Farm Ireland

Monday 19 March 2018

Back to reality on the farm after being blown away by support at book launch

Robin Talbot

Well, it's back to reality now. The launch of our book A Year On Our Farm is over. We were totally blown away by the size of the crowd, with the consensus being that there was close to 600 people in the yard. While some people travelled a long distance to be there, what really left a lasting impression on us was the turnout of our local community.

There was great sense of goodwill and the feeling of seeing our neighbours and friends in the yard chatting to one another over a cup of tea will live long with us and, as someone said to me the next day, "The thought crossed my mind as I looked around the yard that, if you were in trouble, these are the kind of people you would want around you."

Two big jobs we have on our hands now are to process our barley and draw in our straw. Because we held the launch in the grain store, all of our grain is piled up in cattle sheds at the moment and we were reluctant to fill the yard with straw until the event was over.

So hopefully there is plenty more dry weather left or we'll probably end up as the only farm in the whole country with wet straw.

The barley will be rolled, treated with Maxammon and piled up in the shed and covered with plastic. The grain looks excellent in quality. I got it tested a few weeks ago and it had moisture of 17.5pc and protein of 12.8pc.

However, we were still lucky that the weather remained as dry as it did, since this avoided damp air circulating through the sheds. I was a bit nervous having that much grain piled in the sheds for any prolonged period of time.

Having assessed our supplies of winter feed and the fact that all our silage for this year is now cut, it's obvious that we will be well short of grass fodder. However, two things will help us out here. All the silage is dry and of good quality and we have ample amount of barley after hitting an average of 3t/ac.

So our plan is to feed extra barley and add more straw to the cows' diet.

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On doing the calculations, I reckon a further 28t of wheaten straw is needed to feed the cows. This will mean that the cows will get approximately 2kg of straw in their diet compared to the usual 1kg. This will save quite a bit of silage and should see us safely into the spring.

I find being short of silage is not a huge problem if you plan in time.

Where it really becomes a problem is if you proceed as normal and run out. Then it becomes a critical and expensive issue.

Calving is continuing. Apart from the heifers, calving the cows has been plain sailing so far. An added bonus is that our ratio of bulls to heifers seems to have returned to normal.

For the last few years we have had 30pc more heifers than bulls.

We continue to dehorn the calves in their first week and give them their first shot of Bovipast. At the same time, the cows get their Allsure bolus plus their booster for Lepto.

In the next few weeks, all animals will get their booster shot for IBR, with the calves getting their initial shot of live vaccine inter-nasally.

Since it is extremely important with any vaccine to use it straight away once you open the bottle, we have been holding off doing them until such time as we have decent-sized groups put together.

Hopefully we will do them all at the one time, with the exception to this being the young bulls that we are planning to finish under 16 months.

We put these through the crush a few weeks ago, gave them their booster for IBR, used a pour-on for hoose and worms and also trimmed their tails.

The idea is that once they are in the shed they get no further disturbance that might affect their performance.

The window of opportunity for this system is very tight so it is important to limit the stress on them.

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

Irish Independent