Clive Bright practices a style of animal husbandry called mob grazing on his 120-acre certified organic farm in Ballymote, Co Sligo.
This is a specific system, involving moving all the animals on a daily basis, from paddock to paddock.
He gets great grass growth — even in Spring — and has animals in excellent condition.
This week, we’ll look at some of the other talking points with the system, especially his weaning and culling policy, avoiding meal concentrates in a mob grazing system and also what he does with his final product.
Tell me about your weaning and culling policies, Clive.
The cattle are weaned in the field. I pick the day and the field for weaning.
As they enter the field, with a temporary wire, I divide the cows and calves.
They are quiet, because they are always nicely full due to the paddock system, so it’s hassle-free weaning.
You don’t hear any lowing (ie noises of distress). And I have fewer cattle management issues.
I use short-term electric fencing, which then moves them and with the same separation, for three days.
Then on the fourth day, I introduce two paddocks of separation, then increase this, and then they were all weaned. This is called fence line weaning.
The cows can see the calves, they just can’t suck. Milk is drying off at this stage anyway, they are only sucking out of habit. You are just breaking this habit.
I follow Kit Pharo’s breeding policy regarding culling — and he finishes on poor land.
It so simple. Anything that depends on nuts gets culled. If she needs assistance calving or weaning, then she’s gone. Both are gone, it makes life easier.
It’s ruthless, but it means I’m left with a herd that can look after itself.
Don’t breed error into your herd. I’ve lower, stockier animals — no leggy cows — here.
The vet said it was a lucky streak. He was visiting on a courtesy call — I don’t call him out typically. This all feeds back into my goal of having a stress-free type of farming.
You minimise the feeding of meal as much as possible. Why?
Well, because cattle and sheep are designed to eat grass!
Grain — though high in protein — requires different gut flora to process in the animal.
Grain drops the pH in the rumen more to human levels. Intense grain feeding raises pH and can damage the liver.
If you fed a high-input continental beyond normal slaughter date, I reckon it would be dead from liver failure within a few years anyway.
What is your approach to sales?
Up until two to three years ago, with 35 cows, I was selling weanlings and stores.
I’ve cut back to 20 to 25 now, and plan to finish as much as I can.
Last year I sold one animal entirely, did a deal with a local butcher and sold it through his shop.
With the influx into organic beef in Ireland, I need to get what I consider to be a superior product into the hands of specific people.
It’s harder work than selling to the factory, but there is demand, which I found even just via facebook — I mostly sold an animal in its entirety via facebook posts.
To direct sell 20 animals is almost a full time job, but then you also have full control.
The local butcher also has a customer base to begin with, and he’ll pay better than the factory.
In order of preference I’ll go direct sales, local butcher, then factory.
An artist, a pioneering producer, and assured character, in Clive Bright, the people of the north west certainly have access to meat that’s a cut above.
For more information, search for “rare ruminare” on facebook or ring Clive Bright on 087 6418104.
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