Farm Ireland

Monday 23 October 2017

Calving is almost complete and the season has been a success


Robin Talbot

Calving is almost complete with just a few cows left. Although quite difficult to start with, it has been a fairly successful season overall. I don't want to tempt fate so we'll come back with the full details when they are all calved.

The first-calvers got their second shot for Lepto last week. As I mentioned before, some of these heifers were homebred and I have been pleasantly surprised by how much they have settled and quietened down since they calved.

But I couldn't help noticing, as we were vaccinating this group, eight of the last ten to be put up the crush were our own breeding and although they are not nearly as wild as they have been, there is a definite obstinate streak in them and I would not like to have a herd of cows with that attitude. So I think on this farm we have definitely parked the whole issue of breeding our own replacements.

The stock bulls were turned out last week and, so far, they seem to be very enthusiastic for the task at hand. We have kept one bull on the bench, with the intention of bringing him in as an impact sub as needs be. Since we have two young enthusiastic bulls running with some of the cows it would be important not to let them get too tired.

We would be targeting to get in the region of 95pc of the cows in calf because, with a suckler herd, if you do not get a high percentage of cows in calf, regardless of what you do for the rest of the year, you are playing catch-up.

With the year now starting to turn, our thoughts are turning to putting in our 15-month-old bulls for finishing. These are mostly Limousin bulls averaging about 540kg at the moment. We treated these for hoose, worms and all parasites last week. I think it's better to have these jobs done pre-housing because, if there is an infestation of hoose or worms, it's less stressful on the cattle to get it sorted before they go into the shed.

These bulls will be housed on rubber-covered slats. As for their diet, we will be trying to incorporate as much home-grown feed as possible. I am waiting for the results of our silage to come back and we also have a small pit of maize silage left since last year. Once we have all that information we will pass it on to our nutritionist who will formulate the diet.

Looking ahead to next year, we have some ground closed up for early grazing but it's going to be difficult this year to get enough fields closed up early enough considering the heavy covers of grass that are still on the farm, even though I know it can disappear very quick this time of the year.

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Extremely heavy grass covers at this time of year have become more common these past few seasons on this farm. One of the reasons for this is because our herd demand from August to September is reduced as the springing cows are on restricted feeding, some of the weanling bulls are sold and the beef heifers are getting meal at grass. Not that I'm complaining but it's an issue I have to think about.

Should we be going back to taking a second cut of silage and maybe grow less maize? This year should help me make up my mind because, at best, the maize looks to be half a crop.

We gave up taking second cut silage a good few years ago because we were getting very poor cuts but when I think about it, with the benefit of hindsight, we were actually trying to take those cuts off old, spun-out pasture but now that we have done a lot of reseeding in the past few years, we should be able to get a much better second cut.

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

Indo Farming