Farm Ireland

Tuesday 24 October 2017

Our Farm: Doing a few small jobs now will make winter feeding run smooth

John Joyce has about one month of grass ahead of the cattle
John Joyce has about one month of grass ahead of the cattle
John Joyce

John Joyce

It's hard to believe that the winter is just around the corner, but the dry weather we have experienced in this part of the country in the past few weeks has been excellent for grass utilisation and the stock seem to be contented.

In saying that, we have about one month of grass ahead of the cattle. Most of them are on the last rotation of their grazing area and will be housed as the grass runs out.

The plan is not to graze the fields too tight. The ewes will come in handy at this time of year to finish out any butt of grass that may be left around the farm, in a bid to keep them outside until Christmas.

Most of the winter housing is ready at this stage. The JCB - being the main feeding machine for the winter - probably needs a good service, including the changing of oil and filters.

It also needs a few new tines put on the grab as some of the old ones are loose or have worn short. These few little jobs will make the winter feeding run more smoothly.

I have introduced the high magnesium buckets to the cows in the last week to hopefully combat any grass tetany. Adding magnesium to the drinking water was not an option as one batch of cows has access to a stream from which to drink.

I find that the buckets have worked well on the farm over the last number of years. It's a cheap and easy way of doing it.

Like anything in farming, again, the golden rule is prevention - and better to put them out before you lose a cow. The buckets have a 12pc magnesium content and are suitable where sheep are grazing side by side.

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I haven't decided on any winter parasite programme for the cattle yet, but I have heard a lot of farmers around the area talking about problems with stomach fluke after the wet summer.

Looking at our cows there doesn't seem to be a problem and we never dosed for it before. However, just to be on the safe side, I will get a few dung samples taken and drop them into our local lab and have them tested for rumen fluke.

If they come back negative, well and good; if positive, we will just have to treat for it and it will be money well spent. Apart from that we will treat for liver fluke and lice in all the animals and lungworms in the weanlings.

One other idea that I might try this winter is the common practice of shaving a line up the middle of the beef animals' back about three inches wide. I have never tried this before but some say it helps with keeping the cattle cleaner and also with any lice issues. I am always interested in improving the housing condition and improved performance of animals, especially if it is cost-neutral.

This year we didn't get a chance to get the suckler cows scanned. There were a number of reasons for this. They are now gone too far advanced. However, scanning always tells its own story and helps with a calving plan.

On observation of the cows in the field there seems to be no activity, even where the bull calves are with the cows, so this is a good sign. I have a good record of when the cows were bulled and the repeats. The cows will be penned according to condition score in the shed for the winter.

At the sheep end of the farm, the rams are busy with the ewes, so that means we will be busy in about five months' time. I have purchased an extra ram to join the other six, as two of the best stock rams got lame for a few days.

They have been with the ewes for the past three weeks, so later this week I will change the raddle colour and this will soon tell me if there are many repeats.

On the lamb side there are just 84 remaining on the farm and will be finished over the next five weeks. Thirty of the lighter ones were sold as stores in the last few weeks, as it was hard to resist the good prices being paid for them.

John Joyce farms at Carrigahorig, Nenagh, Co Tipperary

Indo Farming