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Tuesday 20 February 2018

Suckler farmer on how he's managing the 2017 calving season

Shauna Jager, Eithne Murray, Tara Frehill and Emily Browne, from Our Lady's School, Terenure were announced as the national winners of the Certified Irish Angus Beef schools competition. The group reared five Irish Angus Cross calves for 18 months as part of an Agricultural Science schools competition. Photo: Finbarr O'Rourke
Shauna Jager, Eithne Murray, Tara Frehill and Emily Browne, from Our Lady's School, Terenure were announced as the national winners of the Certified Irish Angus Beef schools competition. The group reared five Irish Angus Cross calves for 18 months as part of an Agricultural Science schools competition. Photo: Finbarr O'Rourke
John Joyce

John Joyce

Calving is now in full swing and going very well. The calves that are born so far are of a medium build and are not over fleshed, so the calving jack has not been used so for this year. All have been hardy and vigorous, so the minerals and feeding plan seem to have worked well.

The Limousins are great to get up and get their own first drink and it takes a huge lift off the workload when they do so.

Some of the heifers have calved, half of them are home bred Limousin crosses and the others are bucket-reared Simmental crosses from a dairy herd. The bucket-reared ones have a great supply of milk and could possibly rear two calves, so they should do a great job of the calves once they can fully drink them. Their temperament is also fantastic which as suckler farmers we should be looking more into.

In preparation for the calving we have more in the calving shed due to straw being stored elsewhere. This only sounds like a small thing, but has made a big difference when a few cows calve together.

We also have frozen colostrum in the freezer, thanks to a neighbouring dairy farm, if we get stuck with a cow that may be a little contrary to milk and feed her calf.

Another small investment was an extra set of ropes for the calving jack. These might come in handy some night if one gets lost in the straw.

The plan is to keep the cows and calves inside on straw till the calf is about two weeks of age. Then the pair will be turned out to a sheltered three-acre field with a little wood in the corner of the field. The cows with have access to round bale silage and a hi-mag mineral bucket.

The idea is to get both used to the outdoors and have the calf strong enough to drink the extra milk before the cow goes to grass.

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I have a few replacement tags ordered for the cows and I want to have all jobs like debuding, tagging and hopefully the beef genomics programme tags in place before the cows are turned out to grass as in can be awkward to round up a batch with young calves again.

Also, the annual herd TB test is due, so will try and get it out of the way in the next two weeks.

It is amazing at this time of the year one has to go from shed or yard mode to field mode. This usually means starting to get some fencing done and the fertiliser out.

I hope to spread a bag of sulphur can per acre over the grazing ground in the next week. I still don't plan to turnout large numbers for another few weeks.

Two week ago I sold a pen of cull cows to the factory. I was happy with the result. There was a big difference in the weights form the best cow which was a young U grade Limousin cow with a carcases weight of 418 kgs to a old Hereford O grade cow.

One was nearly twice the value of the other, both cost the same to feed as regard fixed costs. This just showed the potential of some animals.

But in defence of the old Hereford cow she had 12 calves registered to her as opposed to three with the young cow.

John Joyce farms at Carrigahorig, Nenagh, Co Tipperary.

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