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The focus is maintaining as normal a routine as possible and getting the cows out to grass

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Ploughing ahead: With the fine weather on the way ploughing is top priority for many farmers. John Treacy is pictured here ploughing for David Ashmore of Knockullard, Corries, Co Carlow. Photo Roger Jones.

Ploughing ahead: With the fine weather on the way ploughing is top priority for many farmers. John Treacy is pictured here ploughing for David Ashmore of Knockullard, Corries, Co Carlow. Photo Roger Jones.

Ploughing ahead: With the fine weather on the way ploughing is top priority for many farmers. John Treacy is pictured here ploughing for David Ashmore of Knockullard, Corries, Co Carlow. Photo Roger Jones.

Life constantly throws up challenges but we have never seen the likes of those being presented by Covid 19.

If there is a bad weather event, for example, we have an idea of how it is going to play out. We are seriously into uncharted waters here.

At a human level, people will die before their time and the lives of many families will never be the same again.

Some sectors of the economy have been shut down but agriculture is continuing to function, albeit with some restrictions, primarily outside the farm gate.

For us, for now, the focus is on maintaining our daily routine as best we can.

Last week, we got the first of our cattle out to grass, which is around the norm for us.

All the cows with the bull calves go to grass first. It's looking like the cows rearing heifer calves will have to stay in the sheds for a while yet; because the land where they would normally graze is still flooded and the river that runs adjacent to it is still very high.

But, luckily, we have enough of feed to see us through.

The two jobs that we always do before cattle go to grass are scanning and the TB test.

Thankfully, the TB test was clear.

Scanning went very well for us, and we will definitely run the bulls in pairs with the cows next year.

When we are scanning the cows, as well as recording how many days they are in calf, we also record any missing tags. They are then ordered and replaced before the cows go to grass.

We check the tags again when the cows calve, as we tag their calf, replacing any missing ones at that stage as well.

So all cows go through the crush, get their tails trimmed, tagged if needed and weighed as they go to grass.

We are delighted to see that there is a new BEEP scheme for 2020.

As well as weighing the cows and calves, there is an option to undertake a pre- and post-weaning meal feeding or vaccination, programme. We need to do a bit of research before deciding which option to do.

Since we are autumn-calving, we normally wean our calves at the end of May/early June, when grass is probably at its most nutritious. So we never feed meal to calves at grass, simply because you are replacing cheap grass with expensive ration.

We always vaccinate our calves when they are a month old (in the autumn) and we then vaccinate them again pre-housing, about three months after they are weaned.

So we need to see if there is a vaccination protocol that will work with our management system and will protect the calves, especially the young bulls, right through to slaughter at 16 months.

For our under-16-Month bull system, there are targets that they need to meet, to end up with an average 400kg carcase, which equates to approximately 690kg liveweight.

The first target we set is that the bull calves need to be averaging 300kg plus on April 1, which leaves us about 250 days out from slaughter. So they need to put on 390kg in that period, which is just over 1.5kg liveweight/day on average.

So if they can do 1.4kg/day in the period from April 1 to September 1, that will bring them to 510kg on average. They then need to do 1.8kg/day for the final 100 days indoors.

Benchmarks

If they hit the first two benchmarks, it means that we will get away with about 1.3t of ration, all fed during the final finish. But if we fall short on the first two steps, you could be looking at 1.8t of ration.

The flip side of that is, if we can exceed the first two benchmarks, it makes the final finish that bit easier.

That is the main reason why we never ask our bulls to graze out paddocks. We just let them cherry-pick the best grass, then bring the dry cows in behind to clean out the paddocks.

Any chance we get where ground conditions have been suitable, we have been spreading 2cwt per acre of 18-6-12 plus Sulphur on the grazing ground.

Hopefully, this week, we will get the first application of fertiliser on the winter barley. We plan to spread 4 cwt of 10-5-25 per acre.

We recently got the farm mapped digitally, with all paddocks and fields measured and allocated an identifying number.

We put the Kingswood App on my phone and also put the software on the laptop. We have had all our animal details on the computer for years so it was about time that we did the same with the fields.

So we are in the process of entering the details of this year's crops onto the computer. Hopefully, it will feed more information into our decision making on the farm and simplify our record-keeping.

Indo Farming