Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Wednesday 18 October 2017

Keeping my bulls on slats looks like it will become an expensive mistake

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Robin Talbot is interviewed on his farm in Ballacolla, Co Laois by Jim Boulden, CNN's international business correspondent as part of a series of programmes which the cable news channel is running about Ireland's exit from the financial bailout programme later this week
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Robin Talbot is interviewed on his farm in Ballacolla, Co Laois by Jim Boulden, CNN's international business correspondent as part of a series of programmes which the cable news channel is running about Ireland's exit from the financial bailout programme later this week

Robin Talbot

I know everyone is saying how lovely the mild weather is, but at the risk of sounding like a misery guts, I just wish it was a bit more seasonal.

The reason I say this is that our cattle in sheds and especially the autumn calves are struggling in the relatively high temperatures at the moment. You can actually feel a glow of heat coming out the doors of the slatted shed.

One group of calves looked to be a bit off form last week and, on veterinary examination, a high percentage of them showed up with elevated temperatures; so we went ahead and treated the entire group with Selectan. Fingers crossed, it seems to have done the trick.

We need to swap around the stock bulls between the groups of cows, now that they have been with their first group for 30 days. It's a good insurance against an infertile bull. Once bitten, lesson learned.

Things on the breeding front seem quiet at the moment. Whether that means that most of the cows are in-calf or they are just not cycling, I don't know. Hopefully, it's the former. We have no reason to believe that they wouldn't be cycling, considering they are on a good well-balanced diet and are in good condition.

Our silage is very good this year, but I would like a bit more of it and I would be concerned at how fast we are going up through the pits. I know it's early days to be talking about spring grass, but if we don't get out in early March this coming year, we will certainly be extremely tight on silage.

But on the plus side, we have plenty of barley and straw. And, if we think we are going to run out, we will assess the situation in plenty of time to allow us to make the changes to see us safely through to grass.

UNHEALTHY

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A major job that needs to be done shortly is that all the bedded sheds need to be cleaned out as the dung is starting to build up and I think this makes for an unhealthy environment.

We slaughtered the first of our under-16-month-old bulls this past week.

This is the first time we have tried to finish them at this age and, while we were very pleased with their performance and their fat cover was sufficient so they hit the top prices on the grid, I can't help but think that the spec at 16 months is too tight. There is no room at all for any hiccups.

This year, we are coming off an exceptional grazing season and if they had got any check, I would be concerned about reaching the minimum fat score. But we will just have to wait until the entire group are gone and reassess the situation.

The one thing that has been disappointing with our bulls this last month is that we have ended up with three injured bulls, a dislocated shoulder, a back injury and a hock injury.

The reason I am so disappointed with that is because the bulls have been so quiet in the shed and spent most of their time lying down sleeping ... or so I thought ... but obviously there was some "horseplay" going on at some stage.

These bulls have been on rubber covered slats, but with the benefit of hindsight, I wonder if I would have been better off putting the entire group in a straw shed.

MISTAKE

One of the reasons for putting them on the slats is that we could pen them by age which would make it a lot easier for selecting them for slaughter but, with three hurt bulls, it's turning out to be an expensive mistake.

The fattening heifers will continue on their growing diet and I think they are thriving well. Some of the heifers appear to be quite forward and we will sort them in early January and move the most forward ones on to a finishing diet at that stage.

We plan this year to finish all the heifers out of the shed and not let any of them out to grass. With a view to streamlining our system, we would hope to have nothing at grass next year except cows which are in-calf and rearing calves, in-calf heifers and stock bulls.

The reason for this is, as I found this year, some heifers which were just recently finished would have left as much money if they had been sold in the spring. Weights would have been much lighter, but the price per kg would have been far higher. When we take a hard look at it, they were just an extra group of stock to look after for no financial reward.

Robin Talbot farms in partnership with his mother Pam and wife Ann in Ballacolla, Co Laois. Contact Robin at talbot.robin@gmail.com

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