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James Skehan May Update

Breeding 2022

Breeding 2022

  • Review ICBF beef calving report
  • Pick areas for improvement for the coming year
  • Plan how these can be achieved
Grass management

Grass management

  • Target a pre grazing yield of 1400 kg DM/ha
  • Take out paddocks for silage where possible
  • If fields cannot be cut for silage, discuss with your advisor if this could be rectified in the future
Minimising effects on water quality on the farm

Minimising effects on water quality on the farm

  • Loose sediment and erosion can cause water quality issues
  • Get correct drainage advice before embarking on any works
  • Seek advice if water erosion is causing a safety issue with bank collapse


James is finished calving on the farm. He calved 25 cows and has 26 calves on the ground as one set of twins were born.  When the calving season is finished on the farm, it is a good time to examine your beef calving report for the year. This allows you to compare your key performance indicators with the national average figures and to identify areas for improvement for the coming year.

James’s KPIs are quite impressive and he is on target for calving interval, calves per cow per year, spring 6 week calving rate and has no recycled cows. However the mortality at 28 days is high versus the national average so the reasons for death should be examined to see if they can be prevented next year. The % heifers calved 22-26 months of age are higher than the national average, but as James purchases his replacements he has little control over this. If he was breeding his own replacements the target would be to calve 100% of the heifers at 22-26 months of age. The total calving period lasted 18 weeks so this is another area that can be improved in the coming years.

The stock bull has been out with the cows since mid-March and the first served cows are due to start calving on 11th January next year. To give the May calving cows a chance at breeding, the bull will be left with the cows until 16th July (13 week breeding season) so that the latest calving date should be 3rd May in 2023. The cows can be scanned from 30 days after the bull is removed (after 15th August), or 30 days after a serve is recorded to check if they are in calf.

Key Peformance IndicatorJames's HerdNational Average
Calving interval 367 days 395 days
Mortality (% dead at 28 days) 7.1% 2.36%
Calves per cow per year 0.99 0.86
% heifers calved 22-26 months of age 38% 23%
Spring 6 week calving rate 69% 54%
Recycled cows 0% 17%


James cut silage in Clonboy on 19th May and baled it on 21st May. It yielded 6.5t/ha. The crop had a good combination of clover and fresh, leafy grass, had not gone to seed yet and had very little weed infestation so it’s expected that it should be over 70% DMD when tested.

The land at Ballynevin is proving quite challenging for James to manage grass this month. He had a farm cover of 626 kg DM/ha, with a growth rate of 70 kg DM/ha and a demand of 32 kg DM/ha on 19th May. There were 20 days of grass ahead. Although James is grazing paddocks at covers 1400-1500 kg DM/ha at present, experience has taught him that with high growth rates that grass will soon be ahead of him. However the 3 highest covers are in heavy soils paddocks that are difficult to travel and are not suitable for cutting silage. James has the added challenge of correcting two paddocks that were poorly grazed by the cows – they were strong covers and the weather was poor so a lot of grass was walked into the ground. These paddocks are also unsuitable for cutting or topping as they are heavy, uneven and they are a lot of stones scattered around the field.

Overall there are 7.6 ha on the farm which James is unable to cut silage from, which amounts to 60% of the current grazing block. When corrective drainage works are complete, 2.1 ha could be ploughed, land levelled and reseeded to allow future access for silage to these.

If James brought extra stock home from the out farm he would end up with a surplus issue there. He will not be spreading any chemical fertiliser in the grazing block for the coming weeks as it is not required due to good grass growth rates. He will finish grazing the two strongest paddocks and will bring the cows back down to tidy up the paddock where the grass was trampled in one week. After that he will return to the other heavier paddocks which could be over 2000 kg DM/ha, but expects that he will have pre-grazing covers back to 1400 kg DM/ha in about one month. There are also two light paddocks that he expects will be closed for silage and he will continue to measure grass weekly to track progress.

The out farm is Kilcredan was measured on 20th May and is proving a little less challenging to manage grass. There is a farm cover of 657 kg DM/ha, with a growth rate of 61 kg DM/ha since 14th May, a demand of 33 kg DM/ha and 20 days ahead. The pre grazing covers are 1560 kg DM/ha but James expects to be taking out paddocks for cutting in the coming one to two weeks if grass growth continues.

Water Quality

There is one field on James’s farm that had 3 old drains throughout the middle of the field. A few years ago one of these drains was closed over and the water was re-directed along the edge of the field. However the force of the water and the sandy nature of the soil has caused erosion underneath the bank which has collapsed in places. This causes a health and safety issue in the field and also causes a water quality issue from the sediments released into the watercourse.

Options for correcting it include redirecting the water through an existing drain but there is a risk that this might not withstand the water capacity. The older drain could be re-opened which would be a significant cost and end up re-wetting part of the field. Preferably, there might be an option to repair the new drain that is causing the issue, but reliable advice will be sought from land drainage experts and the local ASSAP advisor before attempting to resolve the issue.