Farm Ireland

Sunday 23 October 2016

Adding a tillage dimension

Gordon Peppard

Published 01/07/2015 | 02:30

Ben Sweeney planted Triticale this spring and intends to harvest it for silage for winter feeding
Ben Sweeney planted Triticale this spring and intends to harvest it for silage for winter feeding

Ben Sweeney and his family rear and finish bulls, bullocks and heifers on their farm just outside of Enfield, Co Meath.

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There is also a tillage enterprise on the farm. Triticale was planted this spring, with the intention to whole crop it as silage in the autumn for winter feeding.

Each year Ben rears and finishes approximately 70 Angus/Hereford heifers and 100 Friesian bull calves.

Calves are bought from a few different sources, some purchased locally from a couple of farmers and others purchased through a cattle agent who sources them predominately in the south of the country. There are also 25 spring calving suckler cows and their calves on the farm and another 10 heifers running with an Angus bull to be brought into the herd as replacements.

Ben also buys in 40 continental type bull and heifer weanlings in October to finish.

2015 Calves

This spring 170 calves were reared on the farm. Some calves were reared on a Volac feeder and some with the teat feeders.

The first batch of calves reared on the feeder were 47 Friesian bull calves, these are now weaned and are at grass since the end of May, they are getting 1kg of a 16pc crude protein ration once a day having been on a 18pc ration while indoors.

These calves are on a small area of grass close to the house for ease of management in terms of watching them for sickness, shelter and for feeding. They will be moved regularly to fresh grass. The other 100 calves were reared on teat feeders and have all been weaned within the last fortnight.

A second batch of 21 calves was put on the feeder around the beginning of June, these are mainly Angus heifers, they have access to ad lib straw and calf ration.

Finishing bulls

Forty-seven Friesian bulls were killed out of the shed in the third week of June, these bulls were 18-20 months of age. They have been on an ad lib bull finishing ration plus straw since the end of February.

Their average weight was 310kg at slaughter and 75pc of them killing out as Os. These bulls have consumed 1.8 to 2t of meal over their lifetime.

Yearling bulls

There are 107 Friesian bulls aged 15-18 months currently at grass for the last two months in two separate groups.

The heaviest 35 will be housed in the next week and they will be built up to an ad lib diet plus straw in order to finish them over the next 90 to 100 days.

The remaining 72 animals will be left at grass until early September when they will be housed for finishing with a target date for slaughter before Christmas.

When building up to ad lib meal, feeding management is very important. Ensure a constant supply of fresh clean drinking water, access to a roughage source and introduce concentrates slowly.

It is recommended to build up over a three-week period. Start at 3kgs per day and add 1.5kg meal every three to four days until you reach ad lib.

The table below is a suggested program for build-up to ad lib meal feeding.

Finishing heifers

Ben currently has 43 heifers aged 24-26 months at grass. Some are fit for slaughter and will be slaughtered immediately.

The next best 20 animals will be separated and fed 5kg of meal at grass for the next 60 to 70 days. The remainder will be slaughtered before Christmas.

Finishing bullocks

Up to this week, 24-26 month old bullocks had been at grass since April, they have now been brought back to a small paddock beside the yard.

They will have free access to ad lib meal in the adjoining shed for the next 80 days, and will be slaughtered before they are 30 months old.

Meal will be built up slowly, starting with 2-3 kg and rising to ad lib over three weeks.

Ben is looking closely at this steer finishing system and is strongly considering not castrating any bulls this year and leaving them as bulls until slaughter.

It would help simplify his system as the bullocks are another group of animals to deal with on the farm.

This group is also on the farm for an extra 10 to 12 months versus the bull system.

Indo Farming


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