Robin Talbot: We will be drawing on barley stores to beat silage shortfall

Belgian Blue bull calf on Talbot's farm in Ballacolla, Co. Laois in 2016.
Belgian Blue bull calf on Talbot's farm in Ballacolla, Co. Laois in 2016.
Benny Murphy, Ian Murphy and Charlie Hogan at the Tullow Mart Show & Sale last week. Photo: Roger Jones.

Robin Talbot

I heard someone say last week that hope is not a plan, so his advice is to have a plan and hope it works.

At this stage, we know that we have only 60pc of the pit silage that we will require for the winter.

However, we are in the fortunate position that we have been able to keep extra straw and process and store extra barley, which we will be using to make up the diet in the shortfall of fodder for the suckler cows.

We got the results back of our silage last week.

The cut taken in the middle of May has a DM of 31pc, DMD of 82pc and Protein of 17pc. The corresponding figures for the cut taken at the end of May are 40pc, 72pc and 16pc.

Normally, we would feed the best silage to the fattening cattle but maybe we will have to rethink that this year.

If we have to skimp on volume of silage being fed to the suckler cows, bearing in mind that our breeding season is late October to December, maybe they should be getting the better quality stuff.

The land around here is still very dry. A lot of the rain seems to have passed us by. While everywhere has greened up, as yet we haven't seen a surge in grass growth.

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We recently blanket spread 30 units of nitrogen per acre, in the form of Pasture Sward.

The ground that was fertilised and intended for second cut silage but ended up being grazed seems to be growing the best at the moment. So I'm assuming that a lot of the fertiliser that was spread before the drought is coming available to the plants as the soil moisture deficit alleviates.

Because our highest demand for grass is in the spring and the autumn, our main priority now is to build up a bank of grass, if at all possible.

We are definitely not going to take any second-cut silage. It would tie up too much ground and put us under too much pressure to keep adequate grass in front of the cows and calves.

But, if any chance presents itself, we will take some bales at any opportunity we can get them.

If we could get a return of 4-5 bales off some paddocks, it would be a help. I particularly don't want to go for too heavy a yield because I know it will take too long for the re-growth to get up and re-established.

Our main priority is the cows and calves.

About 40pc of the cows are now calved. Another 40pc should be calved before the end of the month.

So far, it has gone smoothly, with night-time feeding working a treat.

During some of the real hot days, we moved the freshly-born calves indoors for the first few hours. I felt the heat was stressing them and I was worried about them getting sunstroke. But they were fine the next day and we let them back out to the field.

The yearling bulls which are destined for under-16 month beef are still outdoors.

We introduced feed to them on August 1, which is a month earlier than normal but I felt they were a little bit behind where I would like them to be and they hadn't enough grass.

At the moment, they are getting 4-5kg silage, 0.5kg straw and 6kg of a mix of barley, oats and molasses. Hopefully we will be able to add wheat to that in a few weeks.


As long as the weather remains like this, they are probably a lot happier outside than they would be inside.

At the moment, we are tackling a job in the slatted house, which was built in 1984.

The pillars that the water troughs are attached to are rusted through completely at ground level.

This meant we had to get a compressor to expose 10 inches of the pillar below the level of the concrete. The part of the pillar that had been encased in concrete is as good as the day it was put up.

The plan now is to weld in a strong plate on the outside of the affected pillars.

Our spring barley has now been cut and did a very disappointing 2t/acre.

With the winter barley coming in at just 3.6t/acre, we are seriously questioning whether we will grow spring barley again.

Because of the way that the year is working out, we have spread very little slurry on grass. So, last week, all the winter barely stubble got 3,000 gallons/ acre of slurry.

This was disced in straight after spreading.

We also spread one small grass field with a trailing shoe. I must say I was very impressed with the work it did.

The first thing on my to-do list for the Ploughing is to see what is available in this technology and whether it is feasible to retro-fit it to our own tanker.

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

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