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Farm Update November 2022

Charlie Smyth, Virginia, Co. Cavan

We have operated a calf to beef system on this farm since 2019, purchasing 40 calves in the first year and gradually building up numbers each year with over 100 purchased in the spring of 2022.  

I currently farm approximately 60 hectares just outside Virginia, Co. Cavan. The soil type is a mixture of relatively free-draining to a heavy, drumlin soil type. The farm is fragmented and there are three outblocks, which significantly increases the workload.

The type of calves we buy, mainly bulls, are a mixture of Friesian, Angus, Hereford and Aubracs. This is our first year with Aubrac calves, so it will be interesting to see how they perform.

Going forward, we are going to place a lot of emphasis on where we source our calves, as there is a massive variation in animal performance amongst the farms that we currently source our calves from. The new Commercial Beef Value (CBV) will be a great tool going forward to help us determine which calves and herds we should be sourcing from.

Last year, we finished the majority of our cattle between the months of February and May at 24 to 26 months. This year, we decided to do things a bit differently with the aim that some of the cattle will be killed earlier than usual.

To achieve this, we identified 20 steers that would be suitable for finishing prior to Christmas in mid-September, with the aim of producing carcass weights of at least 280kg at slaughter. In mid-September, these steers were +470kg livewight.

Finishing steers on Charlie Smyth's farm

These steers were housed in the first week of October and supplemented with 4kg/head/day of concentrate, along with good quality silage. The volume of meal will be increased shortly to 6kg/head/day of a high-maize finishing ration. The plan is to start drafting these animals for slaughter around the second week of December.

All this year’s weanlings are now housed and are currently on 1kg/head/day of a 16% protein concentrat; the older cattle are housed, apart from a few store bullocks that are on a dry part of the farm.

From mid-October onwards ground conditions in this part of Cavan detoriated rapidly, resulting in an earlier than usual winter. There is a good cover of grass on the farm, so hopefully we will be able to get out early to graze this in the spring. However, we do have enough silage on farm even if it is a challenging winter.

This year, we castrated calves before housing, so we vaccinated one month before castration and then gave a booster on the day of castration. All housed cattle were dosed for fluke and stomach worms two weeks after entering the sheds and when all the cattle are housed they will be treated for lice. Booster shots for the protection of RSV, Pi3 and Mannheimia haemolytica (Pasteurealla) was administered two weeks prior to housing.

At the moment, we are tight for winter accommodation and the plan is to apply for a TAMS grant for a four-bay double slatted shed.  This is the last TAMs tranche under the current CAP and the deadline is December 16. Construction costs have gone up significantly in the last two years, but the lack of wintering accommodation is affecting the stocking rate and ultimately the amount of income that I can generate on every hectare of land.