Farm Ireland

Sunday 21 January 2018

Fingers crossed the herd's 'Lanigan's Ball' drill is over

A Limousin cross heifer with her 9-month-old Angus bull calf on the Talbot's farm in Ballacolla, Co. Laois
A Limousin cross heifer with her 9-month-old Angus bull calf on the Talbot's farm in Ballacolla, Co. Laois
The reserve champion Hereford at the annual pedigree bull show & sale in Bandon Mart 'Appel 1 Federation' sold for €2,900 & is pictured with owner John Appelbe, Carrigroe, Clonakilty & judge Liam Philpott, Kanturk, Co Cork. Photo O'Gorman Photography.

Robin Talbot

In this past month, all the cows and calves have been turned out to grass, brought back in again and turned out again. Hopefully they are now out to stay.

Like a lot of people in this area, when I pulled back the curtains on the morning of Wednesday, March 22, I closed them just as quick and then opened them slowly, hoping that the four inches of snow I saw the first time was only in my imagination and that the sun was shining and the grass was growing.

Alas, I was wrong. There was snow sitting on the ground and it was obvious all stock had to come in as quickly as possible.

We ended up keeping them in for five days, which, I suppose, wasn't too bad considering how wet the snow had made the ground.

One group of cows were on an outfarm and it just wasn't possible to bring them in. So we left them in the paddock they were in until the Wednesday afternoon, by which time the snow had melted and then we moved them into a fresh paddock.

Luckily enough, this was a dry piece of land so, while they absolutely ploughed the paddock they came out of, they did no damage in the fresh paddock. A week after we removed the cows from the badly poached paddock - by which time it had dried out - we rolled it with a Cambridge roller and it seems to have recovered 100pc.

One group we let out was a mix of cows that were scanned 'in calf' and 'not in calf'. After two weeks, we removed the cows that were empty and they hardly seem to have been missed by their calves. These empty cows will now be fattened on grass and will hopefully be slaughtered in June.

We let up our ground for silage in the last few days of March. We spread 4cwt of 24-2.5-10 per acre. All this ground had been grazed bare pre close-up.

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We didn't spread any slurry on it after grazing but hopefully we will get to put slurry out on it after we take our first-cut.

We decided not to spread slurry on this ground earlier on because there was too much grass on it. I am wary of spreading slurry immediately before we close up, in case we got a few very dry days and some of the slurry might stick to any new growth, and might contaminate our silage.

We also let up a field for hay and it got 3cwt/acre of 24-2.5-10.

Our winter barley has got two applications of fertiliser so far. At this stage we are up to about 100 units per acre. We will probably go to somewhere around 140-150 units per acre.


Luckily, we got a chance to spray the winter barley for weeds in the autumn but, as of yet, it hasn't got its first fungicide.

We sowed our spring oats three weeks ago and it has emerged as a lovely even crop.

We haven't sown any spring barley yet. The seed and manure is in the shed waiting to go and the fields are ploughed. Hopefully we will get to that this week.

We sowed our 200m of GLAS hedging in the middle of March and it appears to be bursting into life, with plenty of leaves emerging so hopefully it will now power ahead.

In the next month, we also need to re-sow our wild bird cover for the coming year.

We are continuing to sell our beef heifers to the factory, with about half of them gone at this stage. It's good to see the price starting to rise a bit, not before time.

It's important that all straw-bedded sheds are properly cleaned out at this time of year, to break the cycle of infection, especially since some cows with young calves will spend time in these sheds in July-August.

I notice ICBF are getting a bit of stick at the moment about the change in value of EBIs. As someone who is trying to buy replacement heifers in the mart at the moment, I wish that, when the decision was taken to show the star ratings on some of the boards in the marts, that all the ratings should have been put up, not just those with 4- and 5-stars.

As things stand, it has just created an elite group of expensive heifers.

Whereas, by ICBF's own admission, a 3-star heifer could actually turn out to be as good as a 5-star.

So we don't know whether any heifer that doesn't have a star rating is 1-star or 3-star. It appears to me that the technology is there and the information is there. All that it takes is for someone to take the decision to do it.

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

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