Farm Ireland

Sunday 18 March 2018

The efficiency of weanling weighing offers better account of stock


Weanling heifers
Weanling heifers
John Joyce

John Joyce

Like most farms in the country our workload at this time of year moves from ticking over to full throttle within the next few weeks. All cattle have settled into their new surroundings with the winter dosing and parasite programme completed.

One issue I have noticed is the stuffiness of the cattle sheds as a result of the mild weather over the past month. I have decided to leave the dooors open a little at night since the last thing I need is a pneunonia problem at this time of the year.

The next issue is my rapidly rising slurry tank. Even though we are now in the spreading period, I am holding off spreading for another week as the recent rain has dampened the ground again. I have earmarked a number of fields since I'm trying to use the valuable nutrients as best I can.

Early in January I was contacted by ICBF in relation to weighing the weanlings as part of the process of recording the progeny of bulls that I used on cows in the summer of 2012.

I had never participated in a programme like this before so I was impressed with how efficient the ICBF's man in this region, Lesley Sandes from Cloughjordan, was at cataloguing the weights and condition scores.

At first I wondered how easy it would be to get the animals onto the scales but after the first few both myself and the weanlings got used to the system. Other years after weaning it was just guess work as to how good the calves were, but by weighing them it gives a more accurate account of the stock.

I was so impressed with the whole idea that I am now thinking of purchasing a scales myself. I think it would pay for itself through better stock management and I think it would give me the killout percentage to be able to weigh cattle before they are sent to the factory.


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We've been weighing lambs before going to the factory for years, and even recording weight gain over a number of weeks. Why should this be any different for cattle?

On the day I was very happy with the weights of the bull weanlings but the heifer weanlings are a little underweight for their age.

The bigger story here is the information that this process will provide on the performance of the dams' ability to rear calves. I will have to spend more time studying this when I get the full report from ICBF.

As a host farmer for Gurteen Agricultural College, student placement for the spring starts on February 3. Jason Greene from Roscrea will be joining us on the farm for his practical placement, a time that is always an interesting one with a different set of eyes around the place.

I like to think that all my students developed practical skills while getting a hands on experince of the overall operation of the business. I like to think it is enjoyable for them too, and I must admit I always learn a few tips from the students along the way.

At this time of the year I usually do a quick check of the amount of winter feed on the farm and I estimate to have about 45pc of the silage used so this would suggest that there's plenty of silage left, even if the spring is harsh with poor growth.

Also I have ample straw for the calving and lambing. There are no calves born on the farm yet this spring.

Instead, we just have the small issue of lambing our 240 ewe flock.

They will be starting this week, with the ewes going straight out to grass before the cows start calving. Needless to say, there's plenty of opportunity's here for anyone interested in night duty.

On the Macra side of things, we are trying to encourage our young farmer development groups. The purpose is to give an opportunity to young farmers to meet, discuss and learn about topics of interest.

They have more freedom to set their agenda and are less structured than discussion groups.

John Joyce farms at Carrigahorig, Co Tipperary, and is ag affairs Macra chairman. Email:

Irish Independent