Brexit looming like a cloud over day-to-day realities of beef farming
I ATTENDED last week’s Teagasc National Beef conference and, in my opinion, it was one of best of these events that I have attended in a long time.
The papers were all informative and interesting, with plenty of take-home messages.
Unfortunately, when we came to the last paper, entitled ‘Brexit Update – Possible Impacts on the Irish Beef Industry’, presented by Teagasc economist Dr Kevin Hanrahan, the mood in the room slumped.
I suppose a lot of us were hit by the reality that, no matter how efficient we try to be, if Brexit pans out as is currently feared, we’re in big trouble; because it looks as though the beef industry will be hit hard.
Meanwhile, with just two cows left to calve, I think, at this stage, we can safely say, it has been our best calving season ever.
We had less than 1pc casualties at birth. And we had to do one C-section. The vast majority of the cows calved without any assistance.
Most of the calves have got their Bovipast booster shot.
We made a particular effort this year to make sure that shot was given as close as we could to within a month of the first shot, as is recommended. It meant a little bit of extra work but I feel it was well worth doing.
Even as the calving season is ending, the new breeding season is already starting, with the turnout of our stock bulls this past week.
But, as I am writing this, I am looking out the window at the torrential rain falling, so it won’t be too long before we bring in all the cows and calves.
We don’t have a lot of grass, since we missed our last round of fertiliser spreading, and the underfoot conditions are deteriorating by the day.
Whatever about the cows, I think the calves will be well happy to get into their snug winter quarters.
All the sheds are good to go, with any repairs that were required done during the summer. So all we have to do is open the gates and let them in.
I think our beef bulls are thriving really well. Of course, they would want to be, since they are now eating 13kg ration.
We took two pens of these bulls out of the shed last week, drafted off the five oldest ones and put them in a pen that had become available. I just felt that, with the growth of the bulls, that the pen was getting a little crowded. In hindsight, we probably put in a couple of bulls too many in the pen at the start.
Casting a critical eye over the entire shed of bulls, there is definitely a few among them that will bring down our average. I think it’s a genetic issue; they just don’t seem to have the potential to grow like their cohorts. We will have to have a good look at their dams.
The beef heifers are still out grazing. We gave these their IBR vaccine last week. As they went through the crush, we sorted them into two groups, one group of what I hope are growthy U-grade heifers and the second group are a type of heifer that I think will finish at a lighter weight.
If we have to put in the cows early, all these heifers will prob- MARIA KELLY
ably end up grazing out what grass the cows leave behind.
Our newly re-seeded fields have all got a post-emergent spray for weeds and are really looking well at the moment, with good covers on them. But, as it stands, I’d say we have zero chance of grazing them.
That doesn’t concern me because they are fields that have the potential to be grazed very early in the spring.
We were lucky to get our winter barley all sowed just before Ophelia arrived. It was sowed in good conditions.
All the sowed ground has been rolled off after the seeder, except for a few of the headlands which, obviously won’t now be rolled. We sowed two varieties this year, Infinity and Cassia. Both were sowed at 12 stone to the acre.
The next job now is to try to PHOTO: get a pre-emergent weed spray on it. With the weather conditions at the moment, it is hard to see when that will happen.
We still have our winter oats to sow. But at least that ground is not ploughed yet. We will just have to wait and hope the opportunity comes.
WE WERE LUCKY TO GET OUR WINTER BARLEY SOWED BEFORE STORM OPHELIA ARRIVED
Robin Talbot farms in partnership with his mother Pam and wife Ann in Ballacolla, Co Laois
Canadian Brian Carscadden judging at the 35th National Dairy Show, Millstreet 2017.