Calving is now in full swing as we now enter the fifth week. All is going well. Calves are healthy and lively, and the cows have an adequate supply of milk. No cow needed assistance yet and all calves have been presented correctly.
This could change as the calving progresses, especially if the calves get a little bigger.
Cows are still on ad lib silage, but I might start restricting them if calves appear to get any bigger or softer.
All calves are observed after calving to see if they can get their own drink. If they don't, I feed some defrosted colostrum that I have in reserve in case of a weak calf or a set of twins. This milk is supplied to me by a neighbouring dairy farmer.
One aspect I also observe at calving is the temperament of the cows and the new heifers calving. I have zero tolerance for mad cows or cattle on the farm.
Cows remain in the shed on straw until the calf is about two weeks of age. Before turn-out they are tagged and debudded.
They are then let loose on a bare 3ac field next to the sheds with a wooded area which gives a nice bit of shelter as well. They have access to round bale silage and a hi-mag mineral in the form of a bucket lick.
Cows remain in this field until the calf is able to drink the extra milk that comes on stream when the cow goes to grass.
Speaking of debudding the calves, the latest piece of equipment I have purchased for the cattle enterprise is a dehorning crate.
It is one of the new heavy-duty boxes suited for the suckler calf. The old one was on its last legs and barely saw out the job last year. It was home-made by my father Sean in the early 1980s and has seen a lot of calves through it.
If the new one lasts as long it will definitely pay for itself.
It's a one-man operation and gives full-body support to prevent calves from falling, with a rump bar that can be ratcheted forward or back depending on the size of the calf.
It also has a chin support and the head of the calf is fully restrained, so it should make the job easier for both man and calf.
Other small ideas on the box are two wheels fitted for ease of movement and a tray on top for placing the dehorner or tags.
With it fully galvanised, I'm hoping it will last for years. I think debudding is an important job to get right on a suckler farm before the calf gets too strong.
Grass growth around this area has been poor to date this spring, although this should improve with the rise in temperature over the past week. Next week I plan to blanket-spread the farm with 40 units of Sulpha-CAN.
The exception will be a few wet fields that will have to wait another week or two to dry out before they will get the best use out of the fertiliser.
I thought that the fall in oil prices earlier in the year would have a knock on effect on fertiliser prices, but I'm still waiting.
With over 220 bales of silage still in the yard I intend to hold off on the turnout of the store cattle so grass covers can build up.
Some of these animals will be transported to outfarms, so there needs to be enough grass ahead of them in order to ensure that they are only transported once.
I've also been lambing, with just a few remaining from a small late batch. Next year I hope to compact both the lambing and calving by at least a week.
It will get the same job done quicker and the calves and lambs will be more even in ages, making them easier to manage as they grow older.
John Joyce farms at Carrigahorig, Nenagh, Co Tipperary