Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Thursday 8 December 2016

Paddock reseeding is needed

Robyn Talbot

Published 27/07/2010 | 05:00

Peter Quinn and Aidan Brady, Meadow Meats; owner Brian McKinney, Letterkenny; Pat Hally, Meadow Meats,
and Show chairman Peter Ging celebrate with the winning Meadow Meats Beef Heifer champion at the Ossory Show
Peter Quinn and Aidan Brady, Meadow Meats; owner Brian McKinney, Letterkenny; Pat Hally, Meadow Meats, and Show chairman Peter Ging celebrate with the winning Meadow Meats Beef Heifer champion at the Ossory Show

I've just returned from a family holiday in France. We had absolutely beautiful sunshine, but sailing into Cork on the ferry the rain was pouring down.

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While my fellow passengers were disembarking you could hear lots of grumbling about the Irish weather, while I was thinking to myself, "I hope that's falling on our grass seed". It was, thus making a great end to a great holiday.

In recent years, we have fallen behind in reseeding our permanent pastures. While we have plenty new pasture coming into the grazing system through our tillage operation, it's been too long since we reseeded some of our other grazing land. So we hope to put that right in the next few years. We have already reseeded 45ac this year.

We use two systems of reseeding, depending on land type. Common to both systems, we always spray off the old pasture with Round-Up. Then we either use the conventional method -- plough, till and sow -- or we go for a one-pass system.

All reseeded land gets lime pre-sowing, according to soil test results, plus 2cwt/ac of 10-10-20. After sowing, we always roll the field. New grass, and especially clover, seed has to make good contact with the soil so its important to have a firm seedbed. When the grass and clover is well established, it will get a post-emergence weed spray.

At some point during the process we have to do one of our least favourite jobs -- picking the considerable amount of stones that appear any time you till land in this part of the country.

Our main enterprise is our 240 autumn-calving suckler cows. Our replacement heifers are due to start calving now, and the main herd from the beginning of August. So we have been busy sorting cows by calving date.

All cows have a jumbo tag, which is correlated with their Department tag on the computer. We operate a tight calving pattern; we remove the bulls after 70 days, and 34 days after that the cows are scanned. Liam, the man who does the scanning, is always spot-on in saying how many days the cow is in-calf. We enter that on the computer and then print off a report by due calving date.

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A few weeks before calving, all cows get their booster shot of Trivacton 6, to protect the calves against scour. The 30 cows closest to calving are held on a bare paddock during the day and turned into the shed at night, where they are fed hay and can be observed on the camera. The next closest batch to calving is also on a bare paddock and it is given access to hay last thing at night. We have found that this regime eliminates a lot of the night-time calving. In the past few years, our peak calving period has been 7am-4pm.

All cows are Limousin-cross. We use Limousin bulls on the heifers and first-calvers, using Belgian Blue bulls on the mature cows. This year, for the first time, we used AI on 20 cows as we were interested in bench-marking our own bulls. We used two Belgian Blue bulls out of Progressive Genetics, ANX and ELZ.

We plan to spread 1.5cwt/ac of Pasture Sward on all grazing land in the next few weeks. We try to build up a good bank of grass for the cows and calves heading into the autumn. One of the down sides of autumn calving is the amount of grass that freshly calved suckler cows will eat in September/October.

The dry cows have been moved through the fields in big numbers (10-12/ac) to make them clean off the old grass. Consequently, we should have fresh quality grass coming on. Hopefully this will see us safely up to housing time.

Two cows calved to AI yesterday. Two healthy calves. A good start. Let's hope it continues.

Irish Independent