January is always a quiet month on Tullamore Farm, with no calving or lambing taking place before February and March.

January is generally spent getting ready for what is the busiest three months on the farm.

This year, there are 90 cows to calve and 230 ewes to lamb.

Calving kicked off this week, with five cows calved in the last four days.

There are 40 cows due to calve in February, 34 due in March and 16 due in April.

Farm manager Shaun Diver works off the ICBF expected calving report to pick out cows for moving to calving shed and also walks through cows twice daily to see if any further cows need to come off slats.

February- and March-calving cows have been vaccinated for scour and cows have all had their tails clipped in advance of calving.

Ad-lib silage

Cows are currently being fed ad-lib second cut silage (68DMD) and they are also getting 0.7kg/head/day of soya to increase the protein content of the diet and increase colostrum production.

Shaun has been doing this for a few years now and he is really happy with the way the cows calve down with a good supply of colostrum.

When something is working, you are slow to change things

There were some questions about the merits of feeding it, but when something is working, you are slow to change things.

Soya is currently costing €500/t, so it’s costing about €9.80/cow to feed the soya for four weeks before calving.

Cows are also being fed a pre-calving mineral at the rate of 150g/head/day. This is being dusted along the top of the silage once a day.

Pens cleaned out

Calving pens have been cleaned out and disinfected and the earliest-calving cows have been moved out to a dry-bedded shed before calving.

This allows hides and udders to dry up after the period of housing on slats.

A lot of the cows will calve in this loose area and any requiring assistance will be moved out to individual calving pens.

Any calf that requires assistance at calving time will be given 3litres of colostrum via a stomach tube, while all others will be monitored to make sure they are sucking within two hours.

There are three calving pens available, with the ability to erect three further temporary gates with mobile penning if required.

Creep area

Once cows and calves have bonded, the cows will move back to slatted pens and calves will be given access to a temporary creep area (centre passage of shed).

Supplies of gloves, lubrication, ropes and chlorohexidine have also been stocked up on in advance of calving.

There is also some help being drafted in for the busy weeks ahead. Two students are coming on their work placement over the next few weeks.

COVID-19 has complicated things for working alongside each other, but it’s important that all precautions are taken on the farm to avoid coming into contact with the disease.