Farm Ireland

Friday 24 November 2017

I have one solitary round bale of straw left

John Joyce

John Joyce

With 60ac of the silage ground now closed, my aim is to keep it closed and tighten up the stock on the grazing area. Like other farmers, my biggest priority now is to conserve enough feed for the coming winter. This will all depend on growing and ground conditions over the coming summer months.

I have one solitary round bale of straw left in the corner of the calving shed, looking very lonely for itself. This is the only feed I have left from the winter of 2012.

I have closed the silage ground into two splits of 30ac each. Grass growth was so bad that I had to allow the animals remain on some of the silage ground for longer than I had originally planned. One 30ac block has been closed for four weeks, while the remaining ground was closed in recent days. The plan is to also close another area (yet to be decided) for second cut to use as a buffer for next spring if we experience another long winter.

Meanwhile, all the calves tested clear for BVD, which is one less problem to worry about, and all cows have been vaccinated for Lepto before the breeding season. The calves were disbudded before going to grass with their mothers. Halfway through the disbudding task, I ran out of antibiotic spray so I decided to use that old reliable Sudocrem, which actually worked very well. By filling the bud hole with the cream, it kept the wind and rain out and melted into the affected area. Within a week the Sudocrem calves seem to have healed better than those who got antibiotic spray.

Usually half the cows are artificially inseminated before I introduce the stock bull, but the weather so far this year meant it was impossible to detect cows in heat as they sheltered under hedges. As a result, I put the bull in with them last Friday.

After selling my old stock bull last December, I purchased a new 20-month-old purebred Limousin bull (called Glen) two weeks ago. He weighed in at 790kg and has a five-star rating for maternal traits and docility.

He seems to have good temperament and has settled well to his new surroundings. I think star ratings are important, but I also believe conformation and physical appearance are just as important. He is halter-trained so he is used to being handled and has been tested for BVD.

I recently sold the cull cows I had been fattening for the factory. I was very happy with how they turned out, with one reaching a carcase weight of 415kg. After doing the maths, the cows have paid their way just as well as the young bulls or heifers. I believe cull cows have a forgotten value, especially when selling in the spring.

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These were cows that scanned empty. This year, cows not intended for breeding next year will be grouped with their calves separate from the main batch and supplemented with meal in the late summer and should be finished just after weaning.

It's interesting to see the price of cull cows follows prime beef, discounting it by about 50c/kg. One could ask the question whether we are being paid too much for processing meat or are we under-selling our prime beef; ie, heifers, steers and young bulls which should leave a higher value for the farmer. I believe it is the latter that is correct.

Other jobs on the farm completed in the past week included shearing the ewes, drafting more lambs for the market and corn spraying. I also took recycling plastic to the local collection point. This is a great service for farmers, even if we are paying for it in the levy, and has kept the countryside much cleaner.

On the Macra side, our agricultural affairs committee is busy developing our land mobility ideas. There is great demand for places at agri-colleges next September and we will need to help students develop into the young farmers of tomorrow.

John Joyce farms at Carrigahorig, Nenagh, Co Tipperary and is agricultural affairs chairman with Macra na Feirme. Email:

Irish Independent