Robin Talbot: 'Hairy' paddocks have been given a good trimming from the mower

Robin Talbot pictured on the family farm in Ballacolla, Co Laois is a lifelong suckler farmer. Photo: Alf Harvey
Robin Talbot pictured on the family farm in Ballacolla, Co Laois is a lifelong suckler farmer. Photo: Alf Harvey
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Robin Talbot

We started the winter barley harvest last week in ideal conditions, and both quality and yield are well above last year's levels. There are also ample quantities of good quality straw.

Since we have no spring barley this year, our harvest should finish up quite early, with the winter oats not too far away from being ripe, and the winter wheat seems to be coming quite quickly as well.

All the straw will be put into big square bales.

The bales that we will be using to incorporate into the diet through the feeder wagon will be baled with a baler that has a chopper on it. Hopefully, this will speed up feeding time in the winter. It is our plan to feed up to 3kg/day of straw to the cows.

As soon as we can organise it, we will treat and store our barley, with the surplus being sold off the combine.

When the fields of straw are cleared, our plan is to give the stubbles a light run of a grubber. We have done this for the last good few years and it ensures that any small grains of corn will germinate and can then be ploughed down; this avoids any carry-over of disease into next year's crop.

All the farmyard manure has been tipped close to tillage fields and it will be spread on them as soon as they are cleared.

We are also watching closely some oilseed rape that is being grown locally and, subject to how it yields, we might try some ourselves this autumn.

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We have more or less made up our minds that we are going to plough some extra ground this coming year.

The fact that we didn't buy any replacement heifers this year frees some extra ground for tillage.

Another thing I am glad to see is the appointment of a new prime minister in Britain.

Hopefully, the Brexit situation will now be resolved, in whatever format.

The last thing I want to hear is the sound of the can being kicked further down the road.

We need to know what's happening, we need to know the implications, so we can make decisions and move on.

The last thing we beef farmers need is Brexit, and all the uncertainty it brings, hanging over us indefinitely.

We have also had a steady start to the calving.

To date, between cows and heifers, we have 20 calved - and all the calvings were as nature intended, without human intervention.

This weather is ideal for calving outdoors. The ground is dry and hard and warm. Calves are up and sucking within minutes of birth.

The only negative so far is that we have one in-calf heifer who always seemed to be a bit wild, and since she came into the more confined area of the calving paddock, has become very aggressive.

She is pretty close to calving and I haven't got the heart to send her to the factory now but, unless she has a major change of attitude when she calves, she will have to go.

I was tagging some calves one morning last week and couldn't help wondering what the future holds for them, or indeed suckling as a system.

We cut our second-cut silage last week in lovely conditions. Any paddocks that had gotten a bit strong were also put in the pit.

We are happy that we had adequate amounts of winter feed on hand.

All the grazing ground has got, or will soon get, 1.5 cwt/acre of Pasture Sward.

Any paddocks that were a bit 'hairy' were cleaned off with the disc mower, and hopefully that will mean nice fresh grass for the cows and new-born calves.

Last year's bull calves are really piling on the weight at the moment. This is mainly because we are able to keep a supply of fresh aftergrass in front of them.

At this point, we have no choice but to finish them as under-16-month bulls.

However, for the first time ever, I am not optimistic about the prospects for their economic return.

No matter how efficient they are in terms of putting on weight or we are in terms of managing costs, it's hard to see them leaving any kind of margin at current price levels.

Despite all the doom and gloom in the beef sector - the like of which I have never experienced - we recently traded in our teleporter and bought a new one.

It's a machine that's used practically every day on the farm. The machine that we traded in had served us well but it had almost 13,000 hours on the clock.

The repayments on our tractor are finished so this seemed the right time to do it.

Whatever the future holds for this farm, we need a machine that we can rely on.

Indo Farming

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