Our wean­ling statis­tics have re­vealed some home truths

Irish Independent - Farming - - FARM OUR - ROBIN TAL­BOT

IT’S A few years since the yards were as slip­pery as they were last week. We had to put the trac­tor in four-wheel-drive to move around.

At least we had no frozen wa­ter pipes or cat­tle with­out wa­ter over the few frosty days. It is al­ways a con­cern that, when there is a freeze, cat­tle who would be get­ting a lot of con­cen­trates couldn’t be al­lowed to be short of wa­ter.

Apart from the un­der­foot con­di­tions, I love cold weather (in the win­ter!).

We ro­tated the stock bulls again this past week. This means there has been three dif­fer­ent bulls run­ning with every pen of cows. I see very lit­tle ac­tiv­ity with the cows at the mo­ment so hope­fully that means that most of them are in calf.

We treated all the cows for fluke last week.

Also, we cleaned out all the sheds. I don’t like let­ting the dung build up too much. I think that it is only a reser­voir for dis­ease and it is also much eas­ier to keep the beds clean and dry when there is not a depth of dung in the shed. So we clean them out at least once a month.

We had an is­sue with some type of virus in one shed of calves. With treat­ment, it seemed to clear up quite quickly but we took a se­lec­tion of blood sam­ples, nasal swabs and fae­cal sam­ples from calves that were run­ning a tem­per­a­ture just to check if there is any­thing un­to­ward knock­ing around.

In the re­sults we have back so far, no virus has been iden­ti­fied. More re­sults are due back this week.

The first sign that some­thing was amiss with th­ese calves is that they went off their feed. But they are back grub­bing-up again.

We took the bull away from the re­place­ment heifers last week. We just leave the bull with th­ese heifers for eight weeks.

I al­ways think that, if a healthy maiden heifer doesn’t go in calf within eight weeks, she is not going to sur­vive in the main herd as she has been shown up as a slow breeder.

Th­ese heifers will be scanned in a month’s time and any show­ing up not in calf will be fat­tened off.

Our 16-month-old heifers have set­tled into the shed well and, at the mo­ment, they are on 18kg of good qual­ity first cut silage at 82 DMD, 4kg of meal and .5kg of straw.

Th­ese heifers will be fin­ished out of the shed. So they will prob­a­bly be slaugh­tered be­tween April and early June. Some of them are well mus­cled heifers with a lot of po­ten­tial to carry weight so we need to max­imise their po­ten­tial.

We will keep them going on the above diet well into the spring, at which point we will move over to a lot more con­cen­trate and a lot less silage, going for an intensive 50-90 day fin­ish, de­pend­ing on the par­tic­u­lar heifer.

The next job we need to do with th­ese is put them through the crush, trim their tails, clip their backs and weigh them.

The sales of our un­der 16-month bulls are con­tin­u­ing on a weekly ba­sis.

We are ab­so­lutely de­lighted with the fat scores. With­out ex­cep­tion, they have all had a fat score of 3- or bet­ter, with a cou­ple run­ning into 4-.

Their weights are also hold­ing up well. At the mo­ment, we are av­er­ag­ing around 400kg car­case, though I know that will tail off a lit­tle for the tail end of the group.

All the bulls were weighed in the first week of Au­gust, while they were get­ting their IBR shot. We are also weigh­ing them the day be­fore they go to the fac­tory.

The av­er­age daily weight gain over the pe­riod has ranged from 1.22kg/day to 1.97kg/day. This is a dif­fer­ence of .75kg/day which, at a 60pc kill­out, is al­most .5kg of car­case per day. This shows that the best per­form­ing bull was in­creas­ing in value by al­most €2 per day more than the worst per­former, which is a sober­ing thought.

So I prom­ise my­self this year that, when all the bulls are gone, I will print off a sheet of their per­for­mance. We need to iden­tify the dams of the best per­form­ers and the dams of the worst per­form­ers and see if there is a pat­tern.

All stock are housed now. As the bulls go to the fac­tory, this has freed up some space to bring in the last re­main­ing stock that were out­doors, the maiden heifers.

As most of the beef bulls will be gone by the mid­dle of Jan­uary, this dove­tails nicely with the re­moval of the stock bulls from the cows, as it means we will have in­di­vid­ual pens for them on the slats.

As this is my last col­umn of 2017, I’d like to wish ev­ery­one a happy and safe Christ­mas.


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

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