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Jarlath Ruane Farm Update January 2022

Preparations are underway for the arrival of calves this spring and we will be targeting purchasing approximately 80 calves from local farms over the coming weeks. This year’s calf team will be pretty similar to last years, compromising of a mixture of mainly Holstein Friesian, Angus and late-maturing male calves.

Sourcing and maintaining a healthy calf is critical to what we are trying to do here, so a considerable amount of time will be given to ensure that the correct calf is purchased for our system and that practices are put in place at farm level so that these animals perform.

Over the last number of springs, we have worked to limit the number of sources from which calves are being purchased. Not only does this mean that we can place and increased focus on the genetics of the calves, but it allows us to build a relationship with the dairy farmers to ensure that we are buying a healthy calf that will perform under our system.

  • Location: Claremorris, Co. Mayo
  • System: steer beef
  • Soil type: mixed
  • Stocking rate: 3.19LU/ha
  • Net margin: €308/ha

The environment in which calves are reared is critical to avoid any setbacks. Last spring, after the last of the calves were turned out, the calf shed was cleaned out and disinfected and given a period of rest to limit the number of bugs carried over to this year.

Along with ensuring the shed is clean, we’ve also placed an emphasis on ventilation and have installed doors in the side sheeting of the shed that can be opened or closed to control air flow depending on the weather. These doors are invaluable; on calm days they can be opened to increase the air flow within the shed, whereas on windier or stormy days they can be closed to keep calves free from draughts and to prevent the shed becoming too cold.

Labour is an important aspect on the farm here as both my father Austin and I work full-time off farm. Calf rearing is probably one of the crunch points in terms of labour availability, as we not only have off-farm commitments, but it also coincides with lambing time. To ease some of the labour challenge, we decided to install an automatic calf feeder last spring. This system is working well on the farm as it takes a considerable amount of the manual labour involved in calf rearing out of the equation and allows us to give more of a focus to animal health.

All calves will be vaccinated for pneumonia and IBR shortly after arrival, while treatments for coccidiosis will also be administered. Scour has been an issue over recent springs, so careful monitoring of calf health is a must and the early detection of any scouring calves is critical to stopping the problem getting out of hand.

On the nutrition front, calves are offered a milk replacer containing at least 20% fat and protein to encourage growth, while straw, ad-lib concentrates and clean water are also provided to promote rumen development.

Once calves reach a sufficient weight, they are gradually weaned back off milk. The use of the automatic feeder has eased the stress on calves during this period somewhat, as their feed curve can be gradually reduced to encourage concentrate consumption, with calves typically eating 1kg/head/day of concentrates by weaning time.


Munster Bovine

MSD Animal Health




Corteva Agriscience

Liffey Mills