Livestock handling at the Ploughing
Peter Varley looks at some of the livestock handling equipment available at the National Ploughing Championships.

There is a range of livestock handling equipment on show at the Ploughing. Here, we take a brief look at what’s available.

O'Donovan Engineering

The Cow Pow moving feed barrier from O’Donovan Engineering was on display. The barrier can move forward as cows eat the fodder in front of them. The idea is that there is less pushing and management of fodder in front of housed cattle.

O'Donovan Engineering's Cow Pow feed barrier.

O’Donovan Engineering says that the barrier is a good labour-saving tool and claims it can save farmers up to 70% feeding time over conventional barriers. It is particularly useful in narrow passageways.

The company says there are a lot of barriers now being exported to Iceland where cows stay indoors for long periods. The approximate cost per bay is €1,800.

According to O’Donovan Engineering, the Saber draft is popular as a retrofit option for existing dairy parlours. There are two-way and three-way systems available.

The Saber drafter unit from O'Donovan Engineering.
The Saber system works off EID tags and drafts can be scheduled using a phone or tablet. The three-way system costs approximately €13,000 excluding VAT, while the two-way system costs €11,000 excluding VAT.

Condon Engineering

Condon Engineering has a smaller version of its handling unit on display. It says fixed handling units have become popular since TAMS II was launched.

The handling units have a circular entrance to the cattle race and a non-return forcing gate, which makes it easier and safer for one person to handle cattle.

Prices vary depending on size but a standard pen and crush costs approximately €7,000 excluding VAT.

Condon Engineering's supreme handling crate.

Condon Engineering also has the cow supreme handling unit, which allows the farmer to immobilise cattle to make handling safer and easier. It costs €4,200 excluding VAT with weigh scales.

Gibney Steel Products

Gibney Steel Products has its mobile handling unit on show at its stand. The company says the hurdles that make up the race and penning have a hot dipped galvanised finish.

Gibney Steel Products has a steel livestock handling unit on display.

Gibney Steel Products says that farmers with rented land and out farms find the handling unit useful because it can be moved around without major fuss. A unit costs approximately €45/m.

The company also does a headscoop that is operated using a winch that gives the operator more power to raise an animal's head. It says it can be let down quickly, if necessary.

The Gibney Steel Products headscoop.

Tullamore Farm: calving continues to go smoothly
Beef Editor Adam Woods looks back at a busy week of calving on Tullamore Farm.

Calving on Tullamore Farm is progressing well, with 17 cows having calved already and no major issues to report.

Across the board, calves have been up quickly to suck, the mothers offering a great supply of colostrum so far.

Of the 17 calves, 10 are heifers and seven are bulls. Heifer calves have averaged 39kg birth weight and bull calves at 43kg.

There was one abortion last week, a first time heifer calved prematurely and the calf didn’t survive. An Aberdeen Angus heifer calf was purchased and the adoption process is ongoing. There was also a case of milk fever this week in a dairy cross cow who had just calved. Farm manager Shaun Diver treated her with a bottle of calcium under the skin and she responded to treatment quickly.

Minerals are being fed across two feeds to make sure all cows are getting access to them. The first 10 calves have been dehorned and vaccinated for pneumonia, with eight of the stronger calves out grazing already. Anaesthetic and a painkiller were used when dehorning the claves.


Growth was recorded at 17kg/DM/Ha/day over the past seven days, with demand currently running at 7kg/DM/Ha/day. Average farm cover is still running high at 1,224kg/DM/Ha.

Currently 11% of the grazing area has been grazed which is behind target.

At the current rate, the target of having 50% grazed for the start of March won’t be hit – a more realistic target is now 40%.

April-calving cows have about seven days left out on the redstart. It’s just starting to bud, and a close eye is being kept for flowering activity, but cows should be finished in time. These cows will then move to grass to try and speed up the grazing of heavy covers.

A group of 44 heifers continue to graze through covers and are cleaning paddocks out well.

Weanling bulls are up to 7kg of meal at this stage and are due to be weighed next week.


Triplets are currently being fed 0.5kg/head/day of ration. There are just four weeks left before lambing starts and these ration levels will be increased by 0.1kg/head/week so the ewes will be up at 0.9 kg/head/day at lambing. Twins are on .3/kg/day. Singles remain outdoors.

Tullamore Farm: cranking up calving
Adam Woods takes a look at this week’s happenings on Tullamore Farm.

After a slow start, the calving pens are starting to fill up on Tullamore Farm, with six cows calving over the last week, five of which were unassisted. One calf needed assistance due to a mal-presentation. Of the six, five are heifers with one bull.

Early-born heifers are always a bonus as there is a better chance of them hitting target weights at breeding and calving in a two-year-old calving system.

Three of the calved cows have been turned out to a sheltered paddock close to the yard.


Average farm cover is currently 1,243 kg/dm/Ha. This is high and the challenge will be to get heavy covers grazed in time to kick start growth. Heaviest covers are at 2,200kg/DM/Ha.

Growth was recorded as 11kg/DM/Ha over the past week, with demand currently at 7kg/dm/Ha/day.

As only six cows have calved and ewes are not due to lamb until 20 March, demand won’t really lift for another few weeks.

With that in mind, heifers were taken off redstart this week and turned out to grass to graze the heavier covers. Some April-calving cows have been put on to the redstart to finish it off – there is about two weeks grazing left on it.

The weanling heifers have settled well on the grass and hopefully will be able to stay out. With just heifers grazing, it will be difficult to hit the target of having 50% of the farm grazed by 7 March.


Urea was spread across half of the farm at a rate of 23 units/acre.


Triplet ewes have started meal feeding and currently on .25/kg/day. Twins will be housed this week and start on .2kg/day of meal.

Beef management: grass, BEEP and calving data records
This week beef editor Adam Woods takes a look at fertiliser and grass, BEEP and recording calving data for future use.

Tullamore Farm: With mild conditions forecast this week, it’s a chance to get out with some fertiliser on drier land. Soil temperatures are currently at 7°C on Tullamore Farm and a half-bag per acre of urea has been spread across half of the farm.

Grass covers are very strong and it was decided this week to turn out some of the April-calving cows to the redstart crop.

There is about two to three weeks of grazing left on this and we felt it was better to get the weanling heifers to grass this week and try to get some of the heavier covers grazed off.

Average farm cover is running at 1,243kg/DM/ha so it’s important to get animals out grazing to kickstart growth.

We went to a light cover to start off to get them used to grazing and will then move to heavier covers.

These lighter heifers are ideal for grazing early as they should do minimal damage to paddocks.

With just heifers grazing, it will be difficult to hit the target of having 50% of the farm grazed by 7 March. It’s a balancing act as our demand for grass will take a jump once cows and calves and ewes and lambs are turned out. Six cows have calved with one requiring slight assistance and the others calving on their own.

Three of these cows have been turned out to grass. Triplet ewes have been housed while twins and singles remain outdoors.

Mart Demos: We will hold our next spring animal health livestock demos in Castleisland Mart, Co Kerry, on Tuesday 19 February; Raphoe Mart, Co Donegal, on Wednesday 20 February; and Central Auctions, Roscrea, Co Tipperary, on Thursday 21 February. The events concentrate on calf health along with scour and pneumonia issues and all events include a livestock display.

All events start at 7pm and are KT approved as part of the Department of Agriculture Knowledge Transfer scheme. For details, contact

BEEP: This week, we looked at details of the recently launched BEEP scheme. Applications must be submitted by next Friday 22 February. It’s a one-year scheme with no obligation for future participation.

Online applications are preferred via Should you require a paper application form, you need to contact the beef section of the Department of Agriculture in Portlaoise to get a form posted out.

Calving records: Many farmers use the ICBF pocket notebook to record calving data. This can be very useful when it comes to culling consistent poor performers for udder problems, calving problems, docility issues etc.

These issues can often be forgotten about once a cow and calf are turned out. Some farmers will use a coloured tag for these animals for ease of identification later in the year.

On Tullamore Farm this year, we are recording sire AI code on a management tag for easy identification at later dates. We are also recording birth weights, calving details and assistance details.