Farm Ireland

Saturday 24 February 2018

Taking the bull by the horns on grazing was not too tough after all

Belgian Blue bull calf born 13/8/2016 pictured in May on Talbot's farm in Ballacolla, Co. Laois.
Belgian Blue bull calf born 13/8/2016 pictured in May on Talbot's farm in Ballacolla, Co. Laois.

Robin Talbot

We did two things this spring that I swore we'd never do.

When I think back on it, neither of them were a big deal; it was just a question of getting our heads around it and doing it.

The first one was bringing back in cows and calves after they had gone out to grass. We had no choice on that front since there was three inches of snow on the ground. It didn't seem to affect the cows and their calves at all. They were happy enough to spend their five days in the shed.

The other one was that we recently had to bring home a batch of cows and calves from an out-farm.

It was the easiest way of slowing up the rotation, as they had run out of grass where they were. We had plenty of grass at home so we moved them back to allow a cover to build up again where they had been grazing.

The lesson we learned from both exercises is that its not as much work as I had thought to move stock or to bring them in. Nor is it as much a disturbance for the stock themselves.

So that would give me encouragement to turn out stock even earlier in the spring than we previously would.

We injected all our calves in this past week for hoose and worms. We also took the opportunity to weigh one batch of bull calves.

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Although I had a feeling they were thriving well, I was still pleasantly surprised when we put them through the scales to find that the majority of the Belgian Blue bulls had turned 400kg, with the heaviest calf scaling 450kg.

This represents a weight gain from birth of 1.3-1.4kg/day.

Its important to point out that we do not offer calves any creep feed while they are at grass. But these calves would have consumed up towards 200kg/head of ration while they were in the shed, which is about 1.5kg/day.

So hopefully we can keep them going and they are well on target to be 400kg carcases at under 16 months.

First-cut silage

We are getting the yards and silage pits ready at the moment and hopefully the weather will be kind for us around the week of May 20 when we would hope to take our first-cut silage.

As in other years, our plan would be to mow it down, ted it out for 24 hours, put it in the pit with an inoculant, then seal it as quickly as we can with two sheets of plastic and tyres.

We would usually try and make about 300 round bales of hay to feed to the cows pre-calving.

But, this year, I am actually thinking that we might let one field of silage grow on for a few weeks to bulk up and maybe drop the DMD to approx 66.

Then, instead of feeding hay we would feed that silage, mixed with straw and a pre-calving mineral, using the feeder wagon.

We made an adjustment to one of the sheds this year so that more calves would have access to the field during the winter.

We would now hope we can use that in reverse and allow the cows to come into the shed at night where they can get their allotted feed in the trough.

I am just a little bit concerned that so many cows are scanned to calve in August this year; the worry is that the system we have used in other years mightn't be able to accommodate the numbers involved because the sheds might become overcrowded.

We have completed the nitrogen applications on the winter barley. We put it on in three splits, bringing the total up to 160 units per acre.

It has been very dry in this part of the country and it was noticeable that, when we were putting on the final application of nitrogen, a lot of the previous application - although it was spread almost two weeks earlier - was still visible on the ground.

Whether this will have any impact on yield or not remains to be seen.

The crop has also received a growth regulator and some fungicide. We will get the main fungicide on it as soon as the head is fully emerged.

Our oats look well at the moment and have been sprayed and gotten a growth regulator.

We will top this up with nitrogen next week, to a total of 60 units per acre.

One thing about oats is that, to get a good grain, it is essential to keep the crop standing. So we tend to take it easy with the nitrogen.

A job to do this week is to re-sow our wild bird cover. We sprayed it off 10 days ago so hopefully we will use the same seed mix as last year, oats, oilseed rape and linseed.

We did the most important job of the whole year last week when we submitted out Basic Payment Scheme application.

This is the second year we have got Teagasc to do it. GLAS slightly complicated it last year so it was easier to get it done by someone who's doing it every day.

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

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