Farm Ireland

Saturday 17 March 2018

Steering a steady path for a Hereford herd

Sourcing local calves for his Hereford herd is the cornerstone of Michael Flynn's beef enterprise

Over 700 people attended the Teagasc Green Acres Calf to Beef farm walk on Michael Flynn's holding near Puckane, Co Tipperary. Photo: Feargal Shanahan
Over 700 people attended the Teagasc Green Acres Calf to Beef farm walk on Michael Flynn's holding near Puckane, Co Tipperary. Photo: Feargal Shanahan
Gordon Peppard, Teagasc Green Acres Calf to Beef programme advisor with Kathleen and Michael Flynn on their 57ha farm at Killard, Puckane, Co. Tipperary. Photo: Fergal Shanahan

Gordon Peppard

A huge crowd of over 700 farmers saw an excellently run Hereford steer system in action when they turned out for the recent Teagasc Green Acres farm walk at Michael Flynn's holding in Puckane, Co Tipperary.

On the day, Michael outlined that his system is one where Hereford bull calves are bought primarily in February and March, ideally sourced directly from farms where possible. Sourcing a large number of Hereford calves at this time of the year can be quite challenging he said.

Michael is firm believer of buying an early calf as much as possible, and the plan is not to buy calves born after the first week of April. These calves are reared on a good quality milk replacer with a minimum of 23pc crude protein, fresh water, straw and a 20pc crude protein calf pencil until weaning.

Increasing Calf Numbers

Over the last number of years Michael has being increasing the number of calves reared and this spring 130 calves were reared. In order to alleviate disease pressure and overcrowding in the calf rearing shed, two batches are moved to a sheltered field with access to a shed after approx. seven to eight weeks.

At grass these calves receive milk replacer twice per day from a feeder unit pulled behind a quad or jeep. The calves were weaned at 11/12 weeks at weights in excess of 100kgs, these calves received just short of two bags of milk replacer each.

Exceptional Weaning Weights

The exceptional weaning weights can be attributed to the excellent calf rearing skills of Michael and Kathleen and the use of adequate levels of milk replacer to support maintenance and growth of the young calf.

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Due to a large number of calves coming from many different sources there is a high disease pressure on the system.

In order to combat this, Michael in conjunction with his local vet, Eamon O'Connell, has implemented a vaccination programme where calves 24 hours after arrival receive their first shot of Bovipast RSP to protect against bacterial and viral pneumonia, Bovilis IBR Live intranasal to protect against IBR and Vecoxan to prevent against coccidiosis.

A booster Bovipast RSP is given four weeks later. Calves are given Covexin 8 prior to turn out to protect against the clostridial diseases and a booster shot given four to six weeks later.

Vaccination won't compensate for poor management

On the day Eamon highlighted that a good vaccination programme in a system like Michael`s is very important but stressed that this alone can't compensate for poor hygiene management.

It is very important that calf rearing is top notch. Plenty of straw should be used to ensure that the calf's bed is dry and warm, there should be a good slope on the floor to remove any seepage and sheds should have good ventilation and no draughts.

Good practice around feeding must be adhered to where all equipment is well washed down and cleaned after each feeding. Milk replacer should be fed at the exact same concentration, time and temperature each day as changes in routine can stress calves and stressed calves equals sick calves.

Having being weaned, calves go to grass full time in groups of approximately 50. They receive excellent quality grass and one kg of a calf nut for the summer.

Weighing Calves

The calves are weighed regularly and on the day the average for the 130 calves was 202kgs.

As Michael has established more paddocks and reseeded a number of fields over the past few years, he now has top quality grass in front of the aniamls at all times and may reduce the amount of meal fed over the summer in future years.

Castration of the bull calves by burdizzo takes place in September each year.

Depending on weather and ground conditions these calves will be housed in early November at somewhere in the region of 260 - 270kgs.

They will be fed high quality silage and one kg of a 16pc crude protein ration with the aim to gain 80-85 kgs over a 120 day winter.

Early Turnout is Critical to Weight

Michael sees early turnout to grass in the spring as a critical part of achieving a good carcase weights at 22 months.

Grass will have been built up from October and as soon as weather allows, these yearlings will be let out to grass in February. Meal will have been removed two weeks prior to turnout and no meals are fed at grass in the second grazing season. These animals go to grass at an average of 340 - 350kgs.

An average daily at grass of 1.1kgs per day has been achieved over the last number of years and the heaviest 30 animals are selected in mid-August at around 580kgs to start on a finishing programme.

These animals start on two kgs of meal at grass from 15th August and are built up to 5kgs. They are slaughtered in mid-November, reaching carcase weights around 350kgs.

The remaining animals are sold between November and January.

The quality of the stock and the grassland management which could clearly be seen on the day are a credit to Michael and Kathleen.

In the next two years, the Flynn`s plan to increase to 170 calves reared, selling a minimum of 162 steers each year allowing for a mortality rate of 5pc over the lifetime of the animal.

Gordon Peppard is programme advisor for the Teagasc Calf to Beef Programme

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