In Focus: Clifford Ruddell farms more than 80 hectares of his father’s farm at Kilvergan just outside Lurgan in County Armagh.

He carries a herd of 50 suckler cows and takes the calves through to beef alongside bought in store cattle on the farm. He also grows cereals, vegetables and potatoes. The land is mostly low lying and made up of heavy Lough Neagh clay.  It can grow good crops but can be difficult to manage in wet years like last year.

Fodder reserves were almost exhausted on the farm last year but Ruddell has worked hard to build up an adequate stock of silage and hay for the forthcoming winter. He has done this by paying particular attention to the detail when managing the grass swards. He turned stock out early that left the swards more easily managed and of better quality mid season.

He applies lime, phosphate and potash when necessary, reseeds regularly, and ensiles or bales up excess grass grown. Ruddell seized the opportunity to reseed 45 acres during August this year as weather and ground conditions were almost ideal. A short-term ley mixture containing Italian ryegrass was used on some of this area as it will be cut for silage and will fit in with his rotation on the farm.

Ruddell doesn’t believe in carrying passengers and scans his cows each year to identify and dispose of those which are not in calf. This exercise has already been completed and he has also taken advantage of the recent high cattle prices to sell off stores surplus to requirement.

By John Sands, senior beef  and sheep adviser, College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise 

Pictured Clifford, David and Mark Ruddell with some of their round bales of silage adjacent to a field recently reseeded with an Italian Ryegrass mixture at Kilvergan near Lurgan, County Armagh