Being a part-time farmer is not much craic at this time of the year.
Animals need to be fed and on days when you are at the off-farm job, that means it is dark when you are feeding in the morning and dark again for the evening feed.
While there is a little stretch in the evenings, it will be another month before it is bright until six o’clock.
Good lights on the tractor and in the shed make things manageable. I would go further and say good lights are essential.
The older ones are flying, and have been since they were housed, but some of the later-born ones took a little while to settle into their winter diet
Long gone are the days of making a sign of the cross before getting up on a tractor and driving around a yard in the dark feeding cattle.
Our weanlings are starting to take shape and fill out a bit too, which is also helping with morale. The older ones are flying, and have been since they were housed, but some of the later-born ones took a little while to settle into their winter diet. The silage is average overall, with some bales looking and smelling better than others.
On the meal side, they are getting 1.5kg of a 16% beef nut, split into a morning and evening feed. I found this gives the younger ones a better chance to get their share, since they did not seem to be able to comfortably down 1.5kg in one sitting.
It is encouraging to finally see the younger ones take on that slow, confident walk and gait of the heavier animals.
High stocking rates, forcing on grass and intense management are not things I practice. Therefore, I do not measure and worry about every little centimetre of grass growth on a weekly (or five-day) basis. Having said that, I do walk the fields whenever I need to get a sense of things and so this week, I got out the sward-stick and went for a wander.
The PastureBase app from Teagasc is a very easy way of recording how much grass is in any field or paddock. There are far too many pieces of information generated by the app after that for a simple man like me.
I just need a general picture of the grass situation, much of which I pick up anyway by the mere act of walking around the fields and eye-balling the height of the grass in each. I would recommend PastureBase to anyone.
But don’t think you’re missing out if you don’t use all the bells and whistles that the developers have crammed into a small space.
Each little bunch will have their own paddock and I will merge them into one big group as the weather allows
Going back to grass, I am not 100% sure I interpreted the information correctly, but based on the grass covers I put into the app, I am relatively confident that there will be enough grass in front of the cattle if I start leaving them out of the shed in little bunches of five and six every few days around the last week of February.
Each little bunch will have their own paddock and I will merge them into one big group as the weather allows.
So, there is something of an end to the winter-feeding period in sight, albeit still on a far-off horizon.
Finally, this would usually be the time of year I’d start ramping up the ewes’ pre-lambing diet but as stated previously the sheep have left the farm and there will be no lambing this year.
Part of me will miss it, but the larger part of me will be glad to reduce the time spent with them in the shed.
Us part-timers need to be clinical in what we spend our scarce time doing.