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Peter O'Hanrahan Farm Update February 2022

We’re about one month into the grazing season here at this stage and, despite the weather setbacks over the last week, ground conditions are still holding up rather favourable for the stock outdoors.

The farm here is very dry so that allows us to get lighter stock out relatively early in the year, with approximately 50% of the 2021-born yearlings now at grass full-time since mid-January.

Ideally, I would like to have the remainder of the weanlings out at this stage, but the weather just hasn’t played ball over the last three weeks to get these animals out and settled at grass.

  • Location: Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny
  • System: steer beef
  • Soil type: dry mineral
  • Stocking rate: 2.26LU/ha
  • Net margin: €903/ha

We started from a relatively strong point in terms of grass availability here, with an opening farm cover of over 1,100kg DM/ha, following a winter growth of 5kg DM/ha/day.

The first animals turned out to grass this year were the youngest and lightest of the 2021-born yearlings. Hopefully by getting them out to grass early, they’ll be able to make up some of the ground on their older counterparts.

To ensure that the best use of grass is being made, these animals are being offered fresh grass daily, through the use of a strip wire. This has allowed us to tackle some of the heavier covers on farm without causing too much damage. This has also helped with utilisation on the wetter days.

Although I have protected urea available in the yard, I just feel conditions haven’t been correct over the past number of weeks to go out and spread. And, I will be waiting just a touch longer to ensure soil conditions and temperatures are correct to make best use of fertiliser this spring.

I’m planning on applying 20units/ac to any of the grazed paddocks that did not receive slurry earlier this year, while the non-grazed paddocks carrying medium covers will also receive this application. Other paddocks, will then receive 20 units/ac of protected urea after grazing.

Plans for closing silage ground are already in place. To ensure that I’ve enough winter feed available, I’m aiming to close 45% of the farm for first cut. Slurry – spread by LESS application - will be used to provide phosphorous and potassium to this crop this year, while the balance of its nitrogen requirement will come from protected urea. I’m planning on testing the slurry in the coming weeks and the final decision on how much protected urea will be applied will be made on the basis of these results.

Away from grassland, the finishing stock are progressing nicely and I hope to draft once again over the coming week or two. These animals are currently receiving 5kg/head/day of a high-cereal ration and silage ad-lib. The first draft of these were slaughtered on February 4, averaging 318kg carcasses at 24 months.

Calf rearing also commenced last week with the purchase of 40 calves. Another 60 calves will be bought in over the next week or two, all coming from local dairy farms. In terms of nutrition, these calves will consume about 1.3 bags of milk replacer per head and will be offered concentrates shortly after arrival.

I’m also a firm believer in vaccinations and these animals will receive vaccinations for both viral and bacterial pneumonia and clostridial diseases. The introduction of a vaccination programme, along with the construction of a purpose-built calf shed a number of years ago, has reduced disease pressure on the animals here hugely. If we can keep them healthy, it’s that little bit easier to achieve the 0.7kg/head daily gain target between arrival and weaning.


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