Business Farming

Sunday 25 September 2016

Beef: Calving season has gone without any hitches - so far

John Joyce

Published 09/03/2016 | 02:30

Calves have been healthy and lively on John Joyce's farm. Stock photo.
Calves have been healthy and lively on John Joyce's farm. Stock photo.

Calving is now in its third week with everything going to plan. Calves are healthy and lively and the cows have a adequate milk supply.

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No cow needed assistance up until last week when we had a big bull calf coming backwards - the calving gate and jack were called into action. These two pieces of equipment have been worth their weight in gold for me over the years. All ended on a positive note, even though it took him a while to stand and get a drink.

All the calves are observed after calving to see if they can get their own drink. If they don't, I feed some defrosted colostrum that I have in reserve. This milk is supplied to me by a neighbouring dairy farmer.

The one luxury I don't have is a calving camera. The farm house is within walking distance of the sheds, so it is easy to have a look now and again.

Another aspect I also observe at calving is the temperament of the cows and the new heifers at calving. I have zero tolerance for mad cows or wild cattle on the farm.

The cows at the moment are on ad lib silage and dry cow minerals and will remain on this diet unless calves get very big or soft. If this happens I might restrict the silage.

Cows will remain in the shed on straw until the calf is about two weeks of age, or the weather is suitable for turnout.

Before turnout the calves will be tagged and debudded. They are then let loose on a bare 4ac field beside the sheds with a wooded area in the corner. If there is a problem with a cow or calf they can be easily returned to the shed from this field.

They have access to round bales of silage and a hi-mag mineral in the form of a bucket lick. The cows will remain in this field until the calf is fully able to drink the extra milk from the cow when she goes to grass.

Turnout won't be for a while. With some of the land a bit fragmented there needs to be enough grass ahead of them in order to ensure that they are only transported once.

Slurry has been spread on some of the drier fields, and I intend to spread more in the late spring when ground has been grazed off.

The last cattle I sold were a pen of bullocks to the factory - they were a little on the heavy side, but I was very happy with them. The next pen for selling are a pen of heifers and cull cows that are doing very well.

Just 25 ewes remain to lamb and the last four weeks has been very intense with lambing. Next week I will introduce the creep feeders and dose the lambs for the prevention of coccidiosis.

We have never had it in the calves but I am always on the lookout for it, especially in a cold wet March.

Next year I hope to compact the lambing and the calving by about a week. It will get the same job done quicker with just a little more planning.

John Joyce farms at Carrigahorig, Nenagh, Co Tipperary

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