Waiting for the start of the calving season is always an anxious time on suckler farms as the success of the entire year hinges on how the busiest season of the year unfolds.
It is always nice to get off to a good start and, thankfully, that is the case on Tullamore Farm this year, with the first two calvings having a successful outcome.
The first to hit the ground this year was a Brookland Marco (LM5443) heifer calf from a Salers-cross-Limousin homebred heifer that calved unassisted on 19 January.
Since then, there has only been one other calving, a Limousin-cross-Friesian third-calver that also calved unassisted, another heifer calf sired by Norman Inventor (LM4151).
We have lift off on #TullamoreFarm this Saler X Limousin heifer with a Brooklands Marco heifer calf, calved unassisted at 23 months of age with a replacement index of €179… I’ll take a whole lot more of that please!! @farmersjournal @ajwwoods @FJBeef pic.twitter.com/dm0HvcK1tM— Shaun Diver (@diver_shaun) January 19, 2023
Speaking to farm manager Shaun Diver, he said: “Preparations are well under way and I’d expect things to start to get a bit busier in the next 10 days. The cows closest to calving have been drafted from the slats to a dry bedded area that has a base of sawdust which is then covered with straw.”
The new shed will be used to calve the heifers this year and has really taken the pressure off housing for the upcoming calving season.
“The heifers are all up in the new shed and they will calve on the lie-back area. It’s nice to have enough space, I can keep the cows and heifers separated completely, as sometimes if you mix them, the cows can bully the heifers and there is always that fear that you could lose a calf.”
Shaun feeds the cows at 6pm in the evening to reduce the number of cows calving at night. It is a method that many farmers have adopted in recent years and those who have tried it tend to stick with it.
The idea is that the cow feeds in the evening and then lies down to ruminate throughout the night. It typically results in a low number of cows calving around daybreak.
Shaun is a fan of the method: “Last year, it worked a treat. There were practically no cows calved through the night and I would have seen a lot then calving from 5.30 am to 6.30 am.
"I’ll feed at 6pm and then when I am checking the cows at night I will push in whatever they can’t reach.”
All the early-calving cows have already received their scour vaccine, while those that are due to calve from early-March onwards are due to be done this week.
“I shave their backs and tails at the same time, so you get a double hit from one handling. Clipping the tails cleans them up and once they go on to the straw bedding, they really dry up anyway, so they are nice and clean at calving.”
While weather conditions have improved this week, it will take a while to build grass covers on the farm after a winter period of very low growth.
“It was so wet nearly all winter that there was very little growth. I had a couple of covers of over 1,800kgDM/ha in November, but they were starting to rot at the butt, so I decided to graze them with the ewes, as I thought the good would be gone out of it by February and if conditions were difficult, the cows would tramp most of it back into the ground.
"There are some nice covers on the outfarm, so it should be fine in the next few weeks when we start to get stock out.”