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James Skehan November/December Update 2023

Breeding plans for heifers & new stock bull

Breeding plans for heifers & new stock bull

  • James plans to buy in replacement heifers
  • The stock bull must be replaced
  • Shopping list for a new stock bull
TB test update & prep at housing

TB test update & prep at housing

  • Second clear TB test!
  • Doses given at housing
  • FEC sample indicated liver fluke present in suckler cows after wet autumn
Tips learned from finishing cattle

Tips learned from finishing cattle

  • Finishing performance of bullocks
  • Learnings from first batch of cattle finished from the farm
  • Latest weights for young stock


20 cows and 4 heifers are due to calve down from 14th Feb to 14th April 2024. James is considering buying in replacement heifers to increase the cow numbers on the farm. He will aim to buy 5 star genotyped replacement heifers that will be positive for daughter milk and negative on calving interval. Some of his own weanling heifers have already been identified as being suitable for breeding next year.

Unfortunately James’s Limousin stock bull is very stiff on his feet so he has no option but to sell him. He will buy in another LM bull with similar terminal traits as his current bull as he was a good match with most of the cows in the herd. James is in the SCEP scheme and the bull qualified as a sire for this as he is €124 (4 star across breeds) on the terminal index. He has a cow calving difficulty figure of 4.1% at 87% reliability which James would like to maintain as he works full time off farm. His carcass weight figure is 23.3kg and his carcass conformation is 2.32 and James is happy with the terminal traits in his calves. He is using AI to breed female replacements and also with the aim of producing potential replacement heifers so he is not concerned with the maternal traits of the new stock bull.

Eurostar breakdown of LM bull

Figure 1: Eurostar breakdown of James’s current LM stock bull

Animal Health

James had his second clear TB test on 17th November and was delighted to learn that it was another clear test so the TB restriction will now be lifted on the herd. This was a great relief and he can now focus on purchasing replacement heifers and a new stock bull.

The weanlings were housed around the 20th October and were treated with a doramectin dose pre-housing. They were coughing in the shed so James has treated them with an albendazole drench to treat a potential lungworm burden on them. FEC samples will be taken from them 6 weeks after housing to check for any liver fluke present through the copro-antigen test.

The yearling heifers were treated with an oxyclosanide drench on 10th September to treat them for rumen fluke which is present on the out farm. They were also given a follow up dose with an albendazole drench to clear any lungworm or gastrointestinal worm burden.

FEC samples from the cows showed that they had no rumen fluke present but had a liver fluke burden so they have been treated with a triclbendazole fluke dose.


James finished his 10 bullocks on 6th November. It was his first time finishing cattle on the farm and starting out his targets were;

  • To finish them at ~20 months of age
  • To achieve a carcass weight over 330kg (>620kg live weight)
  • To finish them in 65 days / 9.3 weeks

In reality the bullocks were finished at 20.2 months for the 9 2022 born bullocks and 28.7 months for the 2021 born bullock. They exceeded the expected carcass weight and averaged 359kg, grading R=3- and averaging 638kg live weight on 3rd November which exceeded expectations. They did however take 98 days/14 weeks to finish instead of the planned 65 days/9.3 weeks. For the last 34 days they only gained from 0.35 to 1.06kg/day so there is potential to reduce this in the future. They made an average price of €1755/head.

One cull cow also went to the factory in 6th November and she was 367kg carcass weight, grading O+3+ and making €1395.

If James was finishing cattle again in the future he would;

  1. Talk to people that know about finishing cattle, such as other farmers, factory agents and Teagasc advisors to help him decide when cattle are fit for the factory.
  2. House the cattle for finishing. This is partly due to the heavy nature of his land which could be challenging feeding stock at grass, and partly due to working off farm – It was very easy to manage them in the shed.
  3. Prepare them for feeding by dosing at housing, build ration up by 0.5kg every 3 days to avoid digestive upsets and to split feed ration in the morning and evening.
  4. Select the right cattle for finishing based on weight (over 500kg live weight).
  5. Weigh every 30 days to monitor weight gains and try to maintain a 65 day finishing period.

The 7 heifers that were born in spring 2022 were weighed on 10th November. They averaged 456kg live weight and gained 0.47 kg/day since their last weighing on 20th January.

Yearling heifers eating silage in shed

Figure 2: Yearling heifers eating silage

The 4 remaining 2022 bullocks were weighed on the same day and averaged 484kg, after gaining 0.55 kg/day since 20th January.

Yearling bullocks in shed

Figure 3: Yearling bullocks

The 2023 heifers (7) were weighed on 7th November and averaged 262kg after gaining 0.39kg/day since 26th September.

The 2023 bullocks (15) were weighed on 7th November and averaged 314kg, after gaining 0.58kg/day since 26th September.

Weanlings in shed

Figure 4: Housed weanlings

Any thin suckler cows have been penned separately to the other cows and are being fed over 71% DMD silage to help them build up body condition before calving.

Thin cows penned separately for extra feeding

Figure 5: Thin suckler cows will be fed best quality silage to help build body condition