After a long wait of 303 days, our first calf of 2021 finally arrived in the latter days of January.

As expected with that length of gestation, it was a large bull calf, though he only needed a small pull with ropes to deliver him safely.

With the barrage of rain and snow in the days since he was born, it’s no wonder he didn’t want to make an appearance.

The re-modeled creep gates in our shed are working exactly as we hoped and after a couple of days he learned to go in and out of the bedded middle pen on his own. This should mean a big saving on straw for us, as before this we had to bed a corner of each pen for the calves. Hopefully we’ll have two more calves to join him soon enough.

This year, I went for a broad selection of bulls, with 13 different ones used. Variety is the spice of life as they say, and I’m looking forward to seeing how some of the new selections work with the cows.

Four heifers, the remainder of our calves from last year, were also sold at the end of January. A heavy fall of snow arrived on the day we were first due to take them to the mart, so luckily for them, they got a week's reprieve. The only one happy about this was the young bull, who had been swanning about with his five heifers in the fields around the shed, looking like a dog with two tails to wag.

Pedigree paying off

For a change this year, our Limousin calves, both bulls and heifers, sold better than the Charolais, perhaps an indication that our years of pedigree Limousin breeding is finally paying off. Between both bulls and heifers, at roughly seven months of age, we averaged sales of just under €3/kg. Certainly not the best year we’ve ever had but better than we expected as half of our 2020 calves were unplanned from our not so infertile teaser bull, who produced better than we ever expected. Along with the uncertainty around marts and the transfer to online sales, we’d be wrong to complain about those prices.

Hedges and fences

For many years now we have relied on a mix of natural hedging and temporary fencing with a battery fencer to keep cattle in (and out!) of our outlying farmland. However, after having a few escapees last summer, we bit the bullet and decided to purchase over 100 posts to finally put up more permanent fencing. This should also give us some peace of mind when leaving cattle to grass there in summer, as the neighbouring farmers all run bulls with their cows. Our access is through a right of way on the land of one of these farms so occasionally there’s a bit of a wait for stock checking as a bull makes googly eyes at one of our cows over the hedge.