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Thursday 8 December 2016

Beef: The next targets are some reseeding and the first cut of silage in mid May

Robin Talbot

Published 30/03/2016 | 02:30

Kerrie Smyth, Aurivo Farm Commercial Specialist presents prizes to Ronan and Gerry Keville for 1st place in Lim Heifer, B/Blue Heifer and A/Angus Heifer
Kerrie Smyth, Aurivo Farm Commercial Specialist presents prizes to Ronan and Gerry Keville for 1st place in Lim Heifer, B/Blue Heifer and A/Angus Heifer

Most of the cows and calves are turned out to grass at this stage.

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We turned out the cows with the strongest of the bull calves first. Even though they were let into a dry field they were doing a little more poaching than I would have liked. But we were anxious to start moving out some stock, to ease the pressure on our silage supplies.

We were happy that we had enough silage and we'd probably have some left over but if we didn't start turning out stock we could have got ourselves into the position where we would have had to turn out all the stock too quickly and run the risk of running out of grass.

This spring, we spread Pasture Sward on some of the grazing land and 18:6:12 on more of the pasture. This was as a result of our recent soil samples that showed some of the fields farthest away from the yard were quite low in phosphorus (P) and potassium (K), whereas the fields that were close by were quite high in P and K.

I suppose this was a result of the fields close to the yard getting slurry every year.

We need to make an effort and spread the fields with slurry that we wouldn't normally have spread. We plan to put 2,500 gallons of slurry per acre on all our silage ground, and some of this has already been spread.

As has been our practice for the last few years, we will plan to cut some silage around the middle of May, for the fattening cattle, and the remainder towards the end of May or early June for the suckler cows.

Our winter barley got its first application of fertiliser in the middle of March, we spread 200kg per acre of 12:3:25.

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We got our oats sowed last week. This will be used as part of the diet for our fattening cattle next year.

The variety sown was Husky, and we applied 200kg per acre of 10:5:25. We used a seeding rate of approximately 10.5 stone per acre. All the ground ear-marked for spring barley will get a heavy dressing of FYM and, indeed, some of this has already been done.

For the first year in a long time we didn't get a chance to do any reseeding last year. But we plan to get back on track this year, and we'd hope to direct reseed a stubble field as soon as we're done sowing the spring barley.

We would hope to get our ploughing done this week. It's amazing how dry the soil is on the surface but it is ploughing up wet and will need some time to dry.

All the cows and heifers have been scanned and, although I haven't had a chance yet to put it on the computer, we were delighted with the results. A high percentage of the cows seem to have gone in calf to their first service.

So it looks like we'll be pretty busy in August.

I was a little bit nervous scanning this year because we had three new Belgian Blue bulls, but I needn't have worried, they were well up to their job and did the breed proud.

One thing that jumped out immediately at us with the scanning results was that 100pc of the heifers rearing their first calf went back in calf, and the ones rearing their second and third calves weren't far behind them.

So it's only in the older cows that the few empty cows showed up. Something I've been thinking about for a while, is how short can we make the calving period without affecting the financial performance of the farm.

For instance, could we go down to 60 days? It's something I hope to do a little work on in the next few weeks. If it meant bringing in an extra stock bull, to reduce the number of cows that are running with a bull from 38 down to 30 and maybe bring in 5pc extra replacements I think that's very do-able.

Finally, I'd like to thank the many many people who contacted us by email, letter, phone and in person following my most recent column about our issues with the Bord Bia Beef Quality Assurance Scheme. They were primarily messages of support but I also discovered a disturbing sense of disconnection between farmers and officialdom.

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

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