Calving has got off to a much faster start than anticipated on Newford Farm.

There is only a handful of cows that on paper have reached their due date for calving, but, as of Friday evening, there was 12 cows calved.

Farm manager Iarlaith Collins had preparations put in place well in advance of the breeding season, so there was no complications in this regard.

Iarlaith also reports that it has been plain sailing for cows that have calved, with the majority calving unassisted and calves up to suckle quickly.

The farm is practicing on-off feeding of silage and this is working well in encouraging calving during daytime hours.

To date, 10 of the 12 cows have calved from morning through to the late afternoon, with two cows calving outside of these timelines.

Calving equipment is readily available in the calving shed.

The process works by restricting silage feeding from 8am to 4.30pm.

Cows still have access to a forage source during this period with straw offered.

Low straw intake

Iarlaith says that cow intake of straw is relatively low during this period, with cows quickly becoming accustomed to the new feeding regime.

Cows are typically spending 24 hours in the individual calving pens, with some spending longer at the start of calving, with less pressure on space.

Cows and calves are then moved to group straw-bedded penning and, as numbers calved increase, it is likely that the strongest cows and calves will be transferred back to the main suckler shed, which has a double-sided feeding passage and allows one of the passageways to be temporarily used as a creep area.

Calves content in the temporary creep area in 2020. This worked well in providing extra accommodation and saving on straw usage.

This has worked well in recent years and going on recent weather and the medium-term forecast, it is unlikely cows and calves will be turned outdoors anytime soon.