Farm Ireland

Tuesday 24 April 2018

I'm finally housing stock with winter on way

John Joyce

John Joyce

A ll my stock have been housed over the past few weeks with the exception of nine 18-month-old bullocks and three cows with their June-born calves.

The young bulls were housed first about three weeks ago and probably should have been housed sooner, but it was hard to convince myself to put them into a shed when the weather was so good and the long winter of last year was still fresh in my mind.

The bulls, in fairness, behaved themselves reasonably well over the summer, but in the end, they started to run amok despite the electric fences. From now on, it will be concrete and steel barriers for them.

All cattle, except the suckler cows, are on a simple barley beef ration including 50pc barley, maize gluten, soya hulls and citrus pulp and minerals. It consists of 13pc protein and is costing €250/t collected in bulk.

The suckler cows were scanned before being weaned and four showed up empty. This might sound good, but the stock bull was left with the cows for an extra few weeks this year. Looking at the calving dates, they show that a number of cows only went in calf before the bull was withdrawn and most of the cows have slipped back a week or two. This may be a knock-on effect of the cold spring and poor grass growth.

The four empty cows are now penned with the beef heifers and will be intensely fed until the end of January before being sold. I think scanning suckler cows definitely pays as it takes so much guesswork out of the equation and means I could make a decision now to fatten and cull those cows without wasting time and effort on them.

All the suckler cows were weaned on housing except for the aforementioned three dams with young calves. For years on the farm, we practised abrupt weaning of the calves. As we operate in two farmyards, what usually happened was when the first wet week arrived in October, cows and calves were rounded up and split into two groups. The cows would be housed on the home farm and the weanlings would travel to the out-farm housing.


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In fairness to the suckler cow welfare scheme, it prompted our move to a new and less stressful approach to weaning. Now the cows are put to one side of the shed and the weanlings on the other. The calves seem to be happy enough once they can see the cows in sight, and it appears to work well.

The weanlings are on 1.5kg of ration each, along with good quality round bale silage, and the meal will be increased to 2kg for the duration of the winter. The cows are fed good quality barley straw that should dry them off, and then moved onto round bale silage. No dry cow tubes are used.

A few of the younger weanlings are giving a little sharp cough in the morning, even though they were dosed for lung worm three weeks ago. I am dusting a CTC antibiotic powder on the silage and the calves will be dosed again for lung worm in a few weeks once they have settled into their new housing environment.

The cows have been penned according to condition score and calving date, while the weanlings are penned on sex and weight. I was disappointed to notice when housing the weanlings that a number of them have lost their BVD tag. Hopefully Mullinahone Co-op will increase the strength of the tags for next year.

Over the next few weeks, a plan will be put in place to deal with the wider range of parasites, including lung and stomach worms, fluke and lice. They will be treated for all of these before Christmas.

Meanwhile, the rams should have their part played by now and will be withdrawn from the ewes this week. I've started meal feeding the store lambs and they appear to be increasing in weight.

On the Macra side, the organisation has appointed Austin Finn as a Land Mobility Manager. His role will be to provide a dedicated service to encourage and support land mobility. The service will be rolled out in three pilot areas first.

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

Irish Independent