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Ed Curtin November/December Update 2023

Planning safe facilities is a valuable use of time

Planning safe facilities is a valuable use of time

  • New cattle shed built in 2017
  • Safer handling facilities installed
  • See video demonstrating safer handling features
Calving has finished and breeding is well underway

Calving has finished and breeding is well underway

  • Calving season has ended
  • Breeding has started on the farm
  • Synchronisation programme being used to reduce the calving spread
Winter diets

Winter diets

  • Two silage samples taken
  • Ed was happy with the results
  • Diets balanced for weanlings, finishing cattle and cows

Health & Safety

Ed decided to invest in a new cattle shed in 2017 with a TAMS grant to modernise his facilities, increase slurry storage for the 6 month plus winters that he faces, to allow safer handling of stock, to reduce labour on the farm and to provide more lying and feeding space for his growing herd. He built a 5 bay double slatted tank which has mats installed. He also added a roofed cattle crush which includes a number of features to allow for safer handling of cattle (see video below). The suckler cows are housed in this shed and their calves have access to a separate slatted lie back area. The maiden heifers and the dairy beef weanlings are also housed in the shed.

The older 3 bay slatted shed was built in 2010 and is used to house the dairy beef yearlings for finishing. Ration can be fed at the back of the shed via pull-out doors that can be closed afterwards to prevent draughts from the prevailing wind.

Shed door Ed uses to feed ration

Figure 1: Pull out doors for feeding ration to the finishing cattle

Working full time off farm and having a young family means that time and safety are very important to Ed and he adds, “I adopt an approach to keeping the place tidy as you go to reduce the risk of trips and falls.”

See video below where Ed demonstrates some of the safety features on his farm.


Ed’s safety features include the following;

  • 180o forcing gate to safely move cattle towards the crush
  • A pedestrian gate to access the pen
  • An anti-backing bar,
  • A head gate to restrain animals
  • A head scoop
  • Gated panels alongside the crush for ease of access
  • A gated yard for ease of movement when cattle are released from the crush
  • Locking head barriers where the cows eat silage which he uses to AI the autumn herd and to inject, vaccinate or bolus cows

Breeding docile cattle is also important to Ed for safety reasons and to reduce labour on the farm. He has culled hard in the past for flighty and/or dangerous females.


Calving is now finished on the farm for the autumn period. The calving season started on 1st August and ended on 31st October resulting in 22 live calves and 1 mortality. It lasted 13 weeks in total and Ed has made plans to reduce that for 2024.

He started this year’s breeding season off by pre-scanning all of the calved cows with his vet on 20th October. Two cows required uterine washes and the remainder were synchronised using a CIDR on day 0 (20th October), also receiving a shot of GnRH. The CIDR remained intact until day 7 (27th October) when it was removed and two shots were administered – one of prostaglandin and one of eCG. On days 9, 10 and 11 the cows were artificially inseminated 12 hours after they were seen on standing heats and were given a shot of GnRH when they were served.

As a result of the synchronisation programme, 1 heifer and 11 cows were bred between 30th and 31st October. A further 1 heifer and 4 cows were AI’d the following week. Ed plans to synchronise the later calving cows when they are over 35 days calved and had 26 females to breed in total. No cull cows have been pre-selected but any that do not go in calf will be culled.

The AI bulls that have been used so far include ZEP on maiden heifers, BB4438, BB5214, OHB, CWI, FSN, sexed female straws from EBY and LM8929.

Cows and calves in Ed's shed

Figure 2: Cows with calves at foot

Animal Nutrition

All cattle are now housed on the farm. Two silage samples were taken in early November to test the silage quality. The results were as follows;

  • First cut silage
    • 1% DMD with 14% crude protein at 20.24% dry matter (cut 13th May)
    • 1% DMD with 13.53% crude protein at 33.81% dry matter (cut 23rd May)

Based on these results, Ed is feeding the autumn cows 1.5kg of ration with either silage during the breeding season, this will be reduced after the breeding season ends.

The dairy beef finishing cattle are currently eating 5kg of a 14% crude protein ration and this has been built up gradually. Ed plans to finish them in January and as such will switch over to a lower protein ration and feed 7-8kg/head/day during the last few weeks.

The dairy beef calves can be fed 1kg of a 16% crude protein ration over the winter.

The second cut silage will also be tested for a standard silage analysis and for a mineral analysis.

Silage sample results

Figure 3: First cut silage tested well on Ed’s farm