Joe Farrell and his family farm 75ac of grassland just outside of Castledermot, Co Kildare. There is also a tillage enterprise on the farm in which maize, winter and spring cereals are grown. The maize silage is used on farm for the feeding of livestock over the winter period.
Each year Joe rears and finishes approximately 80 Angus heifers and 20 Friesian bulls. Calves are bought from a local cattle agent who sources them predominately in the south of the country.
This spring two batches of calves were reared on the farm. The first batch consisted of 41 calves from which 24 were weaned since early April, and the remaining 17 were weaned last week. All 41 are now outdoors on grass and on 2kgs of concentrate.
From mid-June these calves will have access to good after-grass once silage is cut and they will be fed 1kg of concentrate for the remainder of the season.
The second batch of 39 Angus calves is currently being reared. They are fed twice a day with 4-5 litres of milk.
They also receive fresh concentrates every day and are being built up to eat 1kg per day by weaning.
These calves also have free access to a chopped hay/concentrate/molasses mix to aid with rumen development, in preparation for the transfer from a liquid to solid diet at eight to 10 weeks of age.
The 19 Friesian bull calves are eating over 1kg of concentrate per day and they were cut back to once-a-day milk in mid-April and now have been weaned totally from milk for the last week. They will be let out to grass to join the heifer calves for the summer months and at the first sign of any mounting they will be separated.
Angus yearling heifers
Last year's calves are doing well and have been at grass since mid-February. The plan is to weigh these as soon as possible to monitor growth rates over the main grazing season. The traditional method of set stocking was always practised on this farm where a group of approximately 30 yearling heifers were allowed to graze a set area for the summer months.
Friesian yearling bulls
The yearling bulls are currently housed and on silage plus 6kgs of concentrate, they will be built up to an ad lib diet in order to finish them over the next couple of months. These animals will not return to grass as they are a small group that would require to be kept separately as there are heifers on the farm and this would necessitate an extra grazing block.
Also the damage that they may cause around fields and the danger in handling these animals means housing is the safer option.
With tillage in the rotation, Joe has a lot of young grassland with high ryegrass content. In addition, the spray programme from the tillage crops means the grassland is very clean with little or no weeds present.
For this reason Joe has decided that he could make better use of his grass. Following discussions with his local Teagasc advisor Christy Watson, he has decided to move away from set stocking this year. Instead, he has put in some paddocks to create six grazing divisions for the yearling heifers.
The aim is to grow fresh leafy grass of high quality every three weeks and each paddock will then be grazed out in three to four days creating a 21-day rotation. This will improve performance on the farm, with the result of increasing liveweight gain.
Depending on growing conditions this summer it may also be possible to save extra silage or hay if some paddocks get strong and can be taken out as fodder.
In deciding on locations for electric wires to create these new paddock divisions, water access was the most critical issue. To simplify the change and to keep costs low fields were split diagonally with a reel of wire in order to access the existing water troughs.
Temporary reels can be used for the first year to get the feel for a paddock system and also to ensure that the new paddock divisions are in the correct location before doing a more permanent job.
Most grazing fields received three bags of 15-03-20 plus Sulphur per acre in early March. All grassland fields were well grazed off by early April.
The silage ground then received 1,500 gallons of cattle slurry per acre and 2.3 bags of Sulpha CAN per acre on closing at the beginning of April. It is planned to cut high quality silage at the end of May. Some of the grazing ground received 1.5 bags of 19-0-15 per acre on April 10 and other grazing ground that had earlier received slurry got 1 bag of Sulpha CAN per acre.
Gordon Peppard is the Teagasc Green Acres Calf to Beef advisor