme. Acres scheme? not sure yet but my hill has scored well in the Hen Harrier scheme and there is a rare breed grant within the scheme.
This all adds up.
In truth Farmer B is a better at cattle and knows ten times more than I ever will however Droimeanns don’t need much expertise and are incredible performers on any kind of forage.
I could not ask for more.” – article by John Maher


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