Farm Ireland

Monday 25 March 2019

John Joyce: The mild winter has made for a very welcome stress-free spring

Cattle shed doors had to be left open this winter due to heat
John Joyce

John Joyce

It is hard to believe the difference between the weather - and the stress levels - this spring compared to last year.

I have never seen a winter when both doors of the cattle sheds need to be left open due to the heat inside the sheds.

Over the last week we have tackled the rising slurry in the tanks. This is our first time spreading slurry this year as the cattle entered the sheds so late last autumn there was no real need.

We have concentrated spreading on the silage ground at the rate of 2,000 gallons per acre. Some of it has too much grass on it to spread with the splash plate, while the rest has been grazed bare by the sheep so it is perfect for spreading.

Other years it was convenient to spread it on the grazing ground but it is the silage ground that needs these nutrients as it is the by-product of the crop of grass that left those fields in the silage trailers or bales last summer.

The tanks have the capacity to hold the remaining slurry for the rest of the winter, although we shall spread a significant amount in April when closing up the silage ground for the coming season.

Judging by the amount of grass around and doing a count of the bales of silage, hay and straw in the yard, I think we should have adequate feed for the remainder of this winter if we stay on the same level of meal feeding.

In addition, we have also started to zero graze the Restart as the crop was getting advanced with the risk of going to flower. It has been tipped on the silage slab and we are reloading it into the diet feeder mixing it with 50pc straw and feeding it to the weanlings.

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All the suckler cows with a lower condition score than the main herd of cows are getting 1kg of meal per day just to give them a little more strength at calving and to make sure they have adequate milk after calving.


The remaining cows are receiving 1kg of rolled oats per day plus their dry cow minerals dusted on the silage.

This should make the calves good and hardy. Other years I have also dusted some soya bean meal on the silage a couple of weeks out from calving in a bid to increase milk yield and colostrum quality.

Calving won't get into full swing until early March as we operate a low cost spring calving herd that calves as close as possible to grass growth without being too late.

In saying that, this year I am going to have to make a better attempt to get cows and their calves out of the sheds as early as possible, weather permitting, as last year there was a lot of extra work due to the late turnout after the poor spring.

Meanwhile, as a host farmer for Gurteen Ag College, the middle of February means the arrival of a new student for their eight weeks' work placement on year one of their course.

This year the new man on the farm is studying beef and tillage. I think it is a very important time in their education. It is always an interesting time for the student and the host farmer. I try to encourage them to get the most out of their work experience and learn as many new skills as possible.

I also must add that I never fail to learn something from them as well and it is always interesting to have a new pair of eyes around the farmyard.

On the sheep side of the fence, the ewes are just about 10 days out from lambing. They are on a 20pc protein ewe and lamb ration with good quality hay saved during the excellent weather last summer.

I have upped the protein content from 18pc to a 20pc protein for the past few years and found it to have a great influence on the quality and milk available to the lambs.

John Joyce farms at Carrigahorig, Co Tipperary

Indo Farming