Farm Ireland
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Tuesday 16 October 2018

The bulls with diamonds on the soles of their hooves

The stock bulls were in for their annual pedicure and it turned up a surprise
The stock bulls were in for their annual pedicure and it turned up a surprise

Robin Talbot

For a moment last week, I thought that we had struck oil, as it were.

The stock bulls were in for their annual pedicure. It is a job I am always apprehensive about. Even though they are quiet, they are hard to handle because they are such big animals.

Two of the bulls were on the absolute limit of what the crate could handle. Thankfully, when the crate turned them on their side, they just lay there.

I immediately noticed something glistening embedded in the soles of their feet.

It turned out that they were pebbles and the surface of the stones that was making contact with the ground had become highly polished. I assume this happened because of the bulls' sheer weight and the ground being rock hard.

Such was the shine that I immediately thought of Paul Simon's immortal song, 'Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes'.

The bulls weren't showing much signs of lameness but, left untreated, the pebbles would undoubtedly come against them later on and, chances are, it would be smack bang in the middle of the breeding season.

So no diamonds for us but, at least, I felt relief when the last bull was released out of the crate, without injury to man or beast.

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First cut Silage

We got our first-cut silage completed in ideal conditions.

We actually take three different first-cuts.

We took an early cut in the middle of May which, hopefully, will be close to 80 DMD and will be fed to fattening cattle.

The next cut was taken at the end of May which, hopefully, will be somewhere around 72-74 DMD. This will be fed to the suckler cows when they come into the shed, in November.

I absolutely believe that one of the mainstays of good conception rates in autumn-calving cows is built around a diet that contains the maximum amount of top-quality silage.

The other cut was taken last week and this silage will hopefully be not less than 66 DMD. This will be fed to the cows and heifers before calving, from the middle of July onwards.

As is our practice, it will be fed last thing in the evening so, hopefully, they will eat by night and calve by day.

Most of the fields that were cut have been let up for second-cut, along with some of the grazing paddocks that has become available, as we wean the calves and restrict the cows on their grazing area.

All the ground that has been closed up got approximately 3.5 cwt/acre of Cut Sward.

Because the weather has been so hot, we have very little slurry spread so far. So that is a job we will have to do as soon as the second-cut is in the pit.

The grazed ground that we have let up concerns me a little at the moment. Because of the very dry weather, these fields seem to be heading out very quickly. I am afraid that, if I leave them, they will deteriorate into very poor, stemmy, silage. So we will have to make up our mind in the next week or so whether we cut them straight away, salvage what we can off them, and start again.

In a couple of fields that were paddocked a few years ago, we have realigned the fences in them to make some smaller paddocks, with a view to keeping fresh grass in front of the weanling bulls and hopefully kick-on their performance.

The original paddocks were almost 3ha in size, the new ones are just under 2ha. I await with interest to see if it will make much difference; I think it will.

Although I suppose when we go to cut silage next year, the contractor won't be too happy when he sees a good squared field divided up!

The last of our heifers that were born in autumn 2016 were slaughtered this past week. We have ended up with a carcase weight of 350kg on average.

We were fairly satisfied with their performance and the price held up well. Though we'd like to think there is room for improvement on both fronts.

We need to go through all the cows and in-calf heifers in the next couple of weeks to sort them into two groups, those due to calve before the end of August, and those due in September/October.

The earlier group will also get their shot of Rotavac at that stage. It is important to vaccinate them at least a month out from calving.

The winter barley has got its final spray so the next machine into the field will be the combine.

The crop is looking very well and hopefully this will be a year of good yields and a good price.

The spring barley is still due another spray and it looks to be a crop that is struggling. But, fingers crossed, I hope I am wrong on that one.

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

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