A grid payment system rewarding quality is vital


Robin Talbot

For some reason I always dislike this time of year. The nights are getting longer, the days shorter and we're still only at the beginning of winter. Maybe that's one of the reasons why fairy lights became a tradition of Christmas ... but I don't know how our Limousin cows would react to a string of flashing lights across the yard.

We swapped around the stock bulls among the different groups of cows last week. Things seem quiet in the breeding department, having only observed a few cows bulling in the last week. That's usually very good news or very bad news -- either all the cows are in calf or they are just not cycling.

We have no reason to believe that a lot of them are not in calf, though we can't be sure until we scan. That won't be until February. So fingers crossed until then.

Calves seem to be happy and thriving well, although we had to treat a few of them for pneumonia this past week. But they have been responding quickly to treatment and I assume that's because they are vaccinated.

The bull calves that we would hope to export next year have access to a paddock close to the shed and, regardless of the weather, they seem to spend quite a bit of time outdoors.

We got the results of the analysis for our maize back and, as expected, they were quite disappointing. So, as we said before, bulk-wise we had only half the crop and it appears, quality-wise, we have only half a crop as well. So, before next spring, we will have to have a long hard think about the future of maize on the farm.

At the moment, maize left from last year is being fed to the bulls that are being fattened and when that is gone we will probably move them over onto some good first-cut silage rather than this year's maize.

We were sorting our 14-month-old heifers last week and I think we have pretty much decided to finish the more forward ones of them out of the shed in the spring. Usually we would finish these heifers off grass in August/September but I think this group of heifers is more forward than previous years and, with this in mind, it looks like we might fatten about half them and let the rest out to grass in the spring.

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The last of our two-year-old heifers have been sold to the factory and, all in all, they worked out well. A couple of things worked in their favour -- it was a good grazing year and a rising price meant that, as the carcass weights were getting lighter towards the tail-end of the group, we were still able to keep up our average price.

But the biggest thing of all from our point of view is that they were being paid for on the grid. I know there has been some criticism of the grid but if the Irish beef industry is to move forward, a payment system that rewards quality is essential.

Fifteen of this crop of heifers were sold live as weanlings. The remainder were finished on the farm. The analysis on our computer programme shows that 17pc were U+, 29pc U=, 24pc U-, 23pc R+ and the remainder R=. They had an average carcass weight of 362kg with an average killout of 57.6pc.

We have been busy insulating some water pipes around the yard, with particular attention to the slatted house, since that is where the bulls being fattened are housed and, at the moment, they are on 6kg of concentrate. Because of the concentrate feeding, it's absolutely vital that they have access to water at all times. We don't want a repeat of last year, when the drinkers froze solid and we had to let the cattle out every day for a drink.

Finally, we would like to wish everyone a happy and healthy Christmas.

Robin farms in partnership with his mother Pam and wife Ann in Ballacolla, Co Laois. Email: robintalbot@eircom.net

Indo Farming

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