Farm Ireland

Tuesday 22 January 2019

Our weanling statistics have revealed some home truths

Belgian Blue bull calf born 13/8/2016 pictured in May on Talbot's farm in Ballacolla, Co. Laois.
Belgian Blue bull calf born 13/8/2016 pictured in May on Talbot's farm in Ballacolla, Co. Laois.
Belgian Blue bull calf born 13/8/2016 pictured in May on Talbot's farm in Ballacolla, Co. Laois.
Tim O'Driscoll,chairman and John Buttimore founder member pictured at the presentation of proceeds of the annual Bengour Harvest festival vintage Threshing at Coppeen Co Cork. This year's event raised €40,200 for local charities. Photo: Denis Boyle

Robin Talbot

It's a few years since the yards were as slippery as they were last week. We had to put the tractor in four-wheel-drive to move around.

At least we had no frozen water pipes or cattle without water over the few frosty days. It is always a concern that, when there is a freeze, cattle who would be getting a lot of concentrates couldn't be allowed to be short of water.

Apart from the underfoot conditions, I love cold weather (in the winter!).

We rotated the stock bulls again this past week. This means there has been three different bulls running with every pen of cows. I see very little activity with the cows at the moment so hopefully that means that most of them are in calf.

We treated all the cows for fluke last week.

Also, we cleaned out all the sheds. I don't like letting the dung build up too much. I think that it is only a reservoir for disease and it is also much easier to keep the beds clean and dry when there is not a depth of dung in the shed. So we clean them out at least once a month.

We had an issue with some type of virus in one shed of calves. With treatment, it seemed to clear up quite quickly but we took a selection of blood samples, nasal swabs and faecal samples from calves that were running a temperature just to check if there is anything untoward knocking around.

In the results we have back so far, no virus has been identified. More results are due back this week.

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The first sign that something was amiss with these calves is that they went off their feed. But they are back grubbing-up again.

We took the bull away from the replacement heifers last week. We just leave the bull with these heifers for eight weeks.

I always think that, if a healthy maiden heifer doesn't go in calf within eight weeks, she is not going to survive in the main herd as she has been shown up as a slow breeder.

These heifers will be scanned in a month's time and any showing up not in calf will be fattened off.

Our 16-month-old heifers have settled into the shed well and, at the moment, they are on 18kg of good quality first cut silage at 82 DMD, 4kg of meal and .5kg of straw.

These heifers will be finished out of the shed. So they will probably be slaughtered between April and early June. Some of them are well muscled heifers with a lot of potential to carry weight so we need to maximise their potential.

We will keep them going on the above diet well into the spring, at which point we will move over to a lot more concentrate and a lot less silage, going for an intensive 50-90 day finish, depending on the particular heifer.

The next job we need to do with these is put them through the crush, trim their tails, clip their backs and weigh them.

The sales of our under 16-month bulls are continuing on a weekly basis.

We are absolutely delighted with the fat scores. Without exception, they have all had a fat score of 3- or better, with a couple running into 4-.

Their weights are also holding up well. At the moment, we are averaging around 400kg carcase, though I know that will tail off a little for the tail end of the group.

All the bulls were weighed in the first week of August, while they were getting their IBR shot. We are also weighing them the day before they go to the factory.

The average daily weight gain over the period has ranged from 1.22kg/day to 1.97kg/day. This is a difference of .75kg/day which, at a 60pc killout, is almost .5kg of carcase per day. This shows that the best performing bull was increasing in value by almost €2 per day more than the worst performer, which is a sobering thought.

So I promise myself this year that, when all the bulls are gone, I will print off a sheet of their performance. We need to identify the dams of the best performers and the dams of the worst performers and see if there is a pattern.

All stock are housed now. As the bulls go to the factory, this has freed up some space to bring in the last remaining stock that were outdoors, the maiden heifers.

As most of the beef bulls will be gone by the middle of January, this dovetails nicely with the removal of the stock bulls from the cows, as it means we will have individual pens for them on the slats.

As this is my last column of 2017, I'd like to wish everyone a happy and safe Christmas.

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

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