Farm Ireland

Saturday 24 February 2018

Calving is in full swing but grass turnout must wait

Calving is in full swing on John Joyce's farm.
Calving is in full swing on John Joyce's farm.
John Joyce

John Joyce

As I write this column I sit on a round bale of straw observing a Charolais crossbred cow just starting to calf. Calving is going good except for one stillborn calf. I don't know what the reason was for it.

The cow came to milk so I purchased a calf for her. Calves born at the start of the season were a little small even though the cows are in great condition. By now, I'm in the middle of the calving and the calves seem to be heavier at birth, to the point that I would not like to see them getting any bigger for the remainder of the season. So I may restrict silage to the uncalved cows.

Heifers are calving at the moment with no difficulties, except for one that got a little excited. The cows are housed on slats. They are moved to the calving shed four or five days before calving. Sometimes it is hard to judge but I use scanning and service dates, along with the usual visual cues.

Cows remain in the calving shed on straw for about one week after calving. They are then turned out to a bare 3ac field next to the sheds with a wooded area that gives a nice bit of shelter too. They have access to round bale silage and a hi-mag mineral lick in a bucket. Cows will remain in this field until the calf is able to drink the extra milk that comes on tap when the cow is turned out to lush grass.


One aspect I have been giving more thought to this year is safety around calving. I have zero tolerance for mad cows or wild cattle on the farm.

These 600kg plus cows are powerful animals and we should be mindful of this. The female to male ratio in the calves seems to be 50:50 this year. Other years the heifer calves outnumbered the bulls by as much as 2:1.

With almost 150 round bales of silage left on the slab. I intend to hold off the turnout of the store cattle for another week to build up grass cover.

Also Read

Some of these animals will be transported to fragmented land, and I certainly don't want to be trucking these animals back so there has to be enough grass before I make that move.

A buffer of feed in the yard gives peace of mind, especially when there are so many other things to worry about at this time year. When you are highly stocked the unprecendented weather patterns are a serious cause for concern.

The sale of beef animals has been postponed again for a few days until I get through some field work, including the sowing of the spring barley.

While the weather has been okay this spring there has been no extended spell of dry weather allowing us to complete field work in comfort.

On the Macra side we are running a young farmer springboard workshop on April 29 in the Heritage hotel, Killenard in Laois. The idea is that it will focus young farmers on goal setting and revealing the steps necessary to be a highly sucessful farmer. There's a special introduction by Irish and Leinster rugby star, Sean O' Brien and it'll be chaired by The Apprentice's Brian Purcell.

And I'm glad to report cow number 593 is now the proud mum of a healthy female Limousin calf. Now it's time for bed.

  • John Joyce farms at Carrigahorig, Nenagh, Co Tipperary, and is agricultural affairs vice-chairman with Macra

Indo Farming