Farm Ireland

Monday 19 March 2018

Department is asking us to do too much, too quickly for too little

Concern: Noel Kellly puts a question to Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney at the meeting in McWilliam Park Hotel, Claremorris, Co Mayo on the Beef Data and Genomics Scheme. More than 1,000 farmers are estimated to have attended.
Concern: Noel Kellly puts a question to Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney at the meeting in McWilliam Park Hotel, Claremorris, Co Mayo on the Beef Data and Genomics Scheme. More than 1,000 farmers are estimated to have attended.

Robin Talbot

The overriding issue for us as committed suckler farmers continues to be the new beef data and genomics scheme.

When the application form landed in the door, I quickly did the sums and felt that no matter what conditions would be attached that this was too much money to be ignored. I signed the form and put it back in the post.

Since then, the more I learn and the more I think about it, the less appealing it becomes.

Over the past couple of weeks, I attended two of the information meetings and the thing that disappointed me most is that no-one from the Department turned up to answer the legitimate questions from concerned suckler farmers.

I thought the scheme was best summed up by a farmer from the floor at one of these meetings when he said "the problem is we are being asked to do too much, too quickly, for too little."

The three big issues we have are:

• The 60pc annual genomic test requirement. That seems excessive given that it was 20pc in last year's pilot scheme which we happily participated in.

• The requirement that replacement heifers would be four or five-star. As someone who has always bought in their replacement, I would fear that this may totally distort the price of replacement heifers towards the end of the scheme. Broadening the range to include three-star would dilute that issue.

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• But the real deal breaker for us is the fact that it is a six-year scheme. We are extremely reluctant to commit to calve over 200 cows every year for that length of time.

I love what I do, I love calving cows and hope that I would continue to do it for many years to come but we need to have some flexibility in being able to adapt to changing market conditions.

Meanwhile, away from the headaches of paperwork, it was good to do some real farming and we mowed down the first of our silage on May 20. We tossed it out behind the mower straight away and again the next morning.

We rowed it up that afternoon and it was in the pit and covered by evening.

We would estimate that it yielded 10t/acre fresh weight. We were pleasantly surprised how dry it was considering the year and there has been very little effluent.

For the first time in a long time and considering the lack of sunshine in May, we decided to put on an additive, just for insurance.

This pit of silage is made specifically for the fattening bulls and heifers and we would be very disappointed if it does not turn out to be quality feed.

The remainder of the first cut silage was taken on May 27. It was also tossed out, some of it twice, and ensiled using an additive, in pretty good conditions. This silage will be used for the suckler cows rearing calves.

All the silage ground will be cut again later on so it has got 2,500 gallons/acre of diluted slurry and we will put about 80 units of N on it this week.

The cows that are ear-marked for culling were all weaned a few weeks ago and they will be kept on good grass for a little while before they are slaughtered.

We have started to wean some of the other calves this past week, including the strong bull calves on the home farm.

We use a very simple system for weaning. On their last rotation, as the cows and calves move on, we move in with the disc mower and clean off the paddocks and also spread 1cwt/acre Pasture Sward. So now the weaned calves have good quality grass in front of them.


It never ceases to amaze me how quickly autumn-born calves take to their new independent lives at this time of year.

Where the cows can be a bit noisy for a couple of days, the calves are happy just to tuck into fresh new grass.

We will continue to graze the paddocks in rotation, with the cows now following behind the calves. We will keep the calves moving, to optimise their performance and let the cows mop up behind them.

As is our practice, we weighed these bulls last week. Their average weight was 426kg, which gives them an average daily gain of 1.31kg/day since birth.

While, in general, we would be very happy with that performance in that they were healthy and the bulk of them were pretty uniform weight wise, there is always room for improvement.

The heaviest calf was 480kg, with an average gain of 1.44kg/day and the runt of the litter was 362kg, with an average daily gain of 1kg/day.

So, at this stage, they are on target to be pretty close to 400kg carcase at 16 months.

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


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