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James Skehan July/August Update 2023

Breeding season ends

Breeding season ends

  • Breeding season ended
  • Bull removed from cows
  • Scanning can take place 30 days after bull removed
TB test & FEC sampling

TB test & FEC sampling

  • 3 TB reactors in herd test
  • Positive cattle were all on the out farm
  • FEC samples were clear
Weights & finishing plans

Weights & finishing plans

  • Latest bullock weights
  • The 10 heaviest bullocks are picked for finishing
  • Slaughter performance of 3 reactors


The breeding season has ended on the farm and the bull was separated from the cows on 5th July, which was 10 weeks from the breeding season starting date of 26th April. 

Five heifers were synchronised and artificially inseminated to SA4604 (Knottown Roy). Four of these were scanned in calf on 15th June, but unfortunately 2 of these tested positive for TB. The heifer that was not in calf was AI’d along with a further 2 heifers on 23rd June.

22 cows were running with the bull but 1 will be finished at grass due to her age. The cows and heifers can be scanned 30 days after the breeding season ends, which will be after 5th August.

Animal Health

Unfortunately 3 maiden heifers and 1 bullock tested positive for TB in the annual herd test and were isolated immediately. James hasn’t had TB on the farm for over 20 years and it is a knock to his system. Fortunately this year he was transitioning from selling weanlings to selling stores/finishing cattle, therefore he has sufficient slurry storage, winter feed and housing space for the cattle remaining on the farm. The reactors left the farm on 17th July and the next TB test will take place at least 60 days from this date.

The cattle that tested positive were grazing on the out farm in Kilcredan and fortunately none of the cows are calves on the home farm in Ballynevin tested positive. Jams is planning to continue to keep them separated for as long as possible.

FEC samples were taken from the suckler calves and they came back negative for coccidiosis, lungworms, tape worms and gut worms so James will not be dosing them, unless he hears any significant coughing. The yearling heifers tested positive for strongyloides at 50 eggs per gram but as it is below the threshold of 250 epg he will not dose them either. Rumen fluke on the out farm is the biggest concern for the young stock on the out farm at present due to the wet weather so James will monitor them closely.

Weanlings grazing

Figure 1: Spring born calves at grass

FEC sample results

Figure 2: FEC sample results


James weighed the 2022 born bullocks on 29th July. 14 of them averaged 488kg and gained 0.57 kg/day since their last weight on 20th January. The last remaining 2021 bullock weighed 588kg and gained 0.46 kg/day since 21st April.

Ten of the heaviest bullocks have been selected for earlier finishing. They range in weight from 477kg to 588kg (average 529kg). James would prefer to finish them off grass but the bad weather had led to poor grazing conditions so he has chosen to house them at present. They will start on 2kg ration/head/day and >70% DMD silage. This can be increased by 0.5kg every 3 days or 1kg per week to avoid any digestive upsets. If the weather settled and they were built up to 3kg/head/day, they could go back to grass. However if they exceed this rate they can be finished on 5-7 kg ration/head/day and >70% DMD grass silage. When the red clover silage is cut they can be fed that straight away. The bullocks were also dosed at housing with a levamisole dose to kill any rumen fluke that may be present and to avoid any setbacks. The plan is to finish the bullocks at ~20 month s of age. Their target carcass weight will be over 330kg at 620kg live weight. If they gain 1.4kg/day they should be finished within 65 days on average. The heavier bullocks are expected to be finished earlier, while the lighter ones will take longer. The cull cow is also being fed for finishing.

The 3 TB positive heifers were slaughtered at an average of 21.2 months and 275kg carcass weight. They graded R=2+ on average and made €1081/head. The bullock was 17.1 months and was 271kg carcass weight. He graded R-2- and made €1070.