This must be one of the best springs in living memory for grass utilisation because the underfoot conditions have been close to perfect, along with good grass growth.
We have sub-divided quite a few of the paddocks with temporary fencing this year, to improve utilisation of grass, and it seems to be working very well. This is subject, of course, to keeping a good shock in the electric fence as I find that bull calves have very little respect for a temporary fence. They love to scratch their foreheads against the plastic stakes and, no surprise, these tend to snap off at the ground.
Covers of grass are starting to build up in front of the stock so we plan to take accurate measurement next week to see how many days we have in front of them to decide if we need to take some paddocks out of the rotation. We are very conscious that we are still in April and that things can change very quickly, but if we have a surplus we will take some out.
We will take either some round bales of silage or close some paddocks up for hay. We use quite a bit of hay at calving time in August, and any time you can get a few extra bales of hay is a bonus.
We are currently cleaning out all the sheds. While disinfection, especially of the calving areas, is extremely important, I also think it's important to have them cleaned out for as long as possible to let plenty of sunlight and air in around them. This also gives us a chance to do necessary repairs to gates, water troughs, etc.
All the calves have been treated for worms with Normectin pour-on in the past few weeks, although none of them were coughing. When you are looking for maximum performance from youngstock, I always feel that if you hear them coughing you are already a week late in dosing.
We had a casualty during the week. One of the good bull calves developed a small rupture which became progressively bigger and, despite the vet's best efforts, we were left with no option but to put him down since it was obvious that he was in discomfort with no hope of recovery.
The spring feeding barley was sown recently in ideal conditions and it emerged in record time. At sowing, we incorporated 3cwt/ac of 10-10-20 into the seedbed, as per our soil sample results. It has since been top-dressed with Cut Sward. This brought the level of nitrogen up to 100 units/ac.
We have also just sown our maize, in the open (not under plastic). This crop is following one of carrots, which had been covered with straw. We used two varieties, Justina and V43, which were recommended to us by our seed supplier. The field was ploughed and we incorporated 5cwt of 20-0-15 into the seedbed.
The silage ground has been closed up for a few weeks at this stage and looks to be growing well. All the silage ground was grazed in the spring. After grazing, we applied an average of 2,500ga of well-diluted slurry per acre. The conditions at the time of spreading were as near to ideal as it could get -- dull and overcast, with a slight mist of rain at times and excellent ground conditions. We then applied 3-3.75 cwt/ac of Cut Sward. The rates varied, depending on the amount of slurry that went on individual fields and also with reference to our soil samples.
We recently sprayed off a field with Roundup. We are planning to clean up existing drains and put in some shores. We will then sub-soil it and reseed it, using a one-pass. Our plan is to make paddocks out of this field.
Robin Talbot farms in partnership with his wife, Anne, and mother, Pam, at Ballacolla, Co Laois