County Down beef and sheep producer Sam Chesney was announced the winner of the 2020 Grassland Manager of the Year Award at the Farmers Weekly Awards on Tuesday night.
Ben Wixey, National Agricultural Sales Manager at Germinal who sponsored the award, has high praise for Sam and the other finalists, Sam Carey of North Wales and James Muir of Staffordshire:
“All three farmers demonstrated a real passion for what they do, with high quality grass and homegrown protein at the centre of their businesses. It’s important to recognise this was a very competitive group of finalists with exceptional knowledge and commitment to driving productivity from their land. To put it plainly, they were all brilliant, which made the judges’ job very difficult!
“In the end, Sam Chesney was selected as the winner due to his attention to detail across the entire business, including costs and other figures. He is on a mission to buy in as little protein as possible and only feeds concentrates when there is extra production to be gained from it. He is also trying other strategies to achieve this, such as baling pure red clover crops, outwintering on brassicas and planting multi-species leys of grass, clovers and herbs.
“Sam’s heavy involvement within the industry was also very impressive,” Ben concluded. “Generous with his knowledge, he shares his experience with others and works as part of multiple panels, government bodies and farmer groups to benefit the wider industry.”
Sam runs a rotational, spring-calving suckler to beef system on Coolbrae Farm with 130 Limousin cross cows grazing on 45 ha (111 acres) of grassland, with a further 25ha (62 acres) dedicated to silage. He also finishes 70 Angus-dairy calves for Blade Farming, a fully integrated beef supply chain within ABP. To keep costs low, concentrates are only fed to finishing cattle, with as much energy and protein as possible coming from homegrown forage.
“Our objective is to use as much grass as we can to drive productivity from the land,” Sam explains. “We use a 21-day rotation with each field grazed for around three days and reseed only when the data shows performance is down. We rotate fields from perennial ryegrass to brassicas, followed by a multi-species sward or red clover. In 2020, we grew 14.1 tonnes DM/ha (5.7 tonnes DM/acre) with an average ME of 12.1 MJ/kg DM. Grass utilisation averaged at 92% across all of our land, but our top-performing fields achieved 98%.”