Farm Ireland

Sunday 18 February 2018

Streamlining farm systems

David Drum's calves are now weaned and are all at grass since mid-June.
David Drum's calves are now weaned and are all at grass since mid-June.

Gordon Peppard

Farming on the Meath-Westmeath border, David Drum rears Friesian bull calves. All animals are left entire and are finished as bulls from 16 to 22 months of age. David also runs a herd of 70 spring calving suckler cows with all progeny kept to finish.

There is also a tillage enterprise on the farm where cereals, fodder beet and maize are grown. All grain is retained on the farm and fed to finishing animals.

2015 calves

This spring, 165 Friesian bull calves were reared on the farm.

The calves were reared in groups of 27 with teat feeders used initially to feed calves twice per day, they were then cut back to once a day after four weeks.

Meal, straw and fresh water were offered ad lib at all times to ensure good rumen development.

All calves were sourced in the south of the country by an agent and were bought in over a four week period.

The calves are now weaned and are all at grass since mid-June. They are getting over 1kg of a homemade ration once a day having been eating close to 2.5kg while indoors.

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They will be moved regularly to fresh grass to maintain a good weight gain throughout the summer.

Considering the high numbers of calves being reared on the farm, mortality levels are very low with only three calves lost from the 165 purchased.

This gives a mortality rate of 1.8pc which is well below the target of less than 3pc up to three months of age.

A good vaccination programme is undertaken on the farm, with all calves receiving Bovipast RSP on arrival and again five weeks later.

They also receive a shot of Bovilis IBR Marker live. Clostridial diseases are covered by Tribovax 10 at dehorning and again four weeks later.

Due to the longer persistent activity against gut worms for up to 150 days, calves are injected under the skin of the ear with Cydectin LA 10pc after they have been at grass for three to four weeks, this product is used on the farm for ease of management in terms of numbers of small animals to be handled and facilities available, especially where calves are grazing on rented ground.

They will then receive an ivermectin pour on three weeks after housing.

David is going to do regular faecal sampling of each group of stock throughout the grazing season to monitor the presence of worms and fluke.

Sampling completed to date has shown very low levels of parasitic eggs present.

The farm is in an area of high Molybdenum and this is causing a problem in relation to copper being tied up and causing a deficiency in the animals.

To counteract this, all animals are given a Copper bolus when they are going to grass and again later in the season, extra copper is also required in the minerals fed in the meal mix.

Friesian yearling bulls

170 Friesian yearling bulls were turned out to grass earlier this spring for two months grazing, the strongest 130 have now been housed for finishing since the first of June.

They will be built up to an ad lib meal diet plus grass silage in order to finish them over the next 100 to 120 days.

The 40 lightest bulls will remain at grass for the next six to eight weeks when they will be housed and finished around Christmas.

Due to the high level of stock grazing earlier in the year, David has made very little silage to date.

Now that most of the Friesian bulls have been housed for finishing, grazing pressure on the farm has greatly been reduced and a large section of the farm can now be taken out for silage.

A fodder budget will be undertaken on the farm to assess if enough silage is available for the winter.

If silage is in short supply then, action can be taken early.

On grazing ground, in order to prevent grass quality from deteriorating, topping will be undertaken after each grazing and fertiliser will be applied especially on newly reseeded ground.


With suckler cows producing bulls and heifers for finishing, tillage, grain storage, drying and rolling, and a calf to beef system on the farm, there is quite a lot going on in David's farm.

A three year farm plan will be drawn up for David which will try to streamline his system and focus on fewer systems with a lot of emphasis on grassland management and improving on his weight gain from grass.

A lot of progress can be made by the introduction of a paddock system where David can make better use of top quality grass and remove strong paddocks as extra silage instead of trying to graze them out.

The Green Acres Calf to Beef programme will have a stand at the Tullamore Show on Sunday August 9.

Please come along to talk to the participating farmers on the day.

For more information, visit

Indo Farming