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John Joyce: Fodder beet has the cows in great nick ahead of the calving season


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File photo

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File photo

It's like the calm before the storm as the calving and lambing approaches. We have tried to get the yard ready as best we can and pre-empt problems that might occur during the season.

Most of the preparation is now complete. This includes the calving shed, with plenty of straw on hand, and a lot of the small items like new calf tags, 10pc iodine, long gloves etc. I have also purchased a spare set of ropes for the calving jack as it is an item that can be easily lost on a busy day around calving time.

Nearing the end of last year's calving I also purchased a stomach tube. I only used it on one calf.

It was a middle of the night job, with a small calf too weak to drink and I was fading myself after a long day's work. I have always tried to get the calf to suck the cow or the bottle, but it can be very time-consuming.

We have being using stomach tubes on the farm for the lambs for as long as I can remember, but never made the jump to one for calves.

If used correctly, it is a great aid to have when you are very busy.

The biggest problem I have heading into the mountain of spring work is labour. I now see where dairy farmers are coming from when they talk about a labour shortage.

I have advertised for evening and weekend work but have received little interest. This means I am looking at long hours with little respite.

A part-time job would be a great way for some young farmer to learn the ropes.

Looking ahead, I see labour issues as being one of the biggest challenges to the industry.

There seems to be very few people interested in part-time work, especially if it involves unsocial hours.

For now I will just have to use my time more efficiently and use texts and emails rather than spending too much time on the phone.

And I will look to get more inputs delivered instead of collecting them.

Fodder beet

Hopefully the spring will be early and stock can be turned out earlier - we really need to be getting the animals to do more for themselves.

The fodder beet in cows' diet seems to be doing a great job on their body condition. They are only on about 5kg per head per day, but it is easy to see the difference. I might cut it back or out all together in the run-up to calving and then increase it again after calving in case it swells the unborn calf.

This is the first time I have used beet and I am well impressed. I thought I would have to purchase more machinery to feed it, but the diet feeder is doing an adequate job. I believe it is an under-used feed source and maybe we shouldn't be relying on as much imported feed as we do when tillage farmers can grow this crop.

I have noticed in the last while that a few cows need replacement tags so I will order these next week and I will be able to tag these cows before they leave the shed for the summer.

I usually do this twice a year across the herd and then order what's needed. It is an important job to keep up to date on, but it's unrealistic to be ordering a tag every time an animal loses one.

Indo Farming