As we enter July there is a definite shift in focus on the farm with breeding coming to a close, and the last of the under-16-month bulls coming fit for slaughter. Thoughts now move to maintaining calf performance over the second half of the grazing season while on the sheep side, weaning is approaching and lambs are beginning to be drafted for slaughter.
Grass supply was just beginning to come under pressure up to last weekend but the arrival of the rain has seen growth kick on once again. Farm manager Shaun Diver spread 70 acres of grazing ground with a bag/acre of pasturesward (27-2.5-5) late last week in preparation for the rain that was forecast over the weekend.
“It was only in the last 10 days that things had begun to slow down here; we had been getting away just fine up to that point. There was a lot of stemmy grass appearing and grazing quality was poorer than we would like it to be. It just needed the rain to freshen things up once again. I have been doing some topping post-grazing over the last two weeks to improve the quality of regrowth.”
There are 42 acres closed for second-cut silage, with most of the ground receiving slurry at a rate of 2,600gal/acre while a small proportion of ground was spread with a light cover of well-rotted farmyard manure. Alongside this, three bags of cutsward were spread.
Shaun said: “We target the second-cut silage to the dry cows in the early part of winter and so I’m not looking for top-quality stuff. Most of the cows will come into the house in good condition and it will be a case of just maintaining them or even letting them slip half a body condition score over the course of the winter period so 68% DMD silage will be adequate to do that. If there are a couple of thinner cows, I try to wean them earlier and give them a few weeks at grass to build body reserves or I can feed a pen of thinner cows with the better-quality first-cut silage if needed.”
At this stage, breeding activity is slowing down, with almost nine weeks of AI completed. The Salers bull has now been introduced to mop up any repeats for a further three weeks.
Prior to being with the cows, the Salers bull was in with the heifers for a few weeks after they had been served with AI over a three-week period at the start of the season. There are 40 breeding heifers this year from which around 15 will be retained as replacements on the farm while the rest will be sold as in-calf heifers later in the year.
For the first six week of breeding, Shaun concentrates on using high maternal index bulls, with mostly Simmental and Limousin genetics used during this period. Following this, Shaun moves to more terminal-type bulls with more Charolais used in the second half of the season.
“Overall we are looking for a balanced bull that can deliver on both maternal and terminal traits, but there would be more focus given to maternal traits earlier in the season. The other thing you have to consider with this herd is that we have a decent proportion of first-cross dairy types that will have plenty of milk so that might not be the main focus when selecting a bull for them.”
The earliest calved batch of cows were scanned last week to get an indication as to how breeding is going. It was a positive result with 36 out of 40 in calf while 20 of the heifers were far enough in calf to be detected.
Shaun said he was pleased with the result and hopefully things can continue to progress in the same manner for the remainder of the season.
He said: “I was fairly confident that it would be a decent result as there was no bulling activity in these groups over the last few weeks but you never know until it’s confirmed by the scanning results. The later-calved cows wouldn’t be bulled long enough to detect it so I plan to scan again in mid-August.”
To date, 18 under-16-month bulls have been slaughtered. A further 10 are to be killed late this week. They were weighed on Monday and averaged 682kg liveweight.
It is expected that they will average a carcase weight of around 385kg, just below the running average of 388kg so far this year.
It leaves nine bulls in the shed still to be drafted. Commenting on these, Shaun said: “They are more of a mixed bunch that are left. There are a couple of poorer ones that we all have but the rest are probably just that bit rangier and lack a bit of flesh just yet.
“Price for this week’s kill is €5.20/kg on the grid so it is back which is frustrating given the costs involved in getting these animals to the point of slaughter.”
On the sheep side of the house, the first 13 lambs were drafted for slaughter last week at 45kg on average and came into a carcase weight of 20.7kg and a valve of €160.30.
This week will see the lambs receive a worm dose in preparation for weaning which is planned to take place next week. Shaun is hoping that there will be another pick of lambs this week prior to weaning which could delay any further drafts for a fortnight or so.
Preparations are in full swing for the Tullamore Farm open day which will be held on Tuesday 26 July. The Irish Farmers Journal team are looking forward to welcoming the public to its first national open day since 2019, which will cover all aspects of both the beef and sheep systems, from financial performance to breeding, genetics, animal health, grassland management and much more. There will also be a key focus on the steps the farm is taking to enhance its sustainability. Located at Brackagh, Screggan, Tullamore, Co Offaly (Eircode R35AT81), the day will run from 10:30am to 5pm. For enquires email email@example.com.