Farm Ireland

Sunday 21 January 2018

Organise cows for an easy calving season


Robin Talbot

There has been a tremendous burst of growth in the past couple of weeks, especially in the fields that were cut for silage earlier on.

These fields would have got a bag of Pasture Sward to the acre after cutting, and the one thing I find truly amazing is the amount of clover that has come through in pasture.

We are continuing to make some round bales out of any surplus grass. This has become a little bit more relevant than in previous years because I would say we possess the worst crop of maize in the whole country. No matter how kind the weather is to the maize between now and harvesting, at best I would estimate yield being around 50pc of other years.

The weather hasn't been particularly kind to maize everywhere this year but it looks like, at this stage, our problem might be more to do with crop rotation than weather.

With this in mind and with what grass is on the farm at the moment, we have let up some extra ground for silage, which we would not normally do.

This is made all the more easier because we have 24ac of new grass that was sowed in May and is available now for grazing. This crop grew extremely well and there are very high covers on it at the moment, so we will probably end up cutting some of it for silage.

We try to take a cut from land only once in the year so the next cut that we are taking will be off ground that has been in the grazing rotation up to now.

We have sprayed off a few paddocks recently and we will reseed them at the end of the month. Meanwhile, we got our hay saved and baled in lovely conditions.

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At this stage, all cows are batched according to calving date. This would have involved a fair bit of effort but I feel its essential in preparation for the calving season.

Sorting the cows by calving date, while time consuming, is quite a simple operation. When Liam is scanning the cows he tells us how many days they are in calf so, when we enter that on the computer, this allows me to print off two lists, one ordered by calving date, the other by jumbo tag number.


Then we sit down with our two lists and a selection of highlighter pens. We first look at the list ordered by calving date and simply count off the first 20pc. Then we proceed to find these on the list ordered by jumbo tag and mark then off. We continue in the same way with the remainder, dividing them up into four more groups, highlighting each group with a different colour. We then take our list ordered by jumbo tag, on which each cow is highlighted in one of five colours, ie, first group, second group, etc, and go through all the cows and sort them.

At this stage, the first 60pc of cows that are due to calve are on hay only and they only have access to this at night. We find night-time feeding a huge advantage, insofar as it eliminates a lot of the calving.

Pre-calving cows and heifers get a trace element bolus and, as each cow or heifer is drafted into the group that is closest to calving, they will be vaccinated to prevent scour in the calves. The cows get a booster shot of Trivactin 6 and the heifers get one shot of Rotavac. The reason we use Rotavac on the heifers is because, as far as I am aware, it is one of the few products with which you can start off on a one-shot programme.

The first calves are already on the ground. Two grand, healthy calves with no problems calving -- and hopefully it is an omen for things to come.

Robin Talbot farms with his wife, Ann, and mother, Pam, at Ballacolla, Co Laois

Indo Farming