Farm Ireland

Sunday 25 March 2018

Striking the right balance

Grassland: With tillage in the rotation there is a lot of grassland with high ryegrass content for Eamon Kirk to utilise
Grassland: With tillage in the rotation there is a lot of grassland with high ryegrass content for Eamon Kirk to utilise

Eamon Kirk farms eight miles from Dundalk on a mixed enterprise farm of cereals and beef, with some of the grain used for the finishing animals over the winter period.Previously Eamon was rearing 40 Angus calves as steers and bulls. Calves are mainly bought in the south through an agent. Eamon's local Teagasc adviser is Hugh Rooney.

2015 calves

This spring 67 calves were reared on the farm. The first batch of 37 calves was weaned over one month ago and are out on good quality grass.

These calves are receiving a coarse ration of 18pc crude protein, fed morning and evening to ensure that calves are eating in excess of 1kg per day.

Due to some very cold and wet weather during the last couple of weeks these calves were re-housed for a few nights to protect them from the elements. They are now back to grass full-time in a sheltered field close to the yard.

The remaining 30 were weaned over the past three weeks and are still indoors. They will be released outdoors as soon as this cold spell passes. They are also eating over 1kg of ration per day and they have ad-lib access to fresh straw and water.

Calf vaccinations

All calves have been vaccinated for pneumonia with Bovilis Bovipast RSP which is a two-shot programme, spaced four weeks apart. The first shot can be given from two weeks of age and the vaccine protects against RSV and PI3 virus and Pasteurella mannheimia haemolytica.

Also Read

Respiratory infections can cause serious economic losses, and the peak danger time is the first five months of life.

Therefore it is very important to protect the young animal with vaccination. As the calf gets older the immune system becomes more efficient at responding to challenges from respiratory pathogens.

Eamon also used the Bovilis IBR Marker Live vaccine at the same time as the Bovipast in order to reduce the risks of an IBR outbreak in the herd. This is a single shot injection.

When vaccinating, it is recommended to vaccinate all animals in the herd in order to minimise the infectious potential.

Angus yearlings

Last year's calves are doing well at grass.

Eamon has a good paddock structure in place and the group of 40 steers are rotated around these paddocks. The paddocks vary in size but most are 3-3.5ac.

There are good covers on the paddocks at present and the steers are continuously going into covers of 10-11cm (1500-1700kg/ha drymatter).

This is the ideal, with covers above this level taken out as baled silage if grass reserves on the rest of the farm are adequate. If grass elsewhere on the farm is tight, these heavier covers can be strip-grazed to increase utilisation.

These cattle were weighed on March 9, one week after turnout and will be reweighed in July to monitor growth rates over the main grazing season. The average weight was 302kg for the 40 animals born the previous January to March.

These animals were castrated using bands under veterinary supervision, with an anaesthetic and a tetanus injection. It is also important to ensure that these animals are outdoors after this procedure so that they can move around and exercise.


Some 26ac have been closed off for silage. With tillage in the rotation, there is a lot of young grassland with high ryegrass content, so these fields got over 100 units of nitrogen per acre. Phosphorus and potash were applied through slurry, 0-7-30 and Cut Sward, depending on soil sample analysis of each individual field.

With the cold wet weather for the last few weeks growth in these fields has been slow and silage yields are looking low at present.

These fields have been closed up since early April in the hope of cutting at the end of May. Eamon is happy to sacrifice quantity in order to maximise the quality that he requires to finish his animals.


Two paddocks that were reseeded last autumn had a high level of weed infestation, particularly chickweed, thistles, nettles and dandelions. This area was sprayed one month ago with a broad-spectrum herbicide and the weeds appear to be well controlled now.

There are a few small gaps in the reseed where the chickweed took over and these patches may have to be resown.

Indo Farming