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Ger McSweeney May Update

Breeding Season Almost Finished

Breeding Season Almost Finished

  • Use short gestation bulls at the end of the breeding season to tighten calving spread next year
  • Automated heat detection can save time associated with visual heat detection on the farm
  • Systems can give information about rumination, activity, eating and other key behaviours to deliver guidance on reproduction, health, and wellbeing status of individual animals
Continue measuring grass weekly

Continue measuring grass weekly

  • Watch that grass growth rates are balanced with demand on the farm
  • Take out paddocks that are too strong from grazing
  • Cut silage before it heads out to target >70% DMD silage
Slaughtering U16 month bulls

Slaughtering U16 month bulls

  • Slaughter bulls as they become fit
  • Target a carcass weight of 400kg, with a minimum fat cover of 2+
  • Weigh lighter bulls and consider selling live to reduce workload


All 44 breeding heifers and cows have been AI’d on Ger’s farm. 6 of these have repeated once to date, one animal repeated twice and one cow repeated twice. Ger started breeding on 23rd March and will finish on 10th June, with short gestation bulls being used for the last two weeks of the breeding season.

An automated heat detection system is used on the farm. This operates by having a battery-operated ear tag on the cows and heifers. A collar can also be used. This collects information from the animal about rumination, activity, eating and other key behaviours to deliver guidance on reproduction, health, and wellbeing status of individual animals. It works through a controller which must be installed on the farm to deliver live updates to Ger’s phone. It will indicate to Ger when cows are bulling, the ideal time for insemination, if an animal is in distress and early detection of health issues.

Ger finds this system is extremely helpful on the farm. It reduces time spent on visual heat detection and alleviated the need for a vasectomised bull which would be another animal to feed and manage on the farm. It has also allowed him to detect a health issue with a cow that had an internal abscess before she showed any physical symptoms and allowed for early veterinary treatment. Another cow was detected with mastitis and a further cow was in distress at calving which triggered a notification directly to Ger’s phone.


The grass was measured on the farm on 25th May. Ger had a farm cover of 710 kg DM/ha, with a growth rate of 38 kg DM/ha and a demand of 57 kg DM/ha. There were 12 days of grass ahead on the farm. Ger was conscious about grass growth from his previous grass walk and 18-6-12 was spread to help this, as recommended from his nutrient management plan. There are a number of strong paddocks closed for silage so Ger always has the option to graze these if growth rates don’t improve.

He plans to cut silage before the end of May as soon as weather allows and is focused on making >70% DMD silage on one particular block which was grazed first and was reseeded in the last 5 years. It was not headed out and had very little of a weed burden at the time of our visit. Normally Ger would mow and ted the grass himself, but this year the contractor will look after this for him.


There were 9 finishing bulls left on Ger’s farm at the beginning of May. 8 of these were slaughtered on 18th May. They were an average carcass weight of 402kg, with an average grade of U=3- at 14.9 months of age.  They made an average price of €2128 per head.

One remaining later born bull was only 470kg and Ger decided to sell him live through the mart to reduce workload and costs. He made €3.15/kg.