Farm Ireland

Tuesday 23 January 2018

Just a few animals are being kept indoors as grass forges ahead

John Joyce has kept a number of beef heifers indoors.
John Joyce has kept a number of beef heifers indoors.
John Joyce

John Joyce

With most of the cattle out at grass there is a sense of silence around the farmyard these mornings.

However, I still have a few cows that have yet to calve kept indoors. They are on a diet of round bale silage and straw. While it is easier to observe the late calver inside, I'm going to let out the last of them in a week to calve in a small bare field beside the farmhouse.

Also inside are 16 beef heifers which are nearly finished but need another four or five weeks to be fully factory ready.

It may sound crazy to have cattle inside at this time on year with the excellent grass growth, but I reckon that turning them out to grass at this stage may set them back slightly in the short term.

They are on 8kg daily of a high-maize ration and are just turning two years of age. I am hoping for a small increase in beef prices over the coming weeks and this should offset the additional costs.

These are in-spec heifers so I will be hoping they grade well on the grid in addition to securing the 12c/kg quality assurance bonus for being under 30 months.

The yearlings have been turned out to excellent quality grass and the weather has been dry with high temperatures, so the animals will settle quickly into their new surroundings.

The cows and calves have also gone to good grass. The calves are just about able to cope with the available milk volumes, but they should have no problems in a few weeks as they get bigger. I am keeping a close eye on the baby calves for signs of scour or pneumonia especially with the days so warm and the nights a little on the cool side.

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Both yearlings and cows have been injected with 4ml of copper suspension containing copper at 20mg/ml.


Even though all of theses animals got minerals dusted on the silage during the winter, the tests have shown that cattle on the farm are deficient in copper and swear. I find that this injection literary turns them inside out at this time of year.

Debudding, BVD tagging and calf registration is carried out every second week. I try to dehorn the calves before they get too strong, for the sake of both man and beast. I have a portable gas dehorner, which is a really safe and easy machine to use.

I purchased my third new one last year, with each of them providing about six years service. But I must admit that the calf dehorning crate is getting a bit shook after 20 years on the farm. During the past week I have spent a lot of time repairing fences on the farm and fixing a few leaking water troughs, the latter often taking more time than I ever bargain for.

A number of stakes had broken over the winter, and while a stake in time may not save nine, it will certainly save a few either side.

I also spent a fair bit of time with one of the fencers trying to find a poor earth. And, as if I didn't have enough electric fencing to do, wild deer also knocked a lot of electric fence wire at the bottom end of the farm. These are causing a lot of damage in the north Tipperary and east Galway area.

I've also closed off 62ac of first cut silage, after putting three bags per acre of 24-2.5-10 out 10 days previously. All ground had been grazed twice. The first thing I do after closing up fields is walk around the perimeter of the field to pick up stones, sticks or anything that may cause damage to a contractor's silage machine

Last Monday morning I sent a batch of bulls to the factory. As I haul all my own livestock I had to call on my brother Tim for the loading process before he went to work. I find it best to load them straight from their slatted house pen, but there is little room for error with big cattle and I am very conscious of securing all the gates.

But I must admit to being quite disappointed with the price for these prime animals. Meals had been increased in their diet for the past five weeks, which helped achieve an average killout of 430kg, with the top being just over 455kg.

All bar one graded U and had perfect fat scores. But they were still back €225 from last year's average of €1,825. Not a great return on the 910kg of meal that they ate in the past 140 days, at a cost of €270/t. Let's hope that the next batch this week will do better.

  • John Joyce farms at Carrigahorig, Nenagh, Co Tipperary, and is agricultural affairs vice-chairman with Macra

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