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Tricky decision on where to go with first slurry

It was amazing to look out of the kitchen window in Christmas week and see that seeds which had fallen to the ground from the bird table were starting to germinate and some had sprouts up to an inch long.

Last week, I walked all the fields with a view to identifying the first land that would get slurry. I was surprised how sticky the surface was in what would normally be dry fields.

This year, it's tricky to decide where to apply the slurry first because the fields that were grazed out properly and closed up first in the autumn have a nice covering of fresh grass back on them already. I am reluctant to spread slurry on these fields in case we hit a dry spell and it ends up drying on the surface and contaminating the grass. Unlikely in January, but not impossible.

And the fields that weren't grazed out in the autumn, where we had to leave grass behind because of the underfoot conditions, are, frankly, a bit of a mess at the moment, and the first thing we need to do here is graze them out to clean off that old growth -- yet this won't be done for a good while yet.

On the positive side, there is no pressure on us, in terms of storage space, to spread slurry at the moment -- and there won't be for a while yet. At least we can spread the dung, which is building up in the yard, on the stubbles -- especially since the sheds are due to be cleaned out again this week.

Something I like to do early in the new year is to get our paperwork up to date for the year gone past -- just to make sure that sprays and medicines, etc, are fully written up. We also made sure we ordered our tags for the new BVD eradiation scheme.

I have been involved with Animal Health Ireland (AHI) from the start and the eradication of BVD is critical, and highly attainable, so I would encourage everyone who will have calves born on their farm this year to ensure that they test them.

We have just weighed the 16-17-month-old heifers that we intend to fatten. The Belgian Blues averaged 510kg, the Limousins 475kg. These heifers have been on a growing diet but now we plan to push them on a bit harder, with a view to finishing them in 90-100 days.

The bulls that we are fattening would be close to 600kg at the moment and we will also push these on now, for a final finish in the next 100-120 days.

The heifers will end on about 6kg of concentrate per day, with the bulls on 12kg/day.

All the suckler cows have been treated for fluke, worms and lice in the past few weeks and are looking happy and healthy in the sheds.

It's also noticeable that the bull calves that have access to fields are spending more time outside and we would plan, in the near future, to give them access to a field of grass that we have saved up especially for this purpose. They are starting to look like they would be happy enough to move to a field further from the yard to graze.

We also removed the breeding bulls this past week. So it's just a case of sitting tight until the end of next month when the cows will all be scanned and hopefully be in calf.

I suppose the next job on the to-do list is to sit down with the phone and get some prices for fertiliser. Hopefully we can grow as much grass as last year.

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

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