Farm Ireland

Thursday 19 April 2018

It seems pointless to be TB testing our animals that are so close to slaughter

Robin Talbot

At the time of writing we are in the middle of doing our annual TB test. This always puts me in bad humour because I can't help thinking what a pointless exercise it is to be testing animals that are going to be slaughtered within a month, as is happening in our case. And this situation is replicated around the country.

In the five pages of Do's and mostly Don'ts of information that came from the DVO in the notification to do the test, one line jumped out at me: that I must complete my herd test within 14 days of starting it.


This to me would seem to provide the ideal opportunity by which all animals in the herd over two years of age would be tested in week 1 and, subsequently, only if a reactor shows up, to then test the animals under two years of age in week 2.

This is then fully compliant with the current timeline allocation. Can I be alone in thinking this?

On a more positive note, we were pleasantly surprised when we scanned the cows recently. About 94pc of those scanned are in calf, with 57pc of them in calf in the first 30 days.

Following a difficult grazing season and less than satisfactory silage, I feared it might be a difficult year to get cows in calf (just goes to show what I know).

Normally we stick rigidly to a 12-week breeding season but this year we left the bulls in, simply because I felt a late calf would be better than no calf; so I have no doubt that, when we rescan the empties in a few weeks, some of them will show up in calf too.

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But we would intend to most definitely return next year to our compact breeding season.

When we see how many calvers will fall outside our normal 12-week window we will have an opportunity during the summer to bring in some extra breeding heifers for next season and sell off the later cows.

I am confident enough that we have adequate feed to see us out to grass but I was a little concerned that we might run out of big square bales of straw that are used in the diet of the cows and the fattening cattle.

So, in order to be sure that we had enough for the latter, we took the straw out of the cows' diet after they were safely scanned in calf.

But the down side was that the beds had gotten very wet again, with the cows' digestive systems behaving – how can I put it politely? – like they had just come in off after-grass.


We took advantage of the dry weather and got all our farmyard manure spread on the stubble ground and got it ploughed down in ideal conditions.

We will now leave it sit for a month or so. The plan would be to sow spring feeding barley for our own use.

While it's cold, it's fantastic to have such a spell of dry, bright weather.

But keeping with the perception that farmers are never satisfied, I notice our soil thermometer, which was a steady 5-7°C all over the winter, dropped to 2°C almost straight away when the sharp weather came and then to zero.

So, even though the ground conditions were excellent for spreading fertiliser, we haven't spread any as of yet and won't until the soil temperatures come back up.

There is quite a bit of grass around for the time of year, especially where we spread slurry in January.

I would hope to turn out some cows and calves as soon as the test is complete.

Having walked all the silage ground and grazing land while doing some grass measurements, I reckon the sod is very tender at the moment.

And, not to carry last year's problems into this year, it is very important to do no further damage to the ground, so we will take particular care of silage fields for the first grazing.

There is a slurry tank in the yard that's getting quite full and I still can't make up my mind which is going to happen first, the cattle will be slaughtered from that shed or the tank will fill.

If it's the latter we will relocate some of the slurry to a nearby tank; I don't intend spreading any more slurry until we have grazed off the silage fields and closed them up.

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

Irish Independent