Suck­ler milk sur­plus only glitch in dream calv­ing sea­son

BIG BABY

Irish Independent - Farming - - FARM OUR - ROBIN TAL­BOT

A FRIEND of mine has a great say­ing, that, too far east is west and I just won­der if we have gone too far in one di­rec­tion with our suck­ler cows. Or maybe it is just down to the good grass year.

Why I say this is be­cause some of our cows, es­pe­cially our first and sec­ond calvers , just have too much milk.

Their diet for the weeks pre-calv­ing would be sim­i­lar to other years but we have had some cows and heifers in the days pre- and post- calv­ing that were hardly able to walk be­cause they were so flagged with milk.

I was al­ways of the opin­ion that a cow needed enough milk just to rear a calf well and that too much milk is as bad, if not worse, than not hav­ing enough.

The irony is that, so far, touch wood, we have had a dream calv­ing sea­son.

Close to 70pc of the herd has calved in a month and I think we might push close to hav­ing 90pc calved in six weeks.

Our rou­tine of night-time feed­ing has worked ex­cep­tion­ally well. Most nights, I get to bed at 10pm and see them again at 6am. We have had no more than half a dozen calves born un­der cover of dark­ness.

We had to do one sec­tion, for a big calf. About six cows needed mi­nor in­ter­ven­tion and the re­main­der all calved unas­sisted. All calves were born alive ex­cept for a set of twins that were still­born. We sub­se­quently lost two calves; one about five days old, that I found dead in the field, the other was three days old that suc­cumbed to some con­gen­i­tal prob­lem.

We’ve had three cows very sick with E Coli mas­ti­tis.

Two made full re­cov­er­ies. Although there was dam­age to their ud­ders, they have gone off rear­ing their calves. The third one will have it all to do to sur­vive and we fos­tered her calf on to one of the cows that lost the calf out in the field. Un­usu­ally, the cow took to the fos­ter calf straight away.

A few cows are calv­ing down with a blind teat, as a re­sult of some sum­mer mas­ti­tis. So I think we will cer­tainly have to look at some form of dry cow ther­apy for next sum­mer.

The re­cent heavy rains have cre­ated a lot of muck in our calv­ing pad­dock, which has left the un­der­foot con­di­tions quite soft. But at least the num­bers there now are much smaller.

De­horn­ing

We con­tinue to de­horn the calves and move them and the cows away to pas­ture. They are al­ready go­ing into spe­cific groups, hope­fully match­ing the cows to the bull that will be run­ning with that group. They would also be seg­re­gated by sex of the calf, treated for IBR and given their first Bovipast shot.

So far we have had no sick calves. Long may that con­tinue.

We re­cently treated all our year­ling bulls for IBR, trimmed their tails and weighed them. I was pleas­antly sur­prised at how they had per­formed. The An­gus bulls av­er­aged 470kg, the Li­mousins 484kg and the Bel­gian Blues, 518kg.

I sup­pose a health warn­ing on those fig­ures would be that the Blue bulls would be out of our best cows, the Li­mousins out of some of the smaller cows and the An­gus are mostly heifers’ calves.

They are sep­a­rated into two groups at this stage, with the 50 old­est in one group. We have been feed­ing them in the field for the past fort­night. The plan is to bring them into the shed this week.

When we bring them in, we will ad­min­is­ter a pouron, for in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal par­a­sites.

As they are go­ing up the crush, we will use our draft­ing gate to seg­re­gate them by age. So, when it comes to slaugh­ter time, at 16 months, the bulls of a sim­i­lar age are in the same pen.

We di­rect re-seeded 28ac this past week. It was sprayed off with Roundup a few weeks ago. Most of it got two runs of a heavy duty disc. Then we sowed it with a one-pass and rolled it off with a Cam­bridge roller.

We spread 2t lime per acre. One field, which had a very low in­dex for P and K got 4 cwt of 10-10-20 per acre, the rest got 2cwt of 10-10-20.

The one frus­tra­tion at the mo­ment is that the har­vest is at a stand­still. The spring bar­ley seems to be stand­ing up to the rain rea­son­ably ok but the spring oats has taken a real ham­mer­ing and is a sorry look­ing sight.

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

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