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Ed Curtin January/February Update 2024

Autumn breeding finished

Autumn breeding finished

  • Cows synchronised to tighten calving spread
  • Mainly using BB and LM bulls on cows, with AA bull on heifers
  • Analysing ICBF calving performance report for 2023
Finishing performance

Finishing performance

  • 2022 born bullocks finished in Jan 2024
  • Age at slaughter reduced by 2.5 weeks vs. 2023 finishers
  • Latest weights for dairy beef yearlings
Soil sample results

Soil sample results

  • Soil sample results taken in 2023
  • Compared to 2021/2022 soil sample results
  • Organic matter results from DAFM soil samples indicate where peaty soils are located on the farm


Ed has synchronised 20 cows in total on the farm, after they were at least 35 days calved. They were pre-scanned beforehand. 19 are now in calf and breeding will finish this week with one final cow inseminated. 26 females have been bred in total – 24 cows and 2 heifers from 30th October to 25th January (12.5 weeks).

The bulls used were: CWI, BB4438, OHB, FSN, BB5214, LM8929 and ZEP (on heifers).

They have ranged in terminal figures as follows;

  • - Carcass weight 18.9 – 37 kg
  • - Conformation 1.89 – 3.71
  • - Cow calving difficulty 3 - 11% at >97% reliability (except for LM8929)

Ed has been reviewing his calving performance for 2023 through the ICBF report. He started calving on 1st August and finished on 31st October. 22 out of 23 females calved, consisting of 22 cows and 2 heifers. The calving interval was 369 days, which is close to the target of 365 days. One calf died which resulted in a mortality rate of 4.5% at 28 days, which was on target at less than 5%. 0.9 calves per cow per year as result of the number of cows calved, and their good calving interval.

Ed’s one home bred heifer calved at 22-26 months of age and the purchased heifer calved over 26 months of age. He had a 6 week calving rate of 55% which he plans to increase to 70% for next year as a result of using synchronisation.

ICBF calving report

Figure 1: Top 6 KPIs on ICBF calving report

Autumn 2023 born calves

Figure 2: Autumn 2023 born calves


The 29 dairy beef bullocks were finished on 16th January. They had an average carcass weight of 322kg at 22.4 months of age and graded O+3+ on average. They made an average price of €1799/head. The carcass weights were back from 340kg in 2023 and 343kg in 2022, but the cattle were finished 2.5 weeks earlier than in 2023.

One AAX heifer was also finished on 16th January and she was 349kg carcass weight. She graded R-4+ and made €1971.

Table 1: Finishing performance of dairy bef bullocks 2022-2024

No. bullocks 29 28 21
Carcass weight 322kg 340kg 343kg
Age at finish 22.4 months 23 months 22.6 months
Grade O+3+ O+3= O+3+
Price/head €1799 €1848 €1579

 The 36 dairy beef bullocks were weighed on 27th January. They averaged 282kg and gained 0.79 kg/day since 23rd September.

The 10 dairy beef heifers weighed an average of 283kg on the same day and gained 1.02kg/day since 23rd September.

Dairy beef cattle in shed

Figure 3: The 2023 born dairy beef bullocks

Soil Fertility

Soil samples were taken on Ed’s farm in December 2023. The results were compared to the previous soil samples taken in 2021/2022. The overall fertility status of the farm increased by 2% to 4% - this is where the pH is over 6.2 and the P & K indexes are at 3 or 4.

As Ed is farming hen harrier SPA, most of which are peat soils, the target pH for these fields is 5.5 so the farm will never have 100% of the soil pH at 6.2. However the soil pH has risen slightly since the previous samples due to lime which Ed spread in 2022 and 2023 on the out farm. A significant quantity of lime is still needed at 220 tonnes, but lime takes 18 months to fully affect soil pH so there is no point spreading lime 2 years in a row on the same fields. He can target these fields again in 2025.

The soil P indexes have increased slightly on the farm. This is most likely from a combination of using compound fertilisers like 18-6-12, and also the background release of locked up Phosphorus which happens when the soil pH is low.  Most of the hen harrier SPA land is classified as a peat soil type, due to their high organic matter content which ranges from 10 to 39.1%. Any soil with an organic matter content above 20% is classified as peat. These organic matter results are available from the DAFM soil sampling programme that took place in 2022. The other significance of a soil being classified as peat is that it does not have the potential to store Phosphorus and as such the only recommendations are for maintenance rates.

The soil potassium (K) indexes have increased on the farm, most likely due to the use of 18-6-12 and 0-7-30 which are helping to build K indexes over time. The main silage fields are in index 3 or 4 for K which is great as that is where the heaviest K offtakes are from.

Ed has now developed a nutrient management plan for the farm which indicates the level of nitrogen and phosphorus fertiliser that he can be spread for the year ahead. This will help him make the most of nutrients on the farm such as slurry, and also help him to stay compliant with his fertiliser allowances.

Soil fertility 2023/2024

Figure 4: 2023/2024 soil sample results

Soil Fertility 2021/2022

Figure 5: 2021/2022 soil sample results