Farm Ireland

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Suckler milk surplus only glitch in dream calving season

The Champion Pedigree Charolais Cow Gold Star Elle with owner Murth Ryan,Thurles, Tipperary. Photo Roger Jones.
The Champion Pedigree Charolais Cow Gold Star Elle with owner Murth Ryan,Thurles, Tipperary. Photo Roger Jones.
Clive and Roy Stevenson fromLetterkenny, Co.Donegal with their winning heifer at the The 2017 All Ireland Baby Beef Championship at Limerick Show. The competition was sponsored by Greenvale Animal Feeds. Photo Maria Kelly

Robin Talbot

A friend of mine has a great saying, that, too far east is west and I just wonder if we have gone too far in one direction with our suckler cows. Or maybe it is just down to the good grass year.

Why I say this is because some of our cows, especially our first and second calvers , just have too much milk.

Their diet for the weeks pre-calving would be similar to other years but we have had some cows and heifers in the days pre- and post- calving that were hardly able to walk because they were so flagged with milk.

I was always of the opinion that a cow needed enough milk just to rear a calf well and that too much milk is as bad, if not worse, than not having enough.

The irony is that, so far, touch wood, we have had a dream calving season.

Close to 70pc of the herd has calved in a month and I think we might push close to having 90pc calved in six weeks.

Our routine of night-time feeding has worked exceptionally well. Most nights, I get to bed at 10pm and see them again at 6am. We have had no more than half a dozen calves born under cover of darkness.

We had to do one section, for a big calf. About six cows needed minor intervention and the remainder all calved unassisted. All calves were born alive except for a set of twins that were stillborn. We subsequently lost two calves; one about five days old, that I found dead in the field, the other was three days old that succumbed to some congenital problem.

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We've had three cows very sick with E Coli mastitis.

Two made full recoveries. Although there was damage to their udders, they have gone off rearing their calves. The third one will have it all to do to survive and we fostered her calf on to one of the cows that lost the calf out in the field. Unusually, the cow took to the foster calf straight away.

A few cows are calving down with a blind teat, as a result of some summer mastitis. So I think we will certainly have to look at some form of dry cow therapy for next summer.

The recent heavy rains have created a lot of muck in our calving paddock, which has left the underfoot conditions quite soft. But at least the numbers there now are much smaller.


We continue to dehorn the calves and move them and the cows away to pasture. They are already going into specific groups, hopefully matching the cows to the bull that will be running with that group. They would also be segregated by sex of the calf, treated for IBR and given their first Bovipast shot.

So far we have had no sick calves. Long may that continue.

We recently treated all our yearling bulls for IBR, trimmed their tails and weighed them. I was pleasantly surprised at how they had performed. The Angus bulls averaged 470kg, the Limousins 484kg and the Belgian Blues, 518kg.

I suppose a health warning on those figures would be that the Blue bulls would be out of our best cows, the Limousins out of some of the smaller cows and the Angus are mostly heifers' calves.

They are separated into two groups at this stage, with the 50 oldest in one group. We have been feeding them in the field for the past fortnight. The plan is to bring them into the shed this week.

When we bring them in, we will administer a pour-on, for internal and external parasites.

As they are going up the crush, we will use our drafting gate to segregate them by age. So, when it comes to slaughter time, at 16 months, the bulls of a similar age are in the same pen.

We direct re-seeded 28ac this past week. It was sprayed off with Roundup a few weeks ago. Most of it got two runs of a heavy duty disc. Then we sowed it with a one-pass and rolled it off with a Cambridge roller.

We spread 2t lime per acre. One field, which had a very low index for P and K got 4 cwt of 10-10-20 per acre, the rest got 2cwt of 10-10-20.

The one frustration at the moment is that the harvest is at a standstill. The spring barley seems to be standing up to the rain reasonably ok but the spring oats has taken a real hammering and is a sorry looking sight.

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

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