John Joyce: 'Copper injections a major boost to cow fertility'

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John Joyce

John Joyce

There is an unusual silence around the farmyard these mornings, with the bawl of a newborn calf or the odd rattle of a feed barrier having been replaced with the chirping of the nesting birds in the trees.

The only animals that remain inside are the beef bulls. It is a time of relief when animals are happy out on grass and the workload associated with feeding them has decreased, even though it increases on some other fronts with maybe field work or fencing.

Calving has gone very smooth this year with very little calves having to be pulled. One calf in particular since calving has caused a bit of bother though. She was born about four weeks ago unassisted to a mature cow who had a number of calves previously.

Everything looked fine when she was born and stood within the first hour of being born. Except it made no attempt to get its own drink, so after an hour, I decided to milk the cow and feed her. The cow herself was a bucket-reared calf from a dairy herd, so milking cow number 603 was the easy part. I didn't even need the calving gate. The calf herself suckled the bottle on and off for maybe 10 minutes and wasn't overly hungry, but I was happy that it got its colostrum.

The following day, knowing she still hadn't suckled the cow, I tried to train her to drink the cow, but she refused to suckle the cow's teat point blank and, instead, suckled the bottle no problem. To this day, she still won't suck the cow even though the cow is not rejecting her and both lay together. I have tried every trick in the book at this stage, even starvation, but to no avail. Some animals just like making work for you.

Time management is a very important part of any job on the farm. It's something I need to improve on, as well as most other farmers, especially at this time of the year, to get finished up a bit earlier in the evenings now that the stock are outside.

It is these unforeseen jobs that take up a lot of time that never really pay for themselves, but I suppose they still have to be completed. Every year at turnout, I inject all the cattle with a copper supplement injection. The cows get 6ml, with the yearlings getting 4mls. It is one mineral the farm has a deficiency in and I find since using it, the cow fertility has improved greatly, and there has been a noticeable thrive in the younger cattle.

It is just a simple 20mg/ml of copper injection into the neck muscle. It has worked well over the last five to six years. The only downfall is it sometimes leaves a little lump on the animals neck, so next year, I hope to try some form of bolus with a high copper content. I don't inject the beef animals as there is minerals in their ration.

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May also seems to be a month for tidying up loose ends. The last of the calves has been registered and all tagging for the beef genomics scheme has been completed and posted. It is a scheme that has gotten a lot of stick over the years, but I will stay with it for the final two years.

At this stage, we have plenty of four and five-star cows, so mainly it is just recording and the tagging from here on. It has been a great help when the tags arrive before turnout.

We also had our annual TB herd test last week, with all going clear for another year. Again, it is a big job, but it is great to have it out of the way for the rest of the year. The two days went smoothly as it can be a stressful time and, going forward, the yard could be improved to aid better flow of the cattle to get the job done.

Again, with labour in short supply, I think it is worth spending money on infrastructure to make it possible to complete more tasks by oneself.

John Joyce farms in Carrigahorig, Co Tipperary

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