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.