Farm Ireland

Saturday 20 January 2018

D-Day for calving is fast approaching

Robin Talbot

When we were children, there was a superstition that you would never take a bag with you if you were going looking for mushrooms because it was felt that you would never find any if you went prepared.

Well, it's the opposite when it comes to calving; it is important to be totally prepared in so far as you can.

So all calving pens have been washed out, disinfected and freshly bedded. Also, the gate for restraining the cows that need any human intervention has been checked and is in working order.

The calving cameras are to be serviced this week and we have our tags ordered for the calves.

Also, the medical cabinet has been re-stocked, with fresh soap, towels and spare ropes for the calving jack, if they should be needed!

The only fly in the ointment is that we haven't succeeded in baling our hay yet.

It is at the stage now that if we got two good sunny days back-to-back, it would be well fit to bale. So fingers crossed.

We would use this hay straight away so if we could get it close to the mark at all we will bale it.

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We also need to sort all the cows by calving date and get the first of them on to our night-time feeding regime.

The first of the cows are due to calve at the start of August and I can't help but be a bit anxious about it because it's the first season for three of the Belgian Blue bulls that we used.

We cut most of our second-cut silage this past week. It yielded quite well and will hopefully make excellent feed.

We also mowed down some new grass that we had started to graze in paddocks with the yearling bulls but they just couldn't keep up with the growth and a few of the paddocks got way too strong.

I would rather if we didn't have to cut it because it is better to graze it for the first season but it's the lesser of two evils.

We need now to make a major effort to spread as much slurry as we can on the ground we cut for silage since, for various reasons, we have spread very little slurry this year and most of the tanks are fairly full.

The first tank we will be emptying is the shed that we will be putting the bulls into for finishing because I don't want to have to take them out at any stage to agitate the tank.

We have treated all the weaned calves, the in-calf heifers and the bought-in replacement heifers for hoose and worms over the past couple of weeks.

We would hope to keep the weanling bulls out grazing until the end of August. Then they will go into the shed for finishing at under 16-months.

Around the middle of August, we will put all these bulls through the crush, give them a live IBR vaccine, trim their tails and weigh them.

That means when they come into the shed they can remain undisturbed until they are ready for slaughter, having been weighed again just before they go for slaughter.

They look to be thriving well at the moment even though it's a struggle this year to keep leafy grass in front of them.


By weighing close to housing and by weighing them again just before slaughter, we will be able to calculate their weight gain from birth to housing and from housing to slaughter. So we can see whether we are getting the optimum performance at both stages.

The winter barley is getting close to ripe and it can't come soon enough.

Whereas we had no issue last year, this time round we are inundated with crows and pigeons and it is obvious that they are doing a lot of damage to the crops.

At this stage after the winter barley is cut, we plan to re-seed two of the fields that it is in, with the intention of ploughing two more fields later on to maintain our tillage acreage.

I think we will probably go the conventional route with these fields and plough them. I would be just a little worried that sowing them with the one-pass into the stubble might result in a lot of volunteer cereals that would compete with the grass.

As well as that, over the last few years, there would have been plenty of traffic across these fields in the line of heavy grain trailers so they mightn't be as level as we would like given that these will be fields in which we will ultimately be cutting silage.

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

Indo Farming