Business Farming

Friday 30 September 2016

Beef: I won't be complaining about drawing in silage this summer

Robin Talbot

Published 27/04/2016 | 02:30

Brewing up a storm: Seamus Duggan sends the dust flying at Dereen, Durrow, Co. Laois while sowing Spring Malting barley Olympus for Boortmalt. Photo: Alf Harvey/HRPhoto.ie
Brewing up a storm: Seamus Duggan sends the dust flying at Dereen, Durrow, Co. Laois while sowing Spring Malting barley Olympus for Boortmalt. Photo: Alf Harvey/HRPhoto.ie

We are looking at shortening our breeding season from 12 weeks back to 10 or maybe even less.

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All our beef bulls are now sold and looking on the computer at their performance, we noticed quite quickly that those slaughtered before January 1 averaged 395kg carcase weight while those slaughtered since January 1 averaged almost 30kg/head less.

Since they all came into the shed at the same time, it's ironic that the lighter bulls have eaten significantly more concentrate than the heavier bulls.

Trying to analyse why this might be, the thought entered my mind that it could be to do with the poorer cows tending to slip towards the end of the breeding season.

Looking at the best calves their dams tend to be pretty close to the 365-day calving interval and the reverse also seems to hold. For the poorer calves, their dams tend to have a longer calving interval.

They say every day is a school day. And that has certainly been the case in recent weeks, trying to keep stock out without doing too much poaching and damage to pastures.

One of the main reasons we were reluctant to bring back in some of the cows and calves had as much to do with vanity as anything else.

Because for the first time in a long time, when we turned out one shed of cows and calves, after cleaning out the shed, we power-hosed it from top to bottom, including slats, and I just couldn't bring myself to let the cows back in again to dirty it so soon.

We still have some in-calf heifers and cows with calves inside, but we would hope to move them out shortly.

One of the disadvantages of autumn calving in a wet spring as we have just had is that the bull calves are very active and do quite a bit of damage.

But hopefully the weather has turned a corner.

Something that became very evident this spring was the wisdom of not letting out cows scanned not in calf with strong bull calves.

Since some of these cows would be cycling regularly, there was no day when there wasn't a group of bull calves following some cow around the field.

In future, I think we would be better off to wean those calves and hold in the cows to fatten them.

By keeping those cull cows off the grazing area, it would allow us the opportunity to start buying in our replacement heifers even younger and lighter.

This would also minimise the risk of some of these replacement heifers already being in-calf when they arrive on the farm, which can be a problem at times.

Our silage stocks are pretty much depleted at this stage, with only a few round bales left. So hopefully the need for more is gone!

One of our main priorities this year has to be to replenish our reserves of silage that were used this year in the long winter/spring.

We made quite a few bales of silage last summer and I remember remarking a few times that I was sick of drawing in bales.

But, after this spring I have a new fondness for them and we will gratefully grab any chance to make as many of them as we can this year. Without any complaints!

Some of our ground for early first cut silage was closed up as normal, but closing up for our main first cut ran a little later than I would have liked in some fields.

All the silage fields got slurry but the later we closed them up the less Nitrogen we applied, with the last fields being closed getting about 75 units of N per acre.

I don't know if this was the right thing to do or not.

I assume it will affect the yield but, since we need to go for a good second cut, round this part of the country, if you want a second cut, it's important to take your first cut by the first few days in June at the latest.

So by keeping down the amount of manure we spread, we eliminate the risk of high nitrogen at cutting time.

Hopefully we will get back on track then for a good second cut.

The winter barley seems to be growing well and it has got its second application of N, in the form of Super Net +S.

That has brought our total application of nitrogen up close to 120 units per acre. We will probably go to somewhere close to 150 units.

The crop also recently got a growth regulator.

We are hoping to get the spring barley sowed this week.

The fields have been ploughed for a few weeks but they seem slow enough to dry.

On one field in particular that always grows a good crop of barley, we spent a day last week picking stones so I was wondering whether I might re-seed this field and plough a less-stony field.

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

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