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Sunday 11 December 2016

We are putting slurry spreading on hold until the land dries out

Robin Talbot

Published 03/02/2016 | 02:30

The overall champion bullock at the 35th annual fatstock Show & Sale Day1 Sat 30th January Carnew Mart. Pictureed L/R: Jennifer King presenting the cup, sponsored by Enser O'Connor Solicitors to the winning owner Ken Tyner, Dawn Tully from Carnew Mart and Allen Mooney sponsor. Photo: Roger Jones.
The overall champion bullock at the 35th annual fatstock Show & Sale Day1 Sat 30th January Carnew Mart. Pictureed L/R: Jennifer King presenting the cup, sponsored by Enser O'Connor Solicitors to the winning owner Ken Tyner, Dawn Tully from Carnew Mart and Allen Mooney sponsor. Photo: Roger Jones.

We went for a long walk on the farm last Sunday, complete with plate meter and notepad. The plan was to identify the first fields on which we would spread slurry and to see how much grass was around.

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It became obvious very quickly that there is quite a bit of grass on the farm and also that land is still very wet.

The few fields that we could actually spread slurry on are just a little bit wet and I could see the tanker doing harm on the headlands.

Luckily enough there is no urgency on us to get slurry out at the moment as there is still plenty of space in the tanks.

When we did the calculations, a lot of our fields had covers from 700-1,200 kg/ha, which are far too high to apply slurry.

But I would assume that the dry matter of this grass is in the region of 10pc so we certainly need some dry weather before we would think of venturing out to graze any of that grass.

What we did one time before in a similar situation and we will probably do the same again this year, weather permitting, is to turn out the cows with the strongest bull calves by day and leave them back in by night. But I can't see that happening for a while yet.

As soon as we do graze out a field, we will spread slurry on it. We would plan to get as much of our slurry out as possible in the spring. So I think, at this stage, with what grass is around and when soil conditions allow, we will probably blanket spread compound fertiliser first.

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Soil temperatures are running around 8°C at the moment and if the forecast gives some dry weather we will hitch up to the fertiliser spreader. In recent weeks, we took soil samples on the entire farm and hopefully we'll have the results back by then.

The entire farm was sampled three years ago and five years before that so it will be interesting to sit down and compare any changes in the fertility of individual fields over the period. Like a lot of farmers, I suppose, we tend to spread slurry in the nearest fields first.

The bulls have been removed from the main herd at this stage. After taking the stock bulls away from the cows, we put them into individual pens in the slatted house so they are content and resting.

We were a little concerned that the silage was moving quite quickly so we tweaked the diets to the cows by adding in a little more straw. Now they are getting 2.5kg straw per head per day. After removing the bulls, we also took out the soya so now they are getting 2kg straight barley along with the silage and straw.

We hope to get the heifers scanned this coming week.

Our beef heifers are on a diet of first cut silage, barley, oats and molasses.

What we have been doing since Christmas is weighing them regularly and, any heifers over 550kg, are being moved over onto the same finishing diet as the bulls.

Whereas some might consider the bulls diet a little bit too hot for heifers, they don't actually eat as much of it and it is very convenient as we don't have to mix a different load.

Finishing diet

We are trying to stick to a plan where the beef heifers will finish up the same weight as other years but on a final finishing diet for only 40-50 days, compared to 90-100 days.

Looking at some of the heifers, I'd say we will have to start drafting some of them for sale in the next couple of weeks.

A job we intend doing this year, when conditions allow, is to make a few modifications to the paddocks around the house. When we put these paddocks in originally, we just tended to divide the field in two. So the paddocks vary in size from 5 acres to 8 acres.

We rotate 50 cows and their calves around these paddocks and we just weren't able to graze out some of the bigger paddocks quickly enough so the grass in some of the paddocks they were going into was too strong.

If the grass is too strong when they are going in, it takes too long to graze out the paddock and it also takes longer for the paddock to recover.

We have seven paddocks in this rotation. By dividing two of the paddocks and changing the direction of the wire in some of the others we can get up to ten paddocks.

Luckily when we put in the paddocks originally, we put the water troughs in the middle of the fence line so there is very little work to be done on that front.

The rule of thumb seems to be that you should graze 21 days growth in three days or less.

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

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