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Saturday 18 November 2017

Crows are the chief suspects for this farmer's calves' poor appetite

A black crow
A black crow

Robin Talbot

All the cows and calves are settled into their winter quarters and all seem happy enough.

I just have a little concern that the calves are not eating their ration with the sort of vigour that calves in previous years did.

They are in good fettle but I notice that, even when they are eating the ration, they only seem to be picking at it. At this stage in previous years the biggest issue was to make sure they wouldn't walk on your toes when you were putting the meal in the troughs.

Also, some of their tails are not as clean as I would like and their coats not as shiny.

So we plan to get the vet to take some faeces samples this week, just to check if there is a worm burden or anything else hanging around.

One thing struck me during the week that it could, quite probably, be due to a problem I have created myself. I had been giving them slightly over 1kg/hd/day of ration and I would have expected them to eat that.

They weren't eating it all at the one time, coming back later in the day to finish it off. I wasn't concerned about that because the weather was dry so it wasn't going to get messy. But - and this may be where the problem lies - for some reason, we are absolutely overrun with crows and they had been eating some of the ration from the troughs and obviously contaminating it in the process.

In the last couple of weeks, it has been very noticeable that there is a huge amount of crows around the yard, far more than we would ever have had. In the morning, they are roosting on the roofs of the sheds, they are on gates, they are on the ground. Perhaps its only a temporary situation, and, in the words of Father Jack, I hope they soon feck off!

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Both our first and second cut silage are good quality this year. But it's just a little bit worrying how quickly we are going through it.

The second cut will shortly be gone and we will then be moving on to the first cut, which has a DMD of 77. At the moment, the cows diet is made up of 1.6kg straw, 2.4kg barley/oats mix and 47kg silage. When we move on to the first cut, we will be able to reduce the intake of silage and increase the intake of straw.

Then when our breeding season finishes at the end of the year, hopefully we will be able to reduce the silage a little bit more.

I'd be confident that we have ample silage But its important to monitor how quick it's going.

We will take the bulls away from the heifers this week, which gives them a breeding season of eight weeks. I think this should be more than adequate for any well-grown, healthy, heifer to go in calf.

In my opinion, if she doesn't go in calf within eight weeks, she is not going to survive in the suckler herd anyway.

We have changed around the bulls this past week. Things seem quiet on the breeding front. Whether that is good or bad remains to be seen. Hopefully we will get a chance to change them around again before the end of the breeding season, which means that, over the course of the 10 weeks, every cow will have run with three different bulls.

Autumn calving

We are getting into the main sales of our under 16-month bulls and I suppose that is one of the disadvantages of autumn calving and doing under 16-month bulls - our peak kill roughly corresponds to the Christmas period. This means that some bulls might have to be killed 7-10 days earlier than you would like to fit in with the factory's Christmas hours.

We were pleasantly surprised with the fat covers on the first group of bulls killed. They ranged from 3= up to 4=. So hopefully we can maintain that fat cover. They averaged 397kg carcase weight.

Those bulls would really only be on high levels of concentrate for something short of 90 days i.e. we started feeding them on September 1.

We got the winter barley sprayed last week. We sprayed for weeds and aphids. All our cereal ground needs to be sprayed every year for wild oats and volunteer oats. Since the spray for oats doesn't work well in cold conditions, we always do that in the spring.

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

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