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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Beef: Last calving involved the first caesarean on the farm

John Joyce

Published 22/04/2015 | 02:30

All fertiliser spreading is up to date.
All fertiliser spreading is up to date.

One of my favourite times of the year is spring time, and one of the most enjoyable sights is cattle being turned out to grass, racing with their tails in the air and to hear the grazing of the lush green grass.

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Turnout on the farm will coincide with grass growth. Both yearlings and cows have been injected with 5ml of copper suspension containing copper at 20mg/ml. A number of years ago we found out that the farm was low in copper and have been injecting the mineral ever since with great results. What remains inside are two pens of beef heifers, the last of the young bulls and 13 cows that are still to calve. I might let the last of them calve in a small field beside the farm house if the weather stays as good as it is. There is a buffer of silage left in the yard which gives peace of mind, especially when there are so many other things to worry about at this time of year. When you are highly stocked, the unpredictable weather patterns are always a cause for concern.

All fertiliser spreading is up-to-date and I am expecting good results with the high temperatures of the last few weeks. The silage ground will be closed and fertilised in the next few days. I have been grazing it tight and there is no dead material or butt left.

The plan is to close 60ac, which is as much as possible to avoid any second-cut. This will leave more ground for grazing later in the year when the growing calves and yearlings will have the capacity to eat more grass. For years I have been using three bags of 24:2.5:10 on the silage ground, but this year the ground has already got 2,500gal of slurry so Sulpha-CAN might do the job on its own.

Up until recent years all the silage ground was rolled, but I've dropped this job because I think it affects grass growth too much. The first thing I do after closing up the fields is to walk around the perimeter of the fields to pick up stones, sticks or anything else that may cause damage to the contractor's silage machinery.

Calving has been rolling along relatively smoothly - until about two weeks ago when we had to do our first ever caesarean section on a cow on this farm.

Late one night, I noticed the last heifer starting to calve. She had been moved to a calving pen earlier in the day, in the hope that she might do the business and give us all an early night.

With no progress however, I examined the heifer to find a big calf coming backwards. To make the problem worse she was the smallest heifer this season.

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Knowing I was beaten, I called the vet and an hour later we were in the middle of a caesarean operation. We didn't rush the job, making sure that we got the whole area clean, sterile and well bedded.

By midnight a huge limousin bull calf was delivered. I must admit that I was impressed how little it affected either the cow or the calf, even if it did take the calf a day to stand on his own. The cow was up licking the calf and mothering him as soon as she was stitched up.

After that she had a drink of water and some silage for herself. If I had used the jack in this case, the chances are that the calf would have died and the heifer would be down for a few days, maybe to never stand again.

We took an early morning break from sowing spring barley last week to deliver a pen of young bulls to the factory.

I was very happy with the kill-out results, with an average deadweight of 440kg. The top bull was a Belgium Blue out of a Limousin-cross cow, with a carcase weight of 462kg.

John Joyce farms at Carrigahorig, Nenagh, Co Tipperary

jjoyce@ independent.ie

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