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Ger McSweeney March/April Update 2024

Calving review

Calving review

  • Calving 2024 finished on 17th March
  • ICBF calving performance report
  • Breeding progress since 25th March
Battling the weather

Battling the weather

  • Different treatment of silage fields depending on covers
  • Grazing challenges with managing heavy covers
  • Fertiliser spread on driest parts of farm
Analysis of results

Analysis of results

  • Soil samples results for 2023/2024
  • 229t of lime required across the farm
  • P and K indexes will be built up with 18-6-12, MOP and protected urea which also contains K


Ger finished calving on the farm on 17th March. The first calf arrived on 1st January which resulted in just under 11 weeks of a calving spread. Forty cows calved in total resulting in 40 live calves at birth. One other cow was expected to calve but Ger thinks that she lost an embryo and didn’t show any further signs of heat so she is now being finished.

The calving interval for the herd was 368 days which is very close to the target 365 days. Mortality at birth and at 28 days was 0% which was excellent and Ger has 0.97 calves per cow per year. 86% of the heifers (7) that calved were between 22-26 months of age. The spring 6 week calving rate was 63% which Ger was happy with, as he had a lot of repeats after the first serve during the wet and cold month of April 2023. Ger’s performance can be compared through the ICBF calving report with the national average performance in the figure below.

ICBF calving performance report

Figure 1: KPIS from beef calving report 2024

The 2024 breeding season started on the farm on 25th March. 20 females have been bred in the first 2 weeks. They all received a bolus (coseicure) pre-breeding. Unfortunately the cows have not been turned out to grass yet due to the poor spring. They are on 68-69% DMD silage and Ger began feeding 2kg of ration to one group. While they had begun cycling indoors, he noticed that the Sensehub system showed that the heat index was decreasing. He hopes to turn them out this weekend when the weather settles down but will leave them out by day and in at night for the first few days to avoid upsetting their diets too much.

Ger has selected a strong team of bulls for breeding this year which are as follows;

  • AA4089 – Intelagri Matteo ET
  • AA4743 – Kealkill Prime Lad
  • CH4321 - Lapon
  • CH4160 - Pottlereagh Mark
  • LM4159 – Knockmoyle10 Loki ET
  • LM5443 - Brooklands Marco
  • SI4147 - Curaheen Gunshot (Replacement)
  • LM8622 – Ardlea Rigby ET
  • LM4407 - Tweeddale Lennox (Replacement)
  • LM8259 – Keltic Rembrandt
  • SI2152 - Curaheen Earp
  • LM4351 – Grenache

They are individually matched to each cow to get the best balance between milk, carcass weight, carcass conformation and fertility, while watching calving difficulty percentages. Ger has an AI licence and will be serving the cows himself. He will also use some sexed semen straws if the cow has a good maternal index and is showing good signs of heat. While conception rates to sexed semen were low last year, Ger produced one female heifer from Curaheen Gunshot (SI4147) which he plans to keep as a replacement heifer. She is €126 on the replacement index with 9.9kg for daughter milk, 21kg carcass weight and -2.44 days on daughter calving interval.

Female calf born from sexed semen

Figure 2: Female replacement heifer born from sexed semen straw from SI4147


Ger managed to spread 1 bag of 46% protected urea/acre on 14 acres of silage ground earlier this month. He will top this up when weather conditions improve and is targeting to cut silage in mid to late May.

Some other dry silage fields were grazed by the beef heifers and they will receive slurry which will be topped up with protected urea to apply 80 units nitrogen/acre.

The driest grazing fields have been spread with 23 units/acre of protected urea and Ger plans to spread it across the remaining fields when ground conditions allow.

Some of the fields that were over sowed with clover last year have been grazed which has given the clover a chance to grow back, but others were too wet and now have covers over 2000 kg DM/ha. Ger is conscious that when all the cows and calves are turned out to grass that demand will be high on the farm so he is reluctant to cut them for silage at present.

However the cows can start grazing covers ~1400 kg DM/ha and move into the heavier covers if necessary. They can be given 30 units of nitrogen/acre and cut in early May so that they come back into the rotation. Walking the farm and measuring grass will be crucial over the next month to maintain quality grass in grazing paddocks and to make decisions quickly if paddocks should be taken out for silage.

Grass wedge for farm

Figure 3: Grass wedge on 26th March 2024

Ger is planning to reseed a field this year and would like to incorporate some clover into the mix. He is considering using a 30% diploid/70% tetraploid mix which will have 2kg red clover, 2kg white clover and the remainder as perennial ryegrass varieties from the PPI list.

Soil Fertility

Soil samples were taken on Ger’s farm in December 2023. The results are outlined in the figure below.

2023/2024 soil fertility

Figure 4: Soil fertility 2023/2024

The overall soil fertility on the farm is 13% and this is where the soil pH is over 6.2 and the P and K index is at 3 or 4. The soil pH is the biggest area that Ger has to work on. While 51% of the farm has a pH of 6.2 or higher, 31% has a pH of less than 5.5 and 18% is between pH 5.5 – 6.1. The main parts of the farm that require lime are the grazing block around the yard, the recently reseeded ground on the rented land, the extensive grazing field and three rented silage fields. 229t of lime is needed in total over the next 3 years.

The phosphorus results show that 63% of the farm is in index 3 or 4 which is excellent. These fields are mainly on the home grazing block and some silage fields on the rented land. The lowest P index fields are the extensive grazing field, and the rented land so Ger can prioritise these fields for slurry and compound fertiliser.

The potassium (K) results show that 59% of the farm is in index 3 or higher for K. The fields that were historically used for cutting silage near the yard are the lowest in K, along with silage fields on the rented block. These can continue to receive slurry to replace silage offtakes, and can also be topped up with muriate of potash (50% K) or K can also be spread in the form of protected urea with K, for example 38% N + 14% K.

A nutrient management plan has been developed for Ger’s farm based on the results which gives him his N and P limits for the year, along with recommendations on what fields lime, slurry and chemical fertiliser should be spread for the best response in order to build soil fertility.