Monday 26 September 2016

Wet weather arrives at opportune time for the beef herd

Robin Talbot

Published 05/08/2015 | 02:30

Top calves: The winning line up in the Mature Calf class at last week's IHFA National Calf Show pictured with (from left) handlers Louise Sinnott, Claire Kirby and winner Alice Magan, sponsor Liam Gannon from Volac and judge David Gray. The event was held at The Hub, Cillin Hill, Kilkenny. Photo: Roger Jones.
Top calves: The winning line up in the Mature Calf class at last week's IHFA National Calf Show pictured with (from left) handlers Louise Sinnott, Claire Kirby and winner Alice Magan, sponsor Liam Gannon from Volac and judge David Gray. The event was held at The Hub, Cillin Hill, Kilkenny. Photo: Roger Jones.

Being a typical farmer, I am never happy with the weather.

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While it has turned rather disagreeable recently in the tillage and silage fields, I have to say that the rain was a godsend in the grazing fields, some of which had become extremely dry, with almost no growth on them.

There is a marked improvement in grass growth and it has come at a very opportune time.

All grazing fields have or will be topped with the disc mower to clean off any old grass.

As we top a field, we move in the cows that are still a way off calving to eat up the toppings. After they are finished and moved on, we will then spread a bag per acre of Pasture Sward. This means we can now be sure that we will have plenty of fresh grass to let the cows back onto with their young calves.

To date, 25pc of the heifers have calved without any problems.

Looking at the main herd, I think we are going to be very busy calving for the month of August.

With this in mind, we've been trying to tie up some loose ends such as getting the second cut silage into the pit, making some baled silage and getting out the last few loads of slurry.

One paddock that we took out for wrapped silage had quite a bit of ragwort starting to come through so we sprayed it straight away.

But while the spray killed the ragwort, the dead plants didn't wither back. After mowing, we had to go through the field and pick up the ragwort by hand. It's the kind of job we could have done without.

We find that it takes much of the stress out of calving a number of cows to have a lot of the routine jobs completed before we get busy. So we can concentrate on looking after the cows and calves. You won't do the job well if you have too much going on.

We had hoped that the winter barley would have been harvested by now but that wasn't to be.

When we do get it cut, we would plan, as we have done for the last few years, to roll it and treat it with Maxammon.

Something I noticed in the tillage fields this year is that, for whatever reason, the crows didn't seem to spend much time at the winter barley but attacked the spring barley quite early.

We have had an issue in the last couple of years with a little bit of dampness coming up through an old part of the floor where we store the grain. This is a piece of concrete that could possibly be there 60-70 years. A few weeks ago we replaced the entire floor. The new floor has a damp course under it and has a power-floated finish.

The dampness only affected the barley to about the thickness of a carpet but, unfortunately, you wouldn't know it was there until you saw it dropping out of the loader into the feeder wagon.

It would end up contaminating a whole mix so hopefully that issue is now solved.

Yearlings

All the yearlings, both heifers and bulls, were treated with Pour-On in recent days.

While we were treating one batch of bulls we took the opportunity to weigh them. As a group, they had gained almost 1.8kg/day on grass only for the previous 38 days.

So we are confident that they will be 500kg at 12 months and hopefully, all going well, this will keep them on target for a 400kg carcase at under 16 months.

In the next few weeks, the bulls will be brought back in and we will give them their booster shot for IBR and trim their tails.

The plan would be to house them towards the end of the month but we will introduce them to their finishing diet for a couple of weeks beforehand to make the transition from field to house as seamless as possible.

As the timeframe for finishing them under 16 months is so tight, once they go into the shed, I think it is important that they are left undisturbed.

Our plan is that they should be well up to speed on their final diet at housing.

All we should have to do then is put them into the cattle crush to sort out by age and place them in their pens.

Hopefully the next time they leave their pens is when they are being loaded to go to the factory.

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

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