Farm Ireland

Thursday 8 December 2016

Beef: Benjy could be on his last legs but he's been a stalwart performer

Robin Talbot

Published 22/06/2016 | 02:30

John McCarthy from Ballyroe with his children Roisin and Diarmuid at the Teagasc farm walk on Quality Milk Award winner Kiernan O'Sullivan's farm in Goleen, Co. Cork.
John McCarthy from Ballyroe with his children Roisin and Diarmuid at the Teagasc farm walk on Quality Milk Award winner Kiernan O'Sullivan's farm in Goleen, Co. Cork.

It has long been our practice that, after mowing, we ted it out and leave to wilt for at least 24 hours. But, such was the strength of the sunshine that we started to pick it up the morning after it was cut and it was all in the pit and covered within the 24 hours.

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Thankfully there has been no effluent and we would be surprised if it doesn't make top-quality feed.

Walking the silage fields in early May, we thought that yield was going to be very poor.

But after the subsequent phenomenal burst of growth, the yield was actually on a par with any year.

Most of the ground that we took the first-cut off has been fertilised again for second cut, as have a few additional fields that have been grazed.

As was the case with most farmers this spring, we used up all our reserves of feed and we are extremely conscious of rebuilding those reserves.

I am always of the opinion that we didn't make enough in the first place if we haven't a little bit of silage left in the pit at the end of the winter.

Last week, we re-seeded a field that had been sprayed off.

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With all the rain that had fallen, we couldn't get the soil dry enough to roll it off after sowing. At this stage, it looks like we'll have to roll it post-emergence.

All the bull calves have been weaned by now.

The grass that we let them out onto after weaning was a little bit stemmier than I would have liked but they just needed to be weaned as they were starting to get unsettled and starting to follow some of the cows, even though they were in calf.

But, after the recent break in the weather, the rain has brought on a lot of fresh grass.

So, as soon as we have enough of a cover of nice fresh grass, we will turn them into those paddocks and hopefully keep top-quality grass in front of them right through to September 1, at which time we will put them into the shed to finish them under 16 months.

When all the calves are weaned, we will sort the cows into groups by calving date.

This takes a bit of time but it is well worth doing a good way out from calving because it means that cows can be fed according to their calving date.

One of our bulls has developed foot rot. He has had his foot dressed but he is so big at this stage that it's pretty difficult to get him into the crate.

I think we will be doing well to get another season out of him. The only hopeful sign is that it's a front foot that is affected.

We would be sad to see him go. He is a 9-year-old Belgian Blue that we call Benjy and he has been extremely lucky for us. He has always been fertile and active. Looking up the ICBF bull tracker report recently, there are 297 calves registered to him, all top quality. Almost one-third were exported. The remainder, both bulls and heifers, were slaughtered at an average age of 20 months, at an average carcass weight of 370kg and the average grade was U=3=.

On top of all that, he is easy calving. He will take a bit of replacing.

We are hoping for a window of opportunity in the weather to cut our hay.

I am a strong believer that feeding hay pre-calving to autumn-calving suckler cows is one of the key components to a successful calving season.

It's usually not that difficult to make hay for autumn calvers because some of the bales can actually be used straight out of the field.

It's not like its going into the shed to be stored for the spring, when it needs to be perfectly saved.

Last year, there was one piece of hay that we baled which, the following day, I became concerned it was heating a bit more than I would like.

So we wrapped it with the minimum amount of wrap and the bales were all used within a month. It stabilised and made absolutely beautiful feed.

The last of our beef heifers have been slaughtered. We also sent a few fat cows to the factory.

When the cheque came for the last few groups we sold, it also included, for the first time, our Beef Health Check report.

The report basically tells you the health status in the liver and the lungs of the animals that have been slaughtered.

Because the document is colour coded, you can instantly see if your health plan is working.

These first reports show a score of "1" for lung results, which is good, as it shows our approach to hoose and worm control is working.

Whereas the liver results shows a low percentage of "2"s, meaning there is a little bit of liver damage but no live fluke present. So instantly we know we need to lift our game on fluke control.

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

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