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Saturday 3 December 2016

A frustrating and tiring calving season

Robin Talbot

Published 02/09/2015 | 02:30

The second cut silage is safely in the pit
The second cut silage is safely in the pit

The calving is continuing apace, with over 60pc of the cows calved in the first 30 days.

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But I'm afraid to say that it hasn't gone as smoothly as we would have hoped.

We have had a few losses and quite a few second calvers needed assistance. Our management has been the same as usual but, for some reason that I am still trying to figure out, this particular age-group are producing larger calves than I would have expected, especially as the bull has a track record as an easy-calver.

From a personal point of view, it has all made for a tiring and frustrating few weeks. And, as there are still plenty of this particular age-group left to calve, I fear we may not be out of the woods yet.

When calving is complete we will have to sit down and review what we did, in terms of matching cow type to breed of sire.

We finally got our winter barley harvested and the straw baled. I have to say we were pleasantly surprised with the yield. It was well worth waiting for, a very respectable 4.5t/ac.

We rolled and treated with Maxammon enough of the barley for our own fodder requirements so we actually had two lorry loads left over to sell, which is a nice bonus.

It takes nearly two days to complete the treatment process and whatever is done the first day needs to be fully sealed with plastic.

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Since we were in the throes of calving, this made it a test of endurance, especially since the first day we had to call the vet to a cow that had prolapsed and the second day we had a cow with milk fever.

But it's grand to have it done now.

The spring barley hasn't been harvested yet which is about two weeks later than normal for this part of the country.

When this job is complete and we see how the crop turns out we will need to ask ourselves the question whether we should be growing less spring barley and more winter barley.

We would normally do some reseeding every year and we had planned to do some again this year. My preference is to do it in the spring but that just didn't work out this year.

So we then planned to reseed some of the stubble ground after the spring barley and plough next spring a field of ley that had a lot of dandelions in it when we recently took the second cut of silage.

But since the spring barley hasn't been harvested yet, I think it might run a bit late for that option so we will probably end up holding off until the spring to do anything on this front.

Our second cut silage is safely in the pit and bulked up quite well.

Harvesting

But I would be a little bit concerned about the quality since we were probably about two weeks late harvesting it. We will know more when we get it tested in a few weeks' time.

A quick look around the yard and I'd be confident that we have ample supplies of both pit and baled silage to see us safely through the winter.

All the grazing land has been blanket-spread with a compound fertiliser in recent weeks and we are building up grass covers nicely for the autumn.

We hope to house the under-16 month bulls this week. We have already started them on the TMR which they will be on when they come indoors. This consists of some straw, silage, barley, molasses, maize meal and a mineral.

It's important that they get fresh feed every day so the amount of TMR that they get has been steadily rising. At the moment, they are up to eating about 60pc of what they will get when they come in. So hopefully there will no check in their progress and they will power ahead.

We have also drafted out our 13-month Angus heifers from the main group. These are last year's calves. These will be finished off grass. We will probably give them a small bit of rolled barley later on but they definitely won't be put into the shed.

Some will finish at very light weights and couldn't carry the expense of being finished indoors. I expect the last of them will be gone by early November.

It's hard to believe the Ploughing is already looming on the horizon. Hopefully things will have quietened down by then and I will get to spend a day or two there.

Robin Talbot farms in partnership with his mother Pam and wife Ann farm in Ballacolla, Co Laois

rtalbot@ independent.ie

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