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Mineral inclusion can make all the difference

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The new scheme is designed to reward 'quality' and replace the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme

The new scheme is designed to reward 'quality' and replace the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme

The new scheme is designed to reward 'quality' and replace the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme

Like most farms in the country, our workload at this time of year goes from ticking over to full throttle within the next few weeks.

All cattle have now settled into their new surroundings, with the winter dosing and parasite care completed.

Just after Christmas a few weanlings had to be treated for pneumonia. Luckily we saw them in time and treated them early. At the time there was mild weather and I noticed the cattle sheds were stuffy.

Now it is the opposite, with snow showers and frost at night. Hence it is hard to control temperatures in the sheds.

For now I leave the shed door half open during the day and fully closed at night.

Another important job I do at this time of year is the inclusion of pre-calver minerals in the diet of the dry cows.

I use a special high iodine mix with double rate copper mineral. These are two minerals the farm had problems with a number of years ago.

I feed 50gr per head per day. As the cows are on ad lib silage, the minerals are dusted on the silage about eight weeks out from when the first cow is due. This has worked well for me over the last number of years and I think it is a small price to pay to have healthy calves, less retained placentas and hopefully increased fertility in the breeding season.

Mineral inclusion can sometimes be forgotten on farms until there is a problem.

Yearling cattle

The yearling cattle have also access to minerals and are getting 1.5kg of meal a day. The beef heifers are now consuming 5.5kg of meal a day with good quality silage.

The beef bulls are on an ad-lib diet of a high maize content 13pc protein ration. Its main ingredients are rolled barley, flaked and ground maize, along with soya hulls.

The next issue is my rapidly rising slurry tanks.

Even though we are now in the spreading period, I am holding off for another week or two until the land dries up a little.

The recent rain and snow showers have dampened the ground. I have earmarked a number of fields for spreading and will try to use the valuable nutrients as best I can.

At this time of the year I usually spread the slurry at the rate of 2,000 gallons per acre and get good results with the spring growth.

As a host farmer for Gurteen and Kildalton agriculture colleges, student placements start for the spring on February 2. Stephen Gonoude from Blueball, Tullamore will be joining us on the farm for his term. Stephen is studying a degree in agriculture at Waterford IT and Kildalton College.

I would think that all my students developed good practical skills, while getting hands-on experience of the overall operation of the business.

I'd like to think it is also an enjoyable time for the students, and I must admit I always learn a few tips from them along the way.

At this time of the year I usually do a quick check on the amount of winter feed on the farm.

I estimate that about 45pc of the silage is used, so this would suggest that there's plenty left, even if the spring is wet or harsh with poor growth and the animals need to be housed longer.

Also I have ample straw for lambing and calving.

I think it is a good idea to do a stock-take of feed now and again throughout the winter and make decisions on feed purchases or livestock sales sooner rather than later.

There are no calves born on the farm yet this spring, and the first cows are still a month away from calving. Instead, we just have the small issue of lambing our 240 ewe flock.

They will be starting to lamb from next week on and will go straight to grass within a few days of lambing. Needless to say, there will be plenty of night duty.

John Joyce farms outside Nenagh in north Tipperary.

pjphelan@ independent.ie

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