All calves are now weaned and back at grass, except for nine young bulls that I decided to keep in and start to finish under 16 months.
Normally, at this time of year, when the calves would be weaned and settled back at grass, my attention would turn to getting ready for calving again.
November is the usual start date and scour vaccinations and salmonella vaccinations and batching according to calving all need to be sorted.
This year, however, things are a little different. I decided last year that I wasn’t willing to commit to another five-year suckler scheme and there is definitely no point in calving sucklers and not getting the financial support from whatever scheme is there.
So, the decision [to get out of suckler farming] was made that it was time for a change. A decision I can tell you that was not made lightly. It’s something that I have been mulling over for at least three or four years.
But the change from the BDGP scheme to the new SCEP scheme meant a decision needed to be made now or wait for another five years.
There would be no point entering the new scheme and deciding after two or three years to exit and have to pay back whatever SCEP monies that were received.
I’ve been calving cows in my own right for 23 years, the last 15 completely on my own. My father and grandfather did for decades before me.
I have a very streamlined system - calf from November to January, AI from February to March, get cows to grass as early as possible, get as much weight gain from grass as possible, use the best genetics possible, make the best silage possible and generally be as efficient as possible.
And I am efficient. My key performance indicators for breeding are in the top 10% in the country and my plate meter shows that I can grow as much grass on reseeded swards as any dairy farmer in Co Cork.
But with a wife, three young children and a demanding full-time job, I am no longer willing to put in the huge amount of time, effort and dedication that’s needed to calve a herd of cows and get them back in calf for the return I’m getting back.
Slightly disappointing in ways, as I have put in a huge effort over the years, but another part of me is looking forward to a new challenge, whatever that might be.
So, in a normal year at this time, I would be restricting cows slightly on grass, so they don’t get too fat and cause me issues with difficult calvings.
However, this year things are the complete opposite, as I didn’t bull any cows and intend to sell or kill them fat. I’m trying to get as much grass into them and as much weight on them as possible.
Thankfully, the weather and ground conditions have improved, which has allowed me to get everything back to grass.
I’ve picked out a small batch of the most forward cows and have started feeding them at grass. So, I’m hoping now for a bit of an increase in the price of beef, before I start to sell. Aren’t we all I hear you say!