My farming week: Michael O’Neill, Camolin, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford
The Wexford man farms pedigree sheep, beef and tillage with his wife and son.

I farm: “70 acres of good, dry land, with another 30 rented at 600ft above sea level.”

Family: “I farm with my wife, Sarah. We have entered into a partnership with our son, who is in full-time employment.”

Ewes: “We reduced our flock from 125 to 65 last November. The ewes are all pedigree Suffolk and Charollais. My father was in pedigree Suffolks before I was born. He ran a flock of 20 or 25 ewes.”

Breeding: “We have been using laparoscopic AI for the last number of years. We bought two new rams this year, one Charollais and one Suffolk, which we use for AI.”

Lambing: “We started lambing on 3 January. The first repeats have lambed and we have nine ewes left to lamb next week. We had an average of 1.65 lambs/ewe so far. The singles and doubles go outside from two days of age onwards. We foster as many of the triplet lambs as we can, and the surplus lambs are sold to pedigree breeders.”

Shows: “We go to as many of the local shows as possible. We went to the national championships last year, which is always brilliant as you get to see all the different breeds. It’s a nice day out, you get to meet other breeders and have a laugh.”

Calves: “We buy 30 or 40 calves every year. Previously we bought all heifer calves, which we finished off grass. Now we are moving more towards bullocks, which we finish around April.”

Fodder: “We grow 40 acres of fodder rape every year, which we graze the cattle and ewes on. The cattle are currently going out onto the fodder rape in the morning and are brought in at night. They are fed fodder beet, meal and straw as well. We also grow 50 acres of barley and 10 acres of beans.”

Quotable quote: “Unless sheep farmers can get €100/lamb they are not going to stay in this enterprise. We’ve seen a lot of our customers for pedigree rams cutting back or getting out of sheep.”

Farmer Writes: grass jumping out of a the ground with the heat
It’s been a great start to the year so hopefully it will continue, writes Bill O'Keeffe.

We’ve had excellent weather for grazing over the last couple of weeks in Clara. While grass got tight for a few days, it has really jumped out of the ground with the heat last weekend so we will look at skipping over a few paddocks soon.

There is some rain forecast for this weekend which is wanted in this part of the country and should keep grass moving forward into May and hopefully the good weather will return in time for the silage season.

It’s been a great start to the year so hopefully it will continue.

Breeding

Breeding season started 10 days ago with the milking herd and five days ago with the maiden heifers. We have half of the milking herd submitted in the first 10 days so hopefully we will see over 90% submitted in the first cycle of 21 days. Cow condition is excellent and they are showing very strong heats so hopefully we will get a good conception rate as well.

We used some sexed straws for the first week of breeding and a small bit of beef semen will go in over the first three weeks, with a switch to more beef over the second cycle of breeding. We then have Hereford and Aubrac bulls to tidy up for the last four weeks.

We have two thirds of this year’s replacements weaned and out grazing already and these girls should hit their target weights for breeding in 12 months’ time

The heifers were divided up into groups of 30 with an unrelated Friesian stock bull left with each group. The Friesian bulls will get three weeks with the heifers before being sold off and Angus bulls will tidy up for the last six weeks. We should get plenty of good quality, early heifer calves this way and have no replacements born after the end of February.

We have two thirds of this year’s replacements weaned and out grazing already and these girls should hit their target weights for breeding in 12 months’ time without too much extra expense.

The later calves will be weaned over the next few weeks and hopefully we don’t have too many stragglers at the end.

The late calves will come into target weight with a bit of extra attention, but often eat twice as much meal and take twice as much labour to get to target so we will phase these out of the system.

We might AI with beef alongside the beef stock bulls with the cows if they look to be slowing down

With bigger numbers on the farm every year, everything needs to be more streamlined and complications removed.

We might AI with beef alongside the beef stock bulls with the cows if they look to be slowing down. The biggest issue with pedigree beef bulls is that they struggle to walk long distances with the herd so we will just have to manage that a bit if we want to cut out the late Friesian calves.

Greenfield

Finally it was disappointing to see the Greenfield Farm project could come to an end in our parish. A lot of lessons have been learned over the last 10 years of the project. The investment might have been a bit light at the start and the cost of producing a litre of milk in reality was found to be a lot higher than anticipated at the outset.

The project will conclude this year, hopefully in amicable fashion, but it will not be the end of milk production on the farm

However, it was always a great learning resource for new entrants and even established farmers planning on increasing in scale.

The project will conclude this year, hopefully in amicable fashion, but it will not be the end of milk production on the farm.

Grass will continue to grow and cows will continue to be milked and hopefully the farm will go from strength to strength over the coming years.

Farmer Writes: assessing the bull team
With calving almost complete, Tommy Moyles is putting the final preparations on the breeding plan.

Calving on the farm has got to that dangerous point where you find yourself getting lackadaisical. It’s like you forget there are still cows to calve and it happens every year.

One has calved in the last 10 days and there are three left. All are past their due date and there’s not a sign of panic on any of them. They’re all experienced cows, so fingers crossed all will go to plan and the shed clean up can begin in earnest.

Calving numbers were at their lowest for a number of years. This was not by choice, but by letting nature call the shots.

Twenty heifers will go to the bull this year and there are no voluntary culls this year. The post-breeding scan this summer will decide who stays and goes for 2020.

They are in calf to a bull that I discovered has a longer gestation than other bulls used on the herd in 2018. I’ve been recording the gestation lengths of the bulls used this year and that bull averaged 291 days.

This was 11 days longer than one of the other stock bulls and eight days longer than the AI bull of the same breed and the bull with the heifers. While the numbers in calf to traditional beef breed bulls on the farm were small, for interest’s sake the gestation among them averaged 279 days.

The bull in question was beginning to develop an attitude problem and was sold so it won’t be an issue for next season’s calving.

Shorter gestation bulls give cows a few extra days at grass and this, in turn, should enable them to put on good condition prior to breeding. I look on it as another way to simplify the system.

In the past, breeding would have commenced here by now. It will be the middle of May before the bull goes to the heifers and about five weeks until breeding commences for the cows.

This year’s breeding plan will consist of a young homozygous polled bull with the heifers, the 280-day gestation bull with young cows and AI on the main group of cows for three weeks.

The bull that got bad photosensitivity last November has made a good recovery and will run with those cows after a round of AI is complete.

The back-up plan in case of another dose of photosensitivity is to bring the young bull home and run him in the same group as a precaution.

It’s multi-sire breeding on a very small scale but, as DNA results from the BDGP tags show, it has worked here in the past.

In 2017, a young pedigree weanling bull ran alongside the main stock bull. He would have been perceived as too small to sell for breeding so he was fired in with the main herd.

It’s fair to say he grabbed that opportunity. I received parentage correction notifications from ICBF showing he sired three replacement heifers. I’m delighted.

He was a bull I would have loved to hold on to but he was related to too many cows in the herd.

The replacement heifers are gone to the out farm and the first group of younger cows have followed. There are another few to join them, but not until they have got their pneumonia vaccine booster.

While grass growth eased slightly earlier in the month, it has surged with the recent spell of heat and rain. Combined with consistent growth throughout a relatively warm winter, it means the first run of silage isn’t too far away. Time for some plastic shopping.

Farmer Writes: running a bull breeding farm in Brazil
Brothers Gabriel Garcia Cid and Guilherme Garcia Cid de Araujo Sachetim are the third generation of their family running Cachoeria Farm in Serantopolis, Parana state, Brazil.

Fazenda Cachoeira 2C was founded in 1945 by Celsius Garcia Cid, my grandfather, a Spanish immigrant who arrived to Brazil in 1928.

Today my brother Gabriel and I are the third generation of Garcia Cids to manage the farm.

It is a bull breeding farm and we currently have 350 cattle on the farm, 200 cows and 150 bulls and calves. We have six bulls to naturally service the cows and the others are used for AI or sold.

Nelore cattle from the Zebú breed. \ Amy Forde

The best heifers stay on the farm and are kept on as replacements. The others are sold.

The most expensive bull ever sold from the farm was a three-year-old called Nisha DC and sold for €115,378 (BRL500,000). On other farms outside of breeding and depending on the breed, cattle go to the factory at two years of age at 600kg liveweight.

Land

The farm sits on 280ha of land, 40% is used for crops such as corn and soy, 25% is pasture for grazing and 13% is kept for hay.

The yield of the hay is around 3,700kg/ha and we also sell a lot of hay off the farm

The corn is planted at the same time as the grass and once the corn is cut for silage the cattle go into the field to graze. The stocking rate on the farm is 6.4LU/ha. The fields set aside for hay are irrigated with water from a private well on the farm, with the water coming from the nearby Tibagi River. The yield of the hay is around 3,700kg/ha and we also sell a lot of hay off the farm. The remaining 22% of land is preserved forest ground.

Importing cattle from India

In 1957, my grandfather Celso Garcia Cid began working on importing Zebu cattle to Brazil.

In 1960 the first of two loads of Zebu cattle arrived to Brazil, with 112 animals arriving. The second load of cattle arrived in 1962. This was to refresh cattle bloodlines in the country.

Three types of Zebu cattle were brought in, Gir, Nelore and Guzerá.

More than one-third of Gir cattle in Brazil today are descended from just one of those Gir bulls imported, Krishna.

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