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Ciaran Bartley Farm Update December 2021

We are well and truly into the winter period here in Boher, Co. Limerick, as stock have been housed and are now on a winter diet of grass silage supplemented with concentrate.

Achieving the desired levels of weight gain for weanlings over the winter period is my main target between now and turnout; my key aim is to ensure that animals achieve a minimum daily gain of 0.6kg/day.

In previous years, animals on the farm here have failed to reach this target, resulting in animals taking a longer period of time to achieve the desired carcass weights for sale.

  • Location: Boher, Co. Limerick
  • System: 22, 24 and 28 month Holstein Friesian steers
  • Soil type: heavy
  • Stocking rate: 1.84LU/ha
  • Net margin: €349/ha

A housing weighing completed on the 2021-born animals in the last days of October indicated that the desired levels of performance were achieved from birth to housing. These animals weighed an average of 230kg, after gaining 0.71kg/day from birth to housing.

To ensure these animals achieve the desired levels of weight gain between now and next spring, a number of strategies are being implemented at farm level.

Firstly, all calves received their booster vaccinations for pneumonia prior to housing and a round of faecal testing has also been completed to assess the parasite burden of these animals. The results of this testing indicated that animals were free from stomach worms and liver fluke, so an ivermectin treatment, administered by injection, was used to treat for any lungworm that may have been present in the animals.

In terms of the weanlings’ winter diet, concentrate feeding decisions will be based on the available silage quality in the yard, which has been assessed by forage analysis. First cut and second-cut silage quality on the farm both returned at a dry matter digestibility (DMD) of 70. Although I would like to have it over 72, a period of rain in the latter stages of May forced the delay of harvesting the first cut crop into early June and this also had a knock-on effect on the cutting date of second cut.

To ensure that weanlings achieve the desired levels of performance over winter period, all weanlings are being supplemented with 1.2kg/head/day of concentrate, while silage is being offered ad-lib.

Finishing plans

To spread cash flow, I am operating a split slaughter system, with animals typically marketed three times throughout the year. 43 of the 2020-born steers have been slaughtered so far. This animals averaged a 278kg carcass at 20.6 months. 29 of these steers were slaughtered off grass after being supplemented with concentrates for approximately eight weeks, while the remaining 14 required an indoor finishing period of approximately 30 days to ensure an adequate level of carcass fatness was achieved.

A further 36 steers are currently being offered grass silage and 5.5kg/head/day of meal, with an early January slaughter date being targeted.

The last bunch of steers to be housed are currently on a grass-silage only diet and will move on to a finishing diet in the coming weeks to target a March finish. Typically, these animals would be turned out to grass for a third season, but with fertiliser prices looking very strong for the coming year and these animals being adequately heavy to finish out of the shed, I will move them on earlier to try and save on the quantity of fertiliser required in the early part of next year.


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