By Novella Jennings
A change of breed has transformed performance, lifestyle and profit for Ulster suckler beef farmers Billy O’Kane and his wife Liz, who run a herd of 150 Stabiliser suckler cows near Ballymena. Indeed their outstanding herd performance won this Co Antrim family the prestigious Farmer’s Weekly UK Beef Farmer of the Year award in 2014. A qualified vet, Billy has concentrated his entire efforts on farming for the past ten years. He also runs a flock of 1,000 Romney sheep as a separate enterprise. The herd was originally a mixture of Charolais, Limousin and British Blue cows crossed with a terminal continental sire. The male progeny were finished as bulls at 16 months and the heifers were finished at 20 months. By any standards, the herd performance was excellent with 83 calves weaned per 100 cows, compared to an average of 73 in England and 79 in N Ireland.