Gearing up for expansion

Plans: Michael Ryan is aiming to rear and finish approximately 90 Angus cattle per annum on his farm in Co Westmeath
Plans: Michael Ryan is aiming to rear and finish approximately 90 Angus cattle per annum on his farm in Co Westmeath

BASED in Ballymore, Co Westmeath, Michael Ryan and his family farm 100ac of grassland which is all in the one block. Michael currently has 48 calves bought in and it is planned to bring this up to 90 calves within the next two to three weeks.

Michael plans to rear and finish approximately 90 Angus cattle every year. These will predominantly be heifers but may also rear and finish a few bullocks.

Soil fertility

Michael`s entire farm was soil sampled in early March by his local Teagasc adviser, Paul Gibney before any slurry or fertilisers were applied. On analysing the results it was discovered that the levels of phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) were quite low on the farm.

In order to grow enough quality grass these levels of P and K need to be improved over the next two to three years.

In order to help correct these low levels, more P and K need to be applied than is being removed.

See the table below for amounts of P and K removed from different off-takes on farms.

At a minimum, fertiliser applied has to match these off takes in order that the level of fertility will decrease no further. But for soil fertility levels to increase, levels of fertiliser applied have to be greater than off-takes, so that build-up of soil fertility can occur.

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Therefore Michael has decided to use 18-6-12 instead of straight CAN every time that he is going to spread fertiliser. This will mean that P and K is being continually applied on a little and often basis. In the autumn,

Michael may apply a product like 0-7-30 or 0-10-20 to further boost the levels.

This will depend on available finances, and it is planned to spread this soil fertility build up out over a couple of years so that substantial costs are not all incurred in the one year.


Lime levels on a number of fields are fine with pH levels of 6.2 and higher. Some of the fields require between 1t and 1.6t of lime per acre.

Fifty tonnes of lime were applied in the past week, with 20t going on 9.5ac that was reseeded and 30t spread on 20ac of grazing ground. Silage ground also requires lime, but it was decided to leave this until after the silage was cut for fear of bringing lime back in the silage and the risk of affecting preservation in the pit. These fields will have lime spread in the autumn.


A 9.5ac section of grassland beside the yard had become very poor due to low growths and a lot of weeds. It was also an area that needed a couple of drains to relieve a wet patch. With the good weather in April Michael took the opportunity to carry out this drainage work and reseed this area.

The field was sprayed off and left for about four weeks. Farmyard manure was applied and the ground was then heavy disked, left to dry, disked again.

Up to 2t/ac of lime was then applied, the grass seed was then sown with a one pass and rolled.

This reseeded ground also received three bags of 10-10-20 in order to help establishment of the new seed.

This area of fresh grass is earmarked for the 2015 calves to graze, as they will be the lightest animals on the farm and should do little damage to the new grass - the grazing will also promote tillering of the new sward.

2015 Calves

Forty-eight Angus calves are currently being reared. These calves were born between the last week of February and the first week of March. They are fed twice a day with six litres of milk.

They are receiving 640gr of milk replacer per day at present.

They also receive fresh concentrates every day and are being built up to eat 1kg per day by weaning.

Michael plans to cut them back to once per day milk, one week to 10 days before weaning.

These calves also have free access to straw in hanging baskets in each pen. Michael plans to have all calves bought by the middle of May.

Yearling stock

The yearlings are currently grazing in two groups of 45. They have been out at grass since March 20.

These animals were weighed before they went to grass and Michael feels that they are a little bit behind where he would like them to have been.

They will be weighed again throughout the grazing season and if still behind the option of introducing meal at grass in August will be looked at in order to try and make up some ground.

Michael always operated a set stocking system, where a group of animals were left on the one area for the entire grazing season. In order to try and make better use of grass and to improve growth rates, a rotational grazing system has been devised and Michael over the next few weeks will split fields up with a wire fence.

These smaller fields can then be grazed off in three to four days and animals regularly moved to fresh grass.

Silage and grazing ground

The grazing fields received 1.75 bags of 18-06-12 per acre on April 10. The silage ground received 1,800 gallons of cattle slurry per acre at the start of April and 3.75 bags 18-06-12 per acre on April 10. All silage ground was grazed off tight before being closed up.

Indo Farming

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