Re­vamped diet go­ing is down a treat with the cows and our bal­ance sheet

Irish Independent - Farming - - FARM OUR - ROBIN TAL­BOT

THEY say ev­ery day is a school day. And I think that is cer­tainly the case for us this year when it comes to feed­ing our suck­ler cows.

A few months ago, I was very con­cerned that we weren’t go­ing to have enough of silage to see us through the win­ter. If truth be told, it had me stressed out a bit.

I spoke to our cat­tle nutritionist Gerry Gig­gins and he came up with a diet, which has less silage and more straw than we would usu­ally use.

From the cal­cu­la­tions we made and what silage we had on hand, we knew we needed to re­duce the amount of silage fed to the cows daily to 25kg. This is a sav­ing of about 10kg per head per day.

So, at the mo­ment the cows are get­ting 25kg of top qual­ity silage, 2.75kg oaten straw and 4.25kg of a mix of bar­ley and oats. There is also a min­eral in­cluded.

One of the pos­i­tive side­ef­fects of this diet is that a fill of the wagon feeds a lot more cows, which sur­prised me.

Also, the cows seem to ab­so­lutely love the diet. It’s eas­ier to keep them bed­ded, too.

So, at the mo­ment, it seems a win-win for us.

Since we have a tillage en­ter­prise, we would al­ways have a sur­plus of straw and I’m now think­ing that maybe we could use this diet again, and make 40 acres less of silage.

On the breed­ing front, things seem to have qui­etened down a good bit.

We ro­tated the bulls last week and they don’t seem to be too busy. Whether or not that is a good sign re­mains to be seen.

I thought we were well equipped with bulls com­ing into the breed­ing sea­son this year.

But, un­for­tu­nately, one morn­ing a cou­ple of weeks ago, I went out to feed the cows and found our best Blue bull ly­ing rigid on the ground with three mag­pies sit­ting on top of him. That is never a good sign.

I im­me­di­ately called the vet. She quickly di­ag­nosed that he had de­vel­oped a Vi­ta­min B1 de­fi­ciency, which, she felt, might have been be­cause of the un­sea­son­ably soft fresh grass.

Maiden heifers

Also, he was ex­tremely busy and maybe not eat­ing enough.

She treated him in­tra­venously and he is slowly re­cov­er­ing.

But he is un­likely to work again — cer­tainly not this sea- son, any­way. As for the other stock bulls, the plan is to re­move them af­ter 10 weeks breed­ing, which is about the turn of the year.

The bulls will be taken away from the maiden heifers this week.

That will have given them an eight-week breed­ing pe­riod. I al­ways like to have a few ex­tra heifers, which al­lows us to take the bulls out at eight weeks.

Any heifer that doesn’t go in calf in eight weeks is prob­a­bly go­ing to be a slow breeder any­way, so the sooner that is found out the bet­ter. Any that are scanned not in calf will be fat­tened.

We are in the process of treat­ing all an­i­mals for fluke. Also, any calves that are due their three-month IBR live vac­cine booster are get­ting that as well.

The first time, it would have been ad­min­is­tered in­ter-nasally; this time it can be given into the mus­cle.

We have started to sell our Un­der-16 month bulls. As we ex­pected, they are back about 10kg/head car­case weight on last year’s crop. As we all know, the price is also well back.

The cost of feed­ing them is up, too.

So that is a bad com­bi­na­tion — weight down, price down, cost up.

On the pos­i­tive side, our fat scores are quite good, with the ma­jor­ity of the bulls be­ing Fat Score 3 or bet­ter.

The heifers that are com­rades of these bulls have been brought in. We will feed these a grow­ing diet over the win­ter, af­ter which we will in­crease the con­cen­trates, hope­fully fin­ish­ing them out of the shed in March/April.

Ideally, I would have pre­ferred to have given the heifers their IBR a cou­ple of weeks be­fore they came in. But that just didn’t hap­pen. So it now needs to hap­pen as soon as pos­si­ble.

They will get a live vac­cine into the mus­cle. When they are in the crush, we will also trim their tails and clip their backs.

We soil test the whole farm ev­ery four to five years. So it’s due to be done again shortly. But, in fu­ture, I think we will change tack slightly … and do one-third ev­ery year.

That way, it isn’t such a daunt­ing task to do it.

Also, when you get re­sults back of the whole farm, it can be a bit over­whelm­ing and maybe we don’t use them as well as we could.

I FOUND OUR BEST BEL­GIAN BLUE BULL LY­ING ON THE GROUND WITH THREE MAG­PIES SIT­TING ON TOP OF HIM

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