The first week of May has passed and, at the time of writing, we are still awaiting a seasonal flush of growth.
Although one crop that seems to be powering ahead is the oats, both the gluten-free and the oats we are growing for animal feed.
The spring barley has received its top dressing of nitrogen where we brought up the total N to about 120 units per acre. It also needs to be sprayed for weeds.
The winter barley got its final top-dressing of N a few weeks ago which brought it up to a total of 160 units per acre. It has just been sprayed this past week. It was looking a bit dodgey to get it sprayed in time because we had included a growth regulator in the tank mix and it is essential that this is applied to the crop before it starts to shoot out. With the recent wind and rain, it was hard to get an opportunity to get it done, but thankfully we managed it.
We had planned to cut some first cut silage around May 15 but it looks like we need to put that back a week. It has a lot of growing to do still but we will still take that cut around May 20, weather permitting.
Our grass situation is OK at the moment.
While there hadn't been much growth in recent weeks, the excellent underfoot conditions allowed for maximum utilisation. As long as the ground is dry, stock seem to be happy but that has all changed this past week with the downpours of rain that have been falling.
All the bulls have been slaughtered. The vast majority were slaughtered under-16 months and the rest were all under-18 months. I suppose if I was a teacher writing a report on them I would say "can do better".
They had an average gain from birth to slaughter of 1.2kg/day, which brought them in at an average of 380kg carcass. They consumed 1.4t/hd of concentrates in their lifetime, which includes 140kg of ration that they ate as calves over their first winter in the shed.
But the lesson we learnt with these bulls is that we didn't start to push them early enough for their final finish
If we could get the average daily gain up from 1.2kg/day up to 1.3kg/day, that is almost an extra 50kg/hd, which, on bulls, is almost 30kg carcass weight. With this in mind, we have fed extra concentrate to the current generation of bull calves, which were born last autumn.
The consensus of any trials that have been done seem to indicate that any extra weight on a weanling is carried through to a heavier carcass at slaughter.
But we were surprised to discover that we have only spent an extra €6/hd across all these calves yet they are definitely ahead of last year's weight-wise.
We will be able to quantify the difference better at weaning time because we will weigh them and we will be able to compare them directly with last year's figures.
Another thing I think we need to revisit is our calving period.
Originally, we would have stuck rigidly to a 10-week calving period. Then we went to 12 weeks. On top of this, we had about 15 cows that were separate from the main herd and they would have calved in late November or early December. This is probably the worst time for us to calve; we have a young calf at the start of the winter and they just need a lot more minding in the sheds.
Now, comparing them in the field, there is such a difference between the August-September born calves and the later-born ones. So what I think we need to do is to return to our 10-week calving period and just cull off whatever falls outside that.
As I mentioned last month, I was concerned about lameness in our beef heifers and, as I suspected, it was confirmed as mortellaro. So we did what we should have done before we put them into the shed. We cleaned out the shed and power-hosed off the slats. There would have been cows in this shed for the winter. We also put them through the foot-bath for a few days, which stopped the infection spreading.
A few of the heifers that picked up the infection were well fit for slaughter so we sent them to the factory. I think we are on top of the problem at this stage. But, definitely, next year, we will know before we put young stock into a shed after cows to ensure that it is thoroughly cleaned out and disinfected.
Robin Talbot farms in Ballacolla, Co. Laois in partnership with his mother Pam and wife Ann.