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Thursday 24 August 2017

Weather hampered first cut silage but conditions spot on for covering the pit

Beef

Robin Talbot

We missed the first blast of summer over the June Bank Holiday weekend and so our first cut silage was harvested in less than perfect conditions. But, on the positive side, we got excellent weather for covering the pit.

There wasn't a leaf stirring, which meant you could almost leave the sheet of plastic sitting on top of the pit and walk away. Most people's experience is that, the moment you open a sheet of plastic, even on the calmest day, wind seems to appear and it has often been -- I know on this farm -- a fine line between getting the pit covered successfully and hang-gliding into the next parish.

All the silage was tedded immediately after it was mowed and I would be well satisfied with both the quality of the grass and the bulk. We would estimate that we have in the region of 13t of fresh weight per acre in the pit, with minimal effluent.

All the autumn-born calves have been treated with Noromectin Pour-on. I always like to do this around two weeks before weaning so that, if there are any parasites about, they are well and truly gone out of the system at weaning time so there will be no additional stress.

As the cows and calves complete their last rotation before weaning, we still leave access to the old paddock when they are moving on to a new paddock. I know a lot of people will be horrified that we are allowing cattle back in to eat the re-growths, but there is method in my madness.

The reason we do this is that the cows will be going back out into these paddocks immediately after weaning and the last thing you want is a continental cow that is heavy in calf having access to fresh grass.

All the calves have since been weaned. This year it seemed to be a particularly trouble-free operation with both cows and weanlings apparently quite happy to go their separate ways.

Weaning itself is a simple operation. We just bring each group into the yard, separate the cows from the calves, let the calves out into a paddock of nice fresh grass and let the cows into the grazed paddock beside them.


Of course, having first checked that there is a good shock in the wire. This seems to work for us. I was amazed this year how quickly the cows and calves adapted to their new arrangements. I would say we had almost total silence in less than 24 hours. I should clarify that we are not in the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme.

We weighed the bull calves that we have targeted for live export back at the start of May and then again just before weaning. Just as I thought by looking at them in the field, they have been thriving particularly well.

This latest weighing showed us that they had an average liveweight gain from birth of 1.4kg per day and in the last six weeks they had upped that gain to 1.7kg/day, with a few of the better-shaped bulls hitting 2kg/day.

None of our weanlings get meal at grass while they are suckling but we introduce some feed after weaning to those that are hopefully going to be sold live.

An interesting point that showed up in our weighing is the issue of healthy stock. One bull that was treated for lameness back at the first weighing and subsequently made a quick recovery went on to put on 85kg in the following 42 days.

First time round he was no doubt a bit empty but it still highlights to me how important it is to keep on top of all health issues in the herd.

Now that we have our hay mowed, let's hope we get some sunshine.

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

Indo Farming