Farm Ireland

Sunday 17 December 2017

Robin Talbot: Silage saved despite rain

Robin Talbot

We are all great when we meet to make small talk about the weather, but this year's vagaries have made for very interesting and challenging times.

It's a year of extremes: no rain, lots of rain, record growth, no growth, then back to growth again.

On this farm it got very close to feeding cows silage in the field to slow up the rotation. At the same time we were making the next season's silage. Luckily the record growth kicked in just in time.

We made one pit of silage a fortnight ago in perfect conditions. We mowed it down and tedded it out with the intentions of wilting it for 24 hours but the weather was so dry and the sun so strong that we picked it up after 12 hours.

I would be very disappointed if this doesn't turn out to be very good stuff with an estimated yield of just under 8t/ac.

Ideally, I would have liked another tonne, but considering that there was no effluent and no shrinkage in the pit I would be confident that it will turn out to be good decision to cut when we did.

Our plan for this silage is to feed it next winter to the young bulls and heifers that we will be fattening.

Just doing a few quick sums, there will definitely be enough in the pit to see these cattle well into the spring, at which time we will be upping their concentrates considerably so the silage will be less important.

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In contrast, the main cut of silage has been made in extremely difficult conditions this past week. While the grass itself was dry enough, it rained non-stop for the 24 hours after it was cut.

On the plus side, when the rain did eventually cease, the underfoot conditions were remarkably good.

And I would be confident that it will make decent feed for cows and calves. But, as we do every year, we will get all our silage tested.

It is important to know exactly the quality of what you have in the pit, rather than relying on guesswork.

Where the record growth was really spectacular these past few weeks was in the spring barley, with several people in this area remarking at the amount of growth stages the crops went through in such a short space of time and, touch wood, it looks promising.

We spread one bag per acre of Pasture Sward on the first ground we cut for silage and that has greened up nicely.

Our plan is to start weaning some of the bull calves as soon as the ground has adequate grass cover.

The group of calves that we will wean first will be the ones that we are targeting for export in a few months time. I would be quite happy with the way these calves have grown since turnout. We had them in the yard a fortnight ago and we put a sample of them on the scales.

A lot of them have turned 400kg at this stage. Autumn calves have a great ability to turn spring grass into liveweight.

I suppose I am a bit of a nerd when it comes to farm records but, with all our cows scanned and entered on the computer, we printed off the predicted calving report which gives us the cow number, the sire she is in calf to and projected calving date.

Then I got out an A4 sheet of paper, wrote the names of our stock bulls across the top and ruled a column for each bull.

We went down through the Predicted Calving report, giving each bull a tick for every cow he had got in calf. So now we have a sheet of paper telling us each bull's work rate.

Never assume that just because a bull worked last year that he will work this year and the exercise always throws interesting results. This year we discovered that 50pc of the bulls put almost 80pc of the cows in calf.

Robin Talbot farms in partnership with his mother Pam and wife Ann in Ballacolla, Co Laois.

Indo Farming