Robin Talbot: The bottom line is how much are we going to lose rather than make on our young bulls

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
File photo

Robin Talbot

It's hard to see any light at the end of the tunnel, other than from several oncoming trains, in the beef sector at the moment.

Our bulls that are destined for slaughter at under 16-months are settling in nicely in the shed and we are building up their diet.

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Looking at them, I am really happy at how they have performed so far. Their average weight for age is the best it's ever been, with a lot of the bulls having already turned 500kg at 13 months.

I always enjoy this time of year, when these bulls are at this stage, because there is optimism for their performance and that they will leave a decent few quid.

But this year, the mood is totally different; all we can think about is how much they are going to lose.

We know from experience that we need in excess of €4/kg to break even.

My hope right now is that by the end of October there will be a favourable outcome to the Brexit issue. If something sympathetic isn't sorted on that front by then, all the stuff about climate change, Mercosur, veganism, etc. will be secondary.

In all the commotion, it's important that our politicians don't lose sight of the fact that Britain is our nearest neighbour and biggest market.

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Calving has really gone well for us and we are down to the few stragglers. But they will be finished by early October, because the stock bulls only run with the cows for 10 weeks.

Thankfully, we have had no health issues at all with the calves.

Most of the calves have already got their first shot for IBR and their first shot of Bovipast. They have also been dehorned.

As we are doing that, we also give the cows their booster shot for Lepto and record any that are missing tags, so that they can be replaced.

Some of the cows are being batched into groups of 35, other into batches of 50.

In the groups of 50, we will run two stock bulls together. In the groups of 35, we will run one bull and alternate them.

On the first cold night, we lost a cow with tetany. This surprised me as they have access to High-Mag buckets 24/7. Or so I thought.

When I checked it out, I discovered that the cows had pushed the bucket under the electric wire, just out of their reach.

So the lesson from that is to put the bucket in the middle of the paddock!

We got the results of our silage back last week. We were well satisfied with the quality; all the samples were in the mid- to high-70s.

Although we have a lot of grass around, we still decided to spread a bag of N per acre on most of the grazing ground.

We always wash down our fertiliser spreader after use but, since this was its last outing until next spring, it got a good seeing-to. Then, when it dried off, as we do every year, we sprayed it all over with some light hydraulic oil.

It's also important to leave all the setting handles and adjusters either open or loose. This is the best way of preventing rust and the moving parts from seizing up.

Our winter wheat ended up a little better than I had thought. When it was all processed, we ended up with 4.7t/ac. All in all, harvest 2109 was very satisfactory in terms of yield but unfortunately the same cannot be said for the price.

We recently sowed a crop we've never grown before, winter oilseed rape.

This will be grown for seed.


I am looking forward to seeing how it gets on. I am told it is an excellent crop to have in a rotation. Since we plan to increase out tillage acerage, and we also have some fields that have been in continuous barley for a long time, crop rotation was something that we needed to address.

Hopefully, weather-permitting, we will get all our tillage land sowed with winter crops of oilseed rape, barley, wheat and oats.

Winter crops suit our system far better than spring-sown ones.

August is our busiest month of the whole year, due to calving, so the last thing we need to be doing is harvest-work as well.

Robin Talbot farms in partnership with his mother Pam and wife Ann in Ballacolla, Co Laois

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