Cows are eat­ing grass at an alarm­ing rate!

Irish Independent - Farming - - FARM OUR - ROBIN TAL­BOT

I LEFT the IFA county ex­ec­u­tive meet­ing in Port­laoise last week with the strong feel­ing that there was no-one at the high­est level in pol­i­tics bat­ting for the beef sec­tor.

The meet­ing was ad­dressed by the Min­is­ter for Agri­cul­ture Michael Creed and it seemed ob­vi­ous to me from his an­swers to ques­tions from the floor that he is not go­ing to take any ac­tion to put sup­ports in place to save the suck­ler cow.

To­day’s Bud­get will tell a tale for the beef sec­tor.

We man­aged to cut some si­lage in the mid­dle of Septem­ber. I would reckon that we col­lected up close to an­other month’s feed.

At that stage, I felt that, while it would be tight, we would be okay for win­ter feed.

But my opin­ion has since changed dra­mat­i­cally.

The main rea­son for this is that although we have had lots of high-qual­ity grass, un­for­tu­nately the cows are eat­ing it out at an alarm­ing rate. They are go­ing through pad­docks up to two days faster than I would have ex­pected.

On the pos­i­tive side, there is ex­cel­lent util­i­sa­tion and the pad­docks have been cleaned out com­pletely. So, hope­fully, they are set up nicely for an early bite in the spring.

The up­shot of it is that we are go­ing to run out of grass two weeks ear­lier than I ex­pected.

But, if the ground con­di­tions re­main good, we will try to keep the cows out as long as pos­si­ble by giv­ing them bales of si­lage. Cer­tainly, if we start to use pit si­lage be­fore the end of Novem­ber, we will come up short in the spring.

The un­der-16-month bulls are in the shed al­most six weeks now.

Frankly, their per­for­mance has been dis­ap­point­ing.

We weighed them last week and, while we knew they were be­hind tar­get liveweight com­ing in, I thought they might kick on and make up some ground.

But, at best, some of them have only held their per­for­mance while oth­ers have ac­tu­ally dropped in per­for­mance.

So we have changed the diet.

They all ap­pear to be healthy and happy so I am pretty happy that there is no un­der­ly­ing health is­sue.

We have sent all our ce­re­als to be tested for qual­ity and I ex­pect the re­sults back this week. I have a feel­ing that the feed value of the oats might be poor.

We have in­tro­duced some flaked maize into the diet and it seems to be help­ing.

So we are go­ing to have to talk to our beef fac­tory to see what we might do. The thought of sell­ing light bulls for a poor price is not an at­trac­tive propo­si­tion.

I sup­pose one op­tion might be to slaugh­ter the ones un­der 16 months that are clos­est to reach­ing their op­ti­mal per­for­mance; then feed on the bet­ter shaped bulls for a cou­ple of months and hope for a price rise.

Last week, we gave the maiden heifers their Lepto and IBR booster shots and treated them with Pour-On.

We are plan­ning to turn the An­gus bulls out with these heifers this week, though it’s hard to be en­thu­si­as­tic about it this year.

One day, as I was walk­ing through them, I thought they are a lovely bunch of heifers and won­dered if there will be a suck­ler beef in­dus­try at all by the time they fin­ish their breed­ing ca­reers.

We will turn the bulls out to the cows on Oc­to­ber 20.

Out of the blue, we had a calf come back as a po­ten­tial PI. We im­me­di­ately quar­an­tined him and his mother from the rest of the stock.

They have to be blood-tested this week, to check that he is a PI and that it wasn’t just tran­sient in­fec­tion. I think that he prob­a­bly is a PI as he is not thriv­ing at all.

We have some An­gus heifers just ready to go to the fac­tory. Nor­mally we would slaugh­ter these off grass with­out meal.

But, be­cause of the fod­der sit­u­a­tion, we have been giv­ing them a bit of bar­ley, just to make sure that they will all be fin­ished out of the field and in an at­tempt to spare some grass.

Most of the stub­ble ground has been ploughed and I don’t think I ever re­mem­ber the clay be­ing as dry at this time of the year.

So a lot of win­ter ce­real will be sowed into an ideal seed bed. Hope­fully, that will give it a good start.

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

PHOTO: RAY RYAN

David Naughton, Kilk­er­rin, Bal­li­nasloe with his cham­pion bul­lock of the show which weighed 975kgs and sold for €2,100 at Tuam Mart’s 54th an­nual Cat­tle Show and Sale.

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