John Joyce: I need to hold back five pens of cattle to give them a chance
Turnout of stock is still ongoing on a daily basis, but after assessing the grass cover and the need to replenish silage stocks for next year I have made the decision to leave in five pens of forward store cattle in a bid to have them factory fit by mid-June.
This batch of cattle includes both bullocks and heifers and would have huge demand on grass if turned out. They are on a diet of 8kgs of a high maize ration with some straw and round bales of silage. I will increase the meal over the next two weeks until they are on an adlib diet.
Once the sheds heat up in May and they are comfortable on the diet they seem to pile on the weight. I have tried this for the last number of years and it has worked out well, except other years it was with young bulls. It also makes greater use of the sheds.
The biggest problem I find is to have enough fat cover on the bullocks. The heifers don't seem to be a problem once they are on adlib meal. Hopefully they will be ready for the peak of the beef price before the onset of grass cattle. These cattle would also be hard on the land if the weather is poor during the summer.
The suckler cows have been let out in small groups of between five and 10 in different fields. They will be put together into two larger groups before breeding. With low grass covers and poor grazing conditions, I decided it would be easier to control them in smaller groups.
Calves were also dehorned in small groups and left to settle. The cows have access to high mag buckets and are on 2kg on meal a day in a bid to maintain body condition on them and slow down grass demand. On turnout all cattle from weanlings to cows are injected with copper as the farm has a copper deficiency.
The cows are given 6mls and the weanlings 4mls. There seems to be a great response to it and it is not too expensive. The younger stocks' hair coat seems to shed quickly and the fertility of the cows has also greatly improved as copper deficiency can have a knock-on effect on fertility.
The fertiliser spreader was back in action last week when I spread 50 units of sulpha CAN on all the grazing ground in a bid to get the grass growing. It might be a bit strong for other years but some of this land only got slurry this year.
Fertiliser spreading has been delayed on the farm due to ground conditions and harsh growth. Even at this late stage two fields are still too wet to travel.
All silage ground is still being grazed and will be closed up in the next seven to 10 days. It will be fertilised and because it has been grazed tight I don't see it having much adverse effect on silage quality if harvested six to seven weeks later. It's been a difficult few months so rules and time lines go out the window and, like other farmers I will just have to adapt, adjust and make the best decision available to me.
With the breeding season starting in a few weeks I have picked a batch of heifers that are suitable for breeding.
Most of them are 4 and 5 star rated, according to the BDGP evaluations.
I also take into account the temperament of the heifers that are picked and since these are homebred heifers, the temperament of their mothers. There is no point in keeping a top notch heifer if she is anyway excitable.
For the last two years I have kept theses homebred heifers out of the stock bull and AI sire. One downside is when the stock bull is related to them, they have to be run as a different batch. In the past, I purchased heifers which were dairy bred with the idea it would increase milk availability in the herd.
While it did achieve this greatly, one downside - especially after this winter - is that some of the cows can lose condition quite rapidly if the herd comes under pressure for feed or grass and may need to be supplemented with meal.
John Joyce farms at Carrigahorig, Nenagh, Co Tipperary
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