One of my favourite sights of the year is seeing the cattle being turned out to grass —their tails high in the air on their first lap of the field before they set about crunching the first few bits of the lush green spring grass.
But while it reduces the indoor workload, turnout brings its own jobs, including daily herding on land away from the farmyard, fencing repairs and grass management.
On our farm, the only remaining stock inside now are the last few late calvers and beef bulls being finished for mid-June.
Over the last few weeks I have been trying to keep on top of small jobs like tagging and debudding calves. This week we completed the annual TB herd test.
I will also apply online on my agfood account for the BEEP 2 suckler scheme. The closing date is May 15. I participated in it last year and found the weighing of the calves and cows a useful tool in gauging herd performance.
This year’s scheme is not as basic and a few actions are required to qualify. Some are optional, but weighing is still a compulsory action.
The optional actions are meal feeding of the weanlings before and after weanling or a vaccination programme to prevent pneumonia. The third option is faecal egg testing for liver and rumen fluke in the cows.
I will opt for the meal feeding and the faecal egg testing as I think they will be more beneficial for herd management.
I carry out worm testing on the sheep enterprise of the farm every year and find it very useful in deciding what product to use.
The BEEP scheme is still a long way off the desired suckler cow support that has been debated for the last few years, but it’s a start and in the current environment it shouldn’t be left behind.
Remember, all the options are not herd targets. Some are just actions that can be completed on any farm.
With the end of one calving season, we immediately start looking ahead to the breeding season.
The bull will be introduced to the cows at the end of this week, and the plan is to start calving around the middle to the end of next February.
The cows have been on good grass for the last three weeks and have excellent grass in front of them, with the calves well able to drink with them at this stage.
There had already been a lot of bulling activity before the bull was joined with them. Calving has run late on me here this year and has prolonged the workload.
I will make a big effort with the breeding season this year to try to compact the calving, maybe even to the point that the last few calvers could be sold in-calf or with a calf at foot.
It is hard to manage groups of animals when they are not evenly aged. Looking at the calves born at the start of the calving compared to the ones in the last few days is like comparing chalk and cheese in relation to their strength.
Meanwhile, a neighbour asked me the other day, were we “up to date with all our work’’ on the farm. My reply was that we were “on top of any of the seasonal work”.
His question got me thinking about the workload that is on this farm for the rest of this year. What is the essential work the needs to be done on this farm?
Is it a year for cutbacks with the lower prices being paid for our produce, or is it a year when we can get value for money on any new project we might have in mind. It’s a subject worth thinking about.