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Farmer Focus: Olivia Hynes’ mixed grazing system in Roscommon

Farmer Focus: Olivia Hynes’ mixed grazing system in Roscommon

On a recent episode of OviCast Roscommon beef and sheep farmer, Olivia Hynes, gave an overview of her system, discussed breeding and the use of AI in her suckler herd, lamb performance this spring and some of the challenges it has posed.

With about 40 acres at her home farm and an additional 120 - 130 acres at an outlying farm.

Lambing and Calving Strategy

Olivia's lambing season starts in January, prioritizing a swift and intensive three-week period to manage the process efficiently. She emphasizes the importance of having the ewes in good condition and using enough rams to ensure a successful lambing season. This strategy allows her to focus on calving afterward, starting in February. By completing lambing first, Olivia can concentrate on calving, reducing the overlap of labor-intensive tasks. The cows, which calve at the home farm, stay there for six to eight weeks post-calving.

Grazing and Grass Management

Grass management crucial, Olivia employs a mixed grazing system, rotating sheep and cattle between different fields to maximize grass use and maintain soil health. Olivia's grazing infrastructure includes paddock systems that enable her to manage grass efficiently throughout the year. The paddocks, ranging from one to seven acres, are strategically split and equipped with water troughs to facilitate effective grazing rotations.

Breeding and Artificial Insemination

Olivia has shifted to 100% artificial insemination (AI) for breeding, using Belgian Blue, Charolais, Limousin, and Simmental sires. This change allows her to select for specific traits such as good milk production and desirable calf conformation. AI requires diligent heat detection, with Olivia recording cows' heat cycles both in the shed and out at pasture. Her brother assists with the AI process, ensuring precise timing.

Infrastructure and Investment

Investing in farm infrastructure has been a priority for Olivia. She has implemented a paddock system that not only improves grass growth and utilization but also reduces the need for supplementary feeding. This system has proven beneficial, especially in challenging springs when grass growth is delayed. Olivia has also installed water systems and fencing to support the paddock setup, allowing for flexible livestock movement.

Challenges

The past spring presented significant challenges due to adverse weather conditions, which affected grass availability and lamb growth rates. Despite these setbacks, Olivia's approach in feeding silage and managing grazing rotations helped mitigate the impact. She plans to continue enhancing her farm's resilience by focusing on grass growth and efficient use of available resources.

Future

Olivia remains committed to improving her farm's sustainability. She highlights the importance of making the farming system work for her specific situation, adapting strategies as needed to address labor challenges. Her participation in programs like the Future Beef Program highlights her dedication to continuous improvement.

Listen to the podcast

For more episodes from the OviCast podcast, visit the show page