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How sexed semen is proving a good option for breeding replacements for this Roscommon farmer

Buying a replacement bull for a herd my size could not be justified, and sourcing suitable heifers at the marts that will calve at two years of age is also a challenge’

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Progress: Shane Keaveney with some of his cows and calves on his farm just outside Ballinlough, Co Roscommon. Photos: Brian Farrell

Progress: Shane Keaveney with some of his cows and calves on his farm just outside Ballinlough, Co Roscommon. Photos: Brian Farrell

Heifers on the farm

Heifers on the farm

Simple horse stakes that Shane is using for forward creep grazing

Simple horse stakes that Shane is using for forward creep grazing

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Progress: Shane Keaveney with some of his cows and calves on his farm just outside Ballinlough, Co Roscommon. Photos: Brian Farrell

I scanned the 12 replacement heifers on July 14, and 10 are in calf. That is 83pc in calf, so I happy enough with the results.

I used all AI, and sexed semen was used on seven heifers; nine sexed semen straws were used, as two heifers repeated. Six out of these seven are in calf.

If they all keep, I am guaranteed at least six heifers from the sexed semen trial, which is an adequate number for my herd size.

The breeding of these heifers started on May 6 and finished on June 11 so the calving will be nice and compact next year.

As I am now using a terminal Charolais bull on my herd, using sexed semen is an option to breed replacements from a herd of my size.

Buying a replacement bull could not be justified, and sourcing suitable heifers at the marts that will calve at two years of age is also a challenge.

With more choice of sexed semen bulls coming on stream, it’s an option I’ll consider again next year.

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Heifers on the farm

Heifers on the farm

Heifers on the farm

The two empty heifers were weighed and they averaged 450kg. These have been removed and I have put them with the remaining 10 store heifers that I plan to either slaughter at the end year or just sell off grass.

To finish off on the breeding side, the Charolais bull was removed on July 15 from the main herd. The cows will be scanned in September but it looks like that I won’t need all of the 10 replacements, so I will consider selling some of these in-calf heifers later on.

We came back from our family holiday on July 12. It is nice to get away but it is also great to get home. Luckily for me, my eldest son Aaron stayed at home to look after the farm and all went smoothly.

Grass is something that can easily go out of control when you’re away but my grass measurement on July 15 revealed that the average farm cover (AFC) on the main grazing block is on target at 861kgDM/ha.

The growth for the past week has been 49kgDM/ha, and with demand at 45kgDM/ha there are 19 days of grass ahead, which is ideal for this time of year.

On a heavy farm like mine grass growth should increase significantly in the high temperatures.

While there is plenty of grass at the moment, I intend to spread 18 units/ac of protected urea plus sulphur over paddocks (16ac) that have been grazed recently and that didn’t get any fertiliser in the last round.

If I don’t, grass won’t recover here and I am conscious of starting to build grass for the autumn.

Protected urea is a great option in that I can apply in this kind of dry weather and it is the cheapest form of chemical nitrogen with the lowest emissions.

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As the calves are getting older, they are eating a lot more grass. I bought two plastic horse stakes to lift the electric wire so the calves can creep-graze ahead of the cows.

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Simple horse stakes that Shane is using for forward creep grazing

Simple horse stakes that Shane is using for forward creep grazing

Simple horse stakes that Shane is using for forward creep grazing

It is working and it allows the calves to get priority access to the best-quality grass while restricting the cows to the paddock they are in.

As I operate a bull system, it is critical that these calves keep performing and gaining weight as their dependence on milk will be less from now on.

I will introduce meal next month also. With the forward creep system I can use troughs instead of a creep feeder.

While there is no evidence of coughing, I will take some faecal samples from the calves next week. The samples will tell me if there is evidence of any lungworm and stomach worms.

If there is, I will dose immediately with an ivermectin-type injection.

Other than cutting the second-cut silage at the end of the month, July is generally quiet. It allows me time to improve the grazing infrastructure — for example, I divided the silage field into four paddocks, each 1.3ha in size, enough for three days’ grazing.

This is only temporary fencing with reels, pigtails and can all be dismantled easily again for silage.

Shane Keaveney farms at Granlahan, Co Roscommon. His advisors are Charlie Devaney, Gabriel Trayers, Brian Daly



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