Farm Ireland

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Planning ahead for 2016

Pat Bowden
Pat Bowden
Joe Farrell
David Drum
Michael Ryan
Conor Greene
Christy Dowd
John Lalor
Ben Sweeney
Eamon Kirk
Michael Flynn

With one year completed on the Teagasc Green Acres Calf to Beef programme, Gordon Peppard talks to the 10 participating farmers about their experiences to date and the changes and improvements they are looking at for 2016.


Pat feels that he can improve his grassland management through the introduction of a paddock grazing system. Pat will start introducing paddocks on the home farm beginning with the fields that he reseeded last September. Maximising good quality grass grazed through the paddock system will help improve animal performance

He is also looking at building slatted accommodation in order that he will have the slurry capacity and housing space to carry more stock going forward. New calf rearing facilities will be required if he wants to increase the number of calves reared on the farm.


Joe Farrell

One area that Joe would like to make easier to manage on his farm is the whole area of calf feeding.

With over 100 calves to feed between February and May, the whole system can become very labour intensive if a proper system is not put in place.

As a New Year's resolution, Joe has decided to look into the whole area of a milk cart, where milk replacer could be mixed and moved easily and quickly on a trolley system from pen to pen.

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This will remove the heavy work of carrying buckets and pouring over high gates into teat feeders.


David Drum

David sees the whole area of grass utilisation as key to  improving performance on the farm.

Keeping cattle thriving at all times during the year is key as any set back will hit performance and ultimately profit. David like Pat Bowden has identified over the past year that a better paddock system would help simplify his system and would also improve management.

Closing grassland early enough in the autumn to ensure a good supply of quality in the spring is also an area that David has identified as very important to getting stock out earlier.


Michael Ryan

Having reared calves for the last number of years, Michael realises the importance of the first three months and how vital it is to get the whole calf rearing process correct.

Selecting the right type of calf day one, coupled with a good vaccination programme and good levels of feeding of milk replacer, fresh straw, concentrates and water will be critical over the next 20-24 months.

Michael has also seen the benefits of regular weighing and the monitoring of the animals performance over the lifetime of the animal.

All of these areas will be priority for 2016.


Conor Greene

Improving  silage quality is high Conor's agenda and he will be focusing on the importance of closing up silage ground early for cutting in May.

Proper fertilisation and prior grazing of the sward are also crucial to getting good quality silage. He would also like to start selling animals earlier in the summer to obtain the traditional higher beef price.

All this requires increased performance earlier in the lifetime of the animal and Conor feels that he can achieve this through, improving grassland management, regular weighing, batching groups and faecal sampling among many measures.


Christy Dowd

Calf housing will be a priority for Christy.

Last year there were a few issues with pneumonia and although no animals were lost, he feels that subsequent thrive may have been affected.

In response, he has done some remedial works on his calf rearing shed, where he removed solid galvanise sheeting at the back of the shed to be replaced by Yorkshire boarding.

No rain can enter the shed but there is a good supply of fresh air to remove any stale air or bugs in the shed.

He has also lifted some sheets in the roof of the shed in order to create an outlet and let all the stale air out.


John Lalor

Having installed a paddock system in 2015, John has seen improved thrive in his heifers this year from having quality fresh grass in the diet at all times.

To maintain this progress, John feels that a reseeding programme is essential on his farm.

Up to 20ac will be reseeded this year and a further 10pc per annum will be reseeded over the next few years. Some lands were reseeded in 2014 and John can see the extra potential from the new grasses versus an old sward.

The land will receive two tonnes per acre of lime and up to three bags of 10/10/20 depending on soil sample results.


Ben Sweeney

A health plan is very important in any stock raising enterprise, but this becomes even more important where all calves that are bought in are coming from a lot of different sources.

Many calves arrive on farm with no record of how much, the quality or how early in life they received colostrum.

All these factors have a huge bearing on the long term health of the animal.

Ben realises that it is essential to have a good health plan drawn up and he has done this in conjunction with his local vet.

He intends to strongly adhere to it in order to help maximise performance.


Eamon Kirk

Minimising mortality and keeping as many as possible of the bought in calves alive on the farm is Eamon's priority.

The key to this is sourcing a good quality calf at least three to four weeks old. Management priorities will include feeding enough good quality milk replacer, along with a good supply of fresh water and straw coupled with getting the calf eating at least one kg per day of a high protein concentrate.

All animals will be vaccinated for pneumonia and IBR while coccidiosisis is monitored. Like all participating farmers, Eamon stresses the importance of the first three months for calf thrive.


Michael Flynn

Improving silage quality will be Michael's main priority in 2016. With many fields reseeded in the last number of year, there are good quality swards on the farm.

He will close silage fields in early April and fertilise them well.

Silage will be harvested at the end of May before heading out, and achieving a silage quality well in excess of 70pc DMD should be very achievable.

Having put in a lot of paddocks in 2015, Michael has seen at first hand the extra quality grass that can be grown and he plans to continue paddocking more of his farm this year.

Indo Farming