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Independent.ie

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Authorities need to be more flexible on fertiliser deadlines

Pic Roger Jones.
Pic Roger Jones.
Action from the Béal Bán Horse and Pony Racing festival at Ballyferriter, Dingle Peninsula on Sunday afternoon. Photo: Valerie O'Sullivan

Robin Talbot

We waited and waited and waited but eventually just ran out of time. I speak, of course, of the closing date for spreading artificial fertiliser. September 14 was the last day for spreading. With ground conditions poor and heavy downpours forecast, it was just unsuitable weather for spreading.

I could not help but think that the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government could easily have extended the spreading date by a few days, in which time, as forecast, the conditions had transformed.

I had been listening to an interview on the radio by the site manager for the National Ploughing Association the previous week.

He explained how they had been monitoring six to eight weather forecasts and they take the average. So he actually predicted the weather pattern exactly as it turned out.

Surely the Department could have done something similar.

The consequence of this is that we failed to get out our last round of fertiliser.

So we have actually started to put some cattle into the sheds in order to reduce the stocking rate on the grazing area.

Because, under no circumstances, do I want to run out of grass for the suckler cows at the start of the breeding season.

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All the bulls have been in the shed since September 1 and, at this stage, are eating 10kg ration. They look to be thriving well. We will try to get them up to 13kg over the next couple of weeks.

The first bulls don't need to be slaughtered until the last days of November.

They have now been joined inside by our Angus heifers and some cull cows. These heifers and cows will hopefully be slaughtered in 40-50 days.

Calving has gone really well for us this year and we are now down to the last 10pc, some of which are pretty close to calving.

At the moment, the cows and calves are grazing in small groups around the farm. But we will double these groups up, to approximately 35 cows, as the calves get stronger, in preparation for the new breeding season.

Calves have been dehorned and got their first Bovipast and IBR vaccines.

Some of the older calves are due their Bovipast booster shot in the next few weeks and, as we amalgamate the groups, we will keep a record of the tag numbers of the calves, since they won't all be due their booster at the same time.

The ground we re-seeded is starting to green up, as we seem to have gotten a pretty good strike of grass. But I'd say the chances of getting a grazing off it now are slim. It will certainly get a post-emergence weed spray.

The plan for some of the areas we re-seeded is to realign some of the paddocks. When we originally paddocked this area, it tended to be just subdividing the fields and they ranged in size from five to eight acres.

Adjustments

With a few adjustments and a few new fences, we intend making them all four-acre paddocks.

Luckily enough, we will have very little to do in terms of moving water troughs.

The one thing I am thinking at the moment, which would make it a bigger job, is whether we need a farm roadway along the end of these paddocks.

We don't need it for normal movement between paddocks but I think it may be necessary if stock has to be brought to the yard.

Since they are suckler cows, and won't be coming to the yard regularly, I think a grass track would suffice.

At long last, we can finally say our harvest is finished, except for some straw that we still have to bale. It has certainly ended up very difficult for tillage farmers.

The last crop we had to harvest was some spring oats. Although it wasn't flat on the ground, it was well broken down and weather-beaten. Luckily we had sprayed it off with Roundup a few weeks back or it would have been a real struggle to harvest it. The losses on it turned it into quite a poor crop where it just about managed to break the 2t/ac.

So I don't think we will sow spring oats this coming year.

We are going to opt for winter oats. This is not just because of the poor outcome of this year's crop.

The main reason we sow oats is to put it into the diet for the fattening bulls and spring oats just run that little bit too late so it's not available at the beginning of their finishing period, especially when you include the two weeks it takes between treating with Maxammon and being ready to feed.

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


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