Tightening up to expand
Maurice is running 85 autumn-calving suckler cows on 60ha near Dunmore East in Waterford. Autumn calving went well in 2017.
Calving lasted just over 11 weeks, with mortality after 28 days at 3.5% and he ended up with 85 live calves. Due to previous issues with pneumonia in calves, a thorough herd health plan was drawn up last summer.
The plan included modifications to existing housing to improve ventilation, as well as the introduction of a strict vaccination policy, which included IBR and pasteurella. Last year, tillage ground was converted back into grassland, so in order to keep stocking rates up, 40 maiden heifers were bought in and bred with the aim of calving down 100 cows a year from 2018. The majority of heifers bought were Simmentals and Limousins from British Friesian cows.
Seven weeks of breeding was carried out, four using AI and then three weeks with a Limousin stock bull.
The cows are housed now since November and are running in three separate groups. AI is being used on a group of the best cows on farm, with high-index predominately Simmental bulls being used with the view to breeding replacements. Charolais stock bulls are being used to breed with the remaining cows. To keep the calving spread tight, cows and calves are being separated and suckled twice daily to break the maternal bond to try and aid cows coming back into heat. Cows are currently on a total mixed ration (TMR) consisting of 73 DMD second cut silage, 5kg of fodder beet, 1.25kg of home grown crimped barley and 0.5kg of a 23% protein balancer with minerals.
A total of 54 predominantly home-bred bulls are currently being finished under 16 months. Bulls were weighed on November 17 and they averaged 628kg at just over fourteen months. These bulls are currently on an 11.5kg ration, which is made up 70:30 of crimped barley and a protein balancer. The ration bulls are also being given 5kg of fodder beet, 1kg of straw, and silage ad lib. The plan is to purchase a group of bulls for finishing when all of the current group of bulls are slaughtered. Last autumn to further increase the grassland stocking rate and output, 21 Simmental-bred calves from dairy cows were reared. Since arriving on the farm, the calves have done a respectable 0.67kg of daily gain. They are currently on ad lib silage and 2kg of a 17% protein barley, oats and soya bean meal ration. The aim will be to turn these calves out as early as possible in the spring.