Thursday 29 September 2016

Grass growth has been steady but slow

John Heney

Published 01/07/2015 | 02:30

A food scare is always just around the corner
A food scare is always just around the corner

We all remember the lovely summers of our youth which appeared to go on forever. One thing which I could never understand at the time was a remark I often heard my father repeat during those fine spells. He would say: "It's a pity that the fine day does any harm" - at the time I just could not understand what he meant.

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However it wasn't too long after taking over the running of the farm that the penny dropped.

In spite of being repeatedly told that cattle thrive far better in warm sunny weather, factory kill sheets showed time and time again that quite the opposite was the case on my farm.

As much as we all like the sunshine it looks as if my farm just cannot get enough rain and, of course, in most summers it usually gets just that.

The sudden surge of grass which we normally expect each spring did not happen for me this year.

Instead, grass growth on my farm has been steady if slow. My silage ground recovered well and has got its first grazing since cutting with the cattle now back-on their regular paddocks.

Because my first cut was not that heavy I will definitely have to take a second cut later this year.

However I always prefer to graze the aftergrass before I stop it for a second cut, I don't know if it's peculiar to my farm but I find that grazing it first gives me a far nicer sward.

In spite of my concerns about grass supply, my cattle appear to be doing ok.

There are a few who appear to fall behind at this time of the year and these are usually sorted out with a dose.

There is always one bullock who just will not thrive and this year is no exception

While his companions from the same lot which I bought myself last September are doing very well, this bullock still looks more or less the same as he did on the day I bought him.

Dairy breeds

When I checked his card I found out that he was bred to produce milk not beef and this certainly did not help my cause!

However I have to admit when bought at an appropriate price, many of these dairy breeds can turn out well but of course there always be one who doesn't.

We are bombarded morning noon and night with schemes to improve our beef herd but we hear absolutely nothing about how the breeding policy of our dairy herds is affecting the beef potential of their male progeny.

This is really a very tricky issue.

It begs the question as to why more research has not been undertaken to see where the economic balance really lies, between producing a more valuable beef type offspring from the dairy herd and the effect this would have on milk returns.

One would be forgiven for not realising that beef is still Ireland's chief agricultural export earner.

Speaking of beef exports, the recent reports of an animal having BSE sent shock waves through our beef sector.

It reminded me of a presentation I heard at an agribusiness conference a few years ago.

The speaker was at pains to emphasise the fact that if we are not currently being affected by a food scare, then more than likely there is another one just around the corner.

Looking back at the industry over the last few decades it looks as if he wasn't too far off the mark with that observation..

The beef industry is very vulnerable to such scares; however as luck would have it, it appears that the current scare has had very little effect on what is turning out to be a very strong year in the cattle trade.

John Heney farms at Kilfeakle, Co Tipperary

 jheney@ independent.ie

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