Calving season arrives in middle of a busy harvest

Shane Hynes from Athlone competing with his Charolais bull at the Tullamore Show in Offaly. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Shane Hynes from Athlone competing with his Charolais bull at the Tullamore Show in Offaly. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Robin Talbot

For the past few weeks, work's been a little like the old joke about the 46A bus - how you wait for ages for one and then three come along together.

At the one time, the harvesting started, we were wrapping silage, baling hay and we were also mad busy calving.

The heifers were due to start calving 10 days before the main herd but, for whatever reason, they all started calving at the one time and we have had almost 70 calvings in two weeks. If that pace continues, close to 50pc of the herd will be calved in three weeks.

Ultimately, in farming, the weather has an impact on most things. It's been very mild and humid so, though the cows are being fed hay at the moment, calves are bigger than one would like. A few cows have needed assistance but hopefully that is just a blip.

We got our hay baled, eventually, in good conditions and it looks like good quality feed. We continue to take out a few paddocks to be wrapped but I don't think that I'll take out any more after this week.

Our reseeding programme is finished for this year. Two fields reseeded earlier in the year have been grazed a few times and the last field we sowed, after winter barley, is just emerging.

The winter barley was very disappointing this year, with poor yield and poor quality and, for anyone selling it, a poor price. The barley that we are keeping for ourselves was treated with Maxammon this past week.

When I think of the plump grain we had last year compared to this year's sample, one would assume that the feeding value of it won't be near as good. So, as soon as the test results are back, we will obviously be tweaking the ration that we will be giving to the under-16 month bulls.

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This year, we baled up all the straw in large 4x4x8 squared bales. There is approximately 500kg straw in one of these bales and we averaged around four of these per acre so making this kind of bale is certainly a quick way to clear a field. They are also very easy to stack in the shed.

We also have all our replacement heifers for next year bought in at this stage.

They are in a separate group, quarantined from the rest of the animals on the farm. When they are all settled down a bit, we will give them their first vaccination shot for Lepto and IBR.

As they came on to the farm, they were injected for hoose, worms and fluke and had their tails trimmed.

We would be happy enough with them; they look like a nice batch together and hopefully they will make good cows. It's an exciting time, the start of another cycle. These heifers will be run with an Angus bull, from October 10 onwards.

We have always bought in our replacement heifers and I don't see any reason to change from that system.

But an issue has cropped up this year with the genomics scheme (Beef Data and Genomics Programme).

I noticed that some of the heifers in the batch have genomic tags in their ears and, on checking them on the revamped ICBF Animal Search which now includes females, found them all showing up as 1-Star or 2-Star at best.

I don't have a problem per se of buying 1- or 2-Star heifers but, unless that information is made available in the marts, it puts the seller at an advantage over the buyer.

We haven't spread any artificial fertiliser in a long time but we shortly need to think about blanket spreading, to build up grass for the autumn.

The ground is so dry here at the moment that it's hard to see how we will get much of a response in the short-term but it will come in its own time.

We had quite a bit of slurry in the tanks but we spread all the ground that we took the second-cut silage off plus a few other fields that wouldn't normally have got slurry.

We spread it at a rate of 2,500 gallons per acre.

With the intermittent showers, it was ideal weather for spreading and I think we actually got a great response, with the fields greening up quickly. The fields that were grazed and got slurry were given a run of the disk mower before we spread so there is some nice fresh grass back there now. The field we baled the hay in had quite a lot of docks so we sprayed them off in the after-grass and it looks like we got a super kill. It will be interesting to see how many come back next year.

Something I think we need to look at is how we keep our pastures clean. The two main culprits on this farm are docks and ragwort and it looks like, if we don't keep after them on an annual basis, they very quickly get out of hand.

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

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