Farm Ireland

Tuesday 20 March 2018

Weaning is finished so the next task is batching the cows

Silage bales were made in recent weeks
Silage bales were made in recent weeks

Robin Talbot

All the calves have been weaned at this stage and have all settled in well to their new routine and we have an adequate amount of grass in front of them.

The exception is a group of bulls that are grazing on a particularly dry part of the farm, where the growth has been quite disappointing in recent weeks. But they are, nevertheless, extremely contented.

The next job we need to do is to batch the cows in groups according to calving date.

As we are sorting through them, any cow that needs any attention to her feet will be separated out and we will get this group sorted straight away.

Initially, I was a bit reluctant to put in-calf cows into a crate which lies them over on their side but I actually find it is the easiest time to do them, on both man and beast.

Sucker cows are usually more docile and easy to handle when they don't have the distraction of a calf running around the yard bawling while they are in the crate.

The heifers are due to start calving on July 20 and are springing up nicely.

The cows are due from August 1 onwards, with over 60pc of them due to calve that month.

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We have 120 round bales of hay in the shed since last year so, as soon as the cows are batched, we will take them off the grass fields and give them hay only.

As has been our practice for the last number of years, we will feed them last thing at night so that, hopefully, the vast majority of them will calve during the day.

Even though the cows will be a few weeks out from calving when we start feeding them hay, we will mix this early calving group with the springing heifers and they will come into the shed at night. The cows are used to doing this every year and I find they have a calming effect on the heifers.

We keep this group between 30 to 40 animals, which makes them easy to handle. As some of these start to calve, we will top up numbers with the next cows due.

Also, an added incentive for bringing them into the shed in our system is that when they are going back out to the paddock in the morning they go through the footbath, which we keep topped up with fresh bluestone.

It is a system we put in specifically for the cows a few years ago.


It's just a simple inexpensive race with three footbaths, two just with water for washing their feet and the last one with the bluestone.

Since we started using this foot bath, it has cut down on a lot of lameness. We found, especially when we have had wet weather at calving time and where the cows would be walking in through a mucky gap and then across a concrete yard, sometimes something as simple as a slight stone bruise could turn into something quite nasty very quickly.

We made some silage bales in recent weeks out of paddocks that were starting to get a bit strong. We then spread 2,500 gallons per acre of diluted slurry on them.

We have a few more paddocks to take out on an out-farm. We also plan to apply slurry after we take the bales off them, since this land would never have got slurry.

We are continuing to top paddocks. In the hot weather we were topping them a day or two before we moved on the stock and they seemed to eat up the fresh toppings with relish.

I am a great fan of the flora and fauna of the countryside but I had forgotten just how much I dislike crows and jackdaws until they started to attack the winter barley last week.

But, I suppose on the bright side, there is quite a bit of winter barley in our area this year and hopefully they won't just concentrate on ours.

I also remember a few years ago when we had winter barley and the crows didn't touch it. But they knew more than I did because, when it was cut, the yield was very disappointing.

The crop is starting to turn nicely and hopefully will be fit for harvest towards the end of the month.

The spring barley has really come on a lot in recent weeks and is looking well apart from a little bit of mildew.

But hopefully that is now under control because it has just got its main spray this past week.

So, with the head fully emerged and the flag leaf green, we have closed the gate and this spray should see the crop safely through to harvest.

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


Indo Farming