Farm Ireland

Wednesday 21 February 2018

Time has come to check wintering facilities


Robin Talbot

I don't like tempting fate but calving has got easier and the difficulties we had with the first half of the season seem to have abated. This may be to do with the fact that the cows calving now have been getting hay three weeks to a month longer than the ones who calved early in the season.

With this in mind and an eye on next year's calving season, we would intend to hold some round bales of hay in reserve so that we will be able to start them on hay sooner.

Calves on the ground are healthy and thriving, and I would be well satisfied with their quality. All calves are dehorned in the week after birth. As the calves are dehorned, they get their first shot of Bovipast RSP. At this stage, we also put the cows through the crush and each cow gets her booster shot of Leptavoid-H. They also get Allsure boluses. The heifers rearing calves are additionally treated with a pour-on for parasites.

One thing that is noticeable about this year's crop of calves is the ratio of heifers to bulls. These things tend to average themselves out over the course of the season but, as things stand, we have a lot more heifers than bulls.

Having said that, one thing I never do when a calf is born is to look to see if it is a bull or a heifer, I'm just happy to see a live calf. It's only when I am tagging that I check.

While traditionally a bull calf might be regarded as more valuable in beef breeding, we have started to slaughter some of our two-year-old beef heifers and we are satisfied with their returns.

The heifers sold so far are averaging 387kg carcass weight. Considering these heifers only got meal for the past six weeks, I would consider that they performed well. In addition they are practically all U grades until now and so are making it into the upper levels of the price grid. I am particularly pleased with the performance of these heifers, considering that the pick of this crop were sold as weanlings last year.

It is time to be thinking of the next breeding season. We always turn the bulls out on October 20, so it's important that they get a full health check before then. With this in mind, all bulls had their feet checked and pared, if necessary, a few weeks ago. While checking the stock in the morning, I am pleasantly surprised to see how many cows are cycling already, so hopefully that augurs well for the new breeding season.

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The last paddocks to have been reseeded are fully emerged at this stage and almost ready for spraying. I would think, with a little bit of luck, that we should get a light grazing off them, with maybe the exception of one.

With the Ploughing over, there is a distinct nip starting to creep into the night air, which tells us it's time to run a check over the wintering facilities and do any repairs that are needed.

We still have the spring barley piled in one of the cattle sheds and we would hope to roll this and treat it with Home-And-Dry this week. After rolling and applying the preservative, we plan to clamp the barley in a small pit in the yard and cover it with plastic. The clamp needs to be sealed for around six weeks to hold in the ammonia.

After that, we can take a few weeks supply out of the clamp at a time, resealing after each removal. This is our first year to use this product but I am reliably informed that this system works very successfully.

The only crop left to be harvested now is the maize and, although it has produced a bit of a growth spurt, it looks like it's too little too late; yield and quality will be well back.

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

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