The breeding period for my autumn herd started back in mid-October and all cows have now been served at least once.

This year, I served 24 cows and seven heifers. The last five cows served were slow to come into heat, so they were synchronised and served to AI at the start of December.

These animals were synchronised for a reason, rather than letting them come into heat naturally.

The breeding period is due to finish up next week, before Christmas. So, by synchronising and inseminating the cows at the start of December, if any of these animals were to repeat after the first service, there is still time to give them a second insemination before breeding stops.

Sire choice

All cows are served to AI and the sires used during the autumn breeding period were Simmental, Limousin and Stabiliser.

Simmental bulls include Lisnacrann Fifty Cent, Clonagh Frosty King and Lis-Na-Ri Gucci. The Limousin sire was Moondharrig Knell and the Stabiliser being used is Stan the Man.

I have used all of these bulls before, with the exception of Gucci, and they all cross well with my cows.

The 2019 autumn born bulls are currently being drafted for slaughter with 11 animals sold from a group of 15 .


The autumn cows are currently on first-cut silage and 1.5kg/day of concentrate. Silage is excellent at 73.4% D-value, 11.75 Mj ME (energy), 13.36% protein and 28.3% dry matter.

The plan is to cut concentrates from the diet in January, after all cows are bred and hopefully settled in-calf. The cows will stay on a silage diet from January until turnout.


Autumn-calving cows are normally scanned by early February, before spring calving gets underway. At present, 24 cows plus seven replacements is more than I need for the autumn herd, which usually sits around 30 breeding females.

Once cows are scanned and empty animals are culled from the herd, any surplus cows that are scanned in-calf will be sold live during the spring.

Managing spring-calving cows

There are 19 cows set to calve down in the spring, plus one replacement heifer. I originally had nine heifers settled in-calf, but I have scaled back numbers after losing some rented ground.

Normally, I would have been calving down around 30 cows in both the spring and autumn herds, but less ground means fewer cows can be carried.

The spring cows are on silage bales made during the second cut, as first cut is needed for autumn cows and the bulls that are being intensively finished on-farm.

Dry cows are getting a pre-calving mineral, which is dusted over silage daily.

With calving due to start in mid- to late-February, my plans are to change over to feeding a high-spec pre-calving mineral in January.

The spring herd is settled in-calf to the same bulls as those that were used on the autumn cows and having used them in previous years, I know what to expect in terms of calving ease and calf quality.

Drafting autumn bulls for slaughter

All male progeny born on farm are intensively finished as young bulls. The 2019 autumn-born calves are currently being drafted for slaughter, with 10 animals sold and five animals left to kill.

Bulls are housed on slats and the last four animals have just moved on to ad-lib concentrate feeding.

The bulls killed so far were finished on a maximum of 10kg/day of concentrate, plus first-cut silage, with this level being fed throughout November. Bulls had been on 8kg/day most of the autumn.

Making use of good-quality silage in the finishing diet has been a big factor in cutting the finishing costs.

Although concentrates fed have yet to be tallied up, in previous years the autumn bulls have been finished on less than 1t/head of concentrates.

Carcase weight

The bulls sold for slaughter had an average carcase weight of 384.9kg at 14.5 months of age. This gives an average carcase gain per day of 0.83kg from birth.

This is an increase on last year’s autumn bulls, which averaged 366.1kg carcase weight at just over 15 months old, and converts to a daily lifetime carcase gain around 0.8kg for every day on farm.

The heaviest bull slaughtered weighed 460kg deadweight at 14 months of age and had been a standout animal since it was born. This was a Stabiliser bull sired by Stan the Man.

The lightest bull killed was a twin calf and weighed 340kg deadweight.

Spring bulls

There are 14 spring-born bulls being fed over winter. The group is currently on 4kg/day of growing ration and first-cut silage, with plans to step up feed levels towards 8kg to 10kg/day around March time.

These animals should be ready to start drafting for slaughter next May and June, with a target of 680kg to 700kg liveweight before selling.

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