Farm Ireland

Wednesday 12 December 2018

Land is burning up as our year of extreme weather takes another twist

John Joyce
John Joyce
John Joyce

John Joyce

As I sit down to write this article on a sunny, mid -summer evening I am looking out over a near drought-stricken farm.

This might sound very strange to some people, but pockets of farmland in this part of the country have received little or no rain in the last six to eight weeks.

Even the thunder storms of two to three weeks ago by-passed us with heavy rain falling just a few miles away.

I am not giving out about the good weather as we are getting loads of other work done, but it just shows the management skills needed to cope with our ever-changing conditions.

I am still getting flashbacks to the winter snow storms and harsh April winds on a daily basis.

Now the issues are poor grass growth - some of the land is starting to burn up.

The wetter areas of the farm or the fields with good grazing covers are working away nicely.

I have introduced a number of measures to deal with the conditions.

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One bag of sulpha can per acre has been spread on half the grazing area, with the remainder getting the equivalent next week.

I have introduced two kgs of meal in the form of a beef nut for the store heifers and cull cows. I hope to have these animals factory-fit later in the year.

The meal should slow down their demand for grass, improve their weight gain and conformation score and help with their temperament when they need to be moved.

The water wells on the farm are barely able to keep up with demand. There isn't much I can do about it now, but maybe for next year I could replace some of the water troughs with both faster filling and larger capacity models.

The stock themselves seem very contented. The breeding season has been progressing well, with a lot of cows served and little or no repeats.

One thing I have noticed is that calves have been giving a sharp cough in the morning while been herded.

I would assume they have some lung worm which may sound unusual given the dry year.

Usually I don't administer the first worm dose till mid-July, but it looks like I should dose these calves in the next few days before it becomes a problem. I have always used an oral dose over the years but might try one of the injectables this time.

Over the last number of weeks I have been selling the last of the shed cattle.

These stock consumed a lot of meal on a near adlib meal diet. Given the weather last spring, I had little choice but to continue feeding these animals - both bullocks and heifers - inside in the hope they would be finished at the peak of the beef prices. I am happy with that decision now.

Kill sheets

As always it is interesting to go through the kill sheets to look at weights and grades. With up to €150 difference between the top and bottom carcase on each load, it shows the return the better animal can achieve while taken up the same shed space and costing the same per day to feed.

While most of cattle sold were home-reared, they also included a batch purchased as weanlings.

It is hard to get the heifer carcase into heavier weights so I might lean towards bulls next year for the higher turnover of capital for the same shed area.

On the sheep side of the fence, about half of the lambs are on creep feed.

Lambs are been drafted weekly at 44kgs up from 42kgs earlier in June.

This will compensate for lambs killing out with a lower percentages and maximum returns.

I intend to stay creep feeding to push for higher carcass weights.

All lambs have been treated with Clickzin which has a very short withdrawal. All male lambs have been left entire this year.

I have noticed a greater level of thrive with them this year but, as with the young bulls, they require a greater level of management with feed and females. It shows that we could exploit the natural male hormone in these animals for greater feed efficiency.

John Joyce farms at Carrignahorig, Co Tipperary

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