Farm Ireland

Thursday 22 March 2018

How this busy beef farmer plans to improve time management on his farm

Stock image. Picture: Alf Harvey/
Stock image. Picture: Alf Harvey/
A controlled burning event run in conjunction with in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry Service and Teagasc took place for hill farmers at Millstreet Country Park. Photo: Denis Boyle
John Joyce

John Joyce

After a successful year on the farm, I am already looking ahead to next year and some improvements.

The two areas I plan to look into are labour and more efficient time management.

With farms becoming busier it is not just dairy farmers that are finding it hard to source extra help.

On my own farm I rely heavily on agriculture students and part-time labour.

With a lot of straw being used on the farm as bedding, one option for us is to buy a straw chopper as some of the sheds have a passage with space to work a straw shedder. It might be more expensive than a four grain fork, but labour and time is costly too.

Another option is a diet feeder to feed both cattle and sheep.

Again it would be a substantial purchase, but it would be a one-man job and the extra performance in all animals plus the minimising of wastage would add to the value.

Looking at labour patterns, we are carrying a lot of meal buckets or using the wheel barrow around the yard. With the rising costs of inputs, more precise weighing of the diet including meal, silage and straw may be needed to enable us to understand the real costs of feeding our animals.

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On the issue of time management, I don't think many other professionals are working the hours that most farmers are.

One area that I hope to improve on is the amount of time I spend on phone calls.

It is very easy lose a few minutes with each phone call and even if you are on some form of hands free device, it is still hard to concentrate on the job in hand.

I also hope to make better use of emailing and text messages, especially for ordering inputs that are needed for the day to day running of the farm.

Another area that I find takes up a bit of time is paying bills or settling up accounts. I now tend to use the debit card on the farm account as much as possible and sometimes post cheques instead of travelling to physically pay the bills. Another good idea is set up payment arrangements on your current account for some of your main suppliers like the feed mills, agri suppliers and vets.

The cattle have now settled into the sheds for the winter. Some of the weanlings have taken longer to settle than they did other years, with five or six off form for a few days with some form of pneumonia.

Observation several times a day is essential along with vaccination and early treatment.

Nuflor in the preferred drug of choice and it seems to bring them around quickly. All weanlings are on 1kg of meal a day.

All the store cattle are getting 2kgs daily and will remain on this ration to prolong the silage for the remainder of the winter feeding period.

Four bullocks and a similar number of heifers and cull cows will be headed for the factory before the end of the year and I hope to sell them before the Christmas.

The cattle have had their backs and tails trimmed to help with cleanliness, control of lice and animal performance.

It's a time-consuming job, but judging by their performance since, I think it will have been worth it.

Sometimes we tend to rely a lot on chemicals but there are still some very simple ideas that can still have a big impact in farming.

Finally, I haven't got a chance to test the silage on quality but it seems to have high dry matter content and it goes far.

John Joyce farms at Carrigahorig, Nenagh, Co Tipperary

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