Rotation will keep the bulls on their toes for the breeding season

Derek Woods from Makief, Killeshandra, Co Cavan with Makief Major, the top price bull, sold for €4,600.
Derek Woods from Makief, Killeshandra, Co Cavan with Makief Major, the top price bull, sold for €4,600.
Cashel Community School students Aoife O'Connor, Calum Maher & Sarah Delaney are pictured discussing soil sampling with David Corbett in Teagasc Moorepark, Fermoy, Co Cork during Science Week. Photo O'Gorman Photography.

Robin Talbot

All the cows and calves are safely tucked up in their winter quarters.

At the moment, we are just building the calves up on ration. We would hope to get the best of the bull calves up to about 1.5kg per day, back down to maybe .5kg/day for the smallest of the heifers.

One batch of bull calves have access to the field 24/7. For the first few weeks, they stuck close to the cows but now they seem to be getting a bit more independent. Any bit of sunshine and they are out stretching their legs in the field.

We are planning to give a second group access to a field this coming week.

The cows are on 32kg of first cut silage plus 2.5kg of barley straw and 2.4kg of Maxammon-treated barley. They are also getting a dairy mineral.

We rotated around the stock bulls last week and we will move them again in 21 days' time. This will mean that every pen of cows will have had access to three stock bulls by the time the 10-week breeding season is over.

By rotating the bulls, hopefully it insures us against any fertility issues that may arise during the breeding season.

So far, they have all been very busy, with a lot of cows cycling. So, fingers crossed, its going well.

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We plan to treat all the cows for fluke this week.

We got one field of new grass grazed off with some suckler cows and calves before they went into the shed.

When we took the cows out of the new grass, even though they had only put small toe-marks in the field, we rolled it off with a Cambridge roller, to close it in. It is looking well now.

Our 15-month-old heifers are still out grazing. There is a little bit of grass around the place that needs to be cleaned off. So we split them up into smaller groups to graze out those fields and, luckily enough, they are not fields that we are planning on grazing early in the spring, so it should not affect our turnout.

Some of these heifers were coughing, so they have all been injected for hoose and worms this past week.

I must say, how pleasantly surprised I was to see how well they have done in recent weeks, in spite of the weather. Hopefully we will be able to keep them out for another few weeks.

When I think about it, this is the way we should have been managing these heifers every year.

Our system involves fattening everything out of the shed so, instead of bringing them indoors in early November, they can grow on for another month outside.

We would plan to bring them in then and feed them on top-quality silage (81 DMD) for 90-100 days and then build them up for an intensive finish over 60-90 days, depending on the potential of the heifers.

The first of our under-16-month bulls will be going to the factory this week.

Since the eldest of them are heifers' calves, it will probably be a couple of weeks before we can really assess how they have done.

Drinking bowls

The majority of them will be slaughtered before the end of the year.

They look to be thriving really well. They are eating 12.5kg meal, 5.5kg silage and .5kg straw.

Something that I have put on our to-do list for next year is to change the drinking bowls in our slatted house. I have not decided yet what I will do but quite a few of the bulls have picked up the habit of slopping the water out of the bowls with their tongues, onto the feeding area.

We have a good supply of water, and the bowls are always full, so I assume they are doing it for their entertainment.

We got the weed spray out on our winter barley a few weeks ago.

We also got our oats sowed, in quite good conditions, although it is not rolled after sowing. It was ploughed and sowed in the one day.

We sowed the variety Huskey. But we won't spray that for weeds until the spring.

The field we sowed the oats in this year is quite remote. I was a little bit concerned, especially since it wasn't rolled, that we would have an issue with crows, but I haven't seen any at all in the field.

We have also been keeping an eye on the winter barley for slugs. So far, there are not many evident.

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

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