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John Barry January Update

Look at options for finishing spring bulls under 16 months

Look at options for finishing spring bulls under 16 months

  • Weigh bulls monthly to monitor performance
  • Pen bulls by weight
  • Consider options for later born and lighter bulls
Maximise nutrients from slurry on your farm

Maximise nutrients from slurry on your farm

  • Calculate storage capacity on your farm
  • If extra storage is available on your farm, make use of it by delaying slurry spreading until grass growth increases
  • Using a dribble bar to spread slurry to maximise nitrogen availability to the plant
Check health status of spring calving cows

Check health status of spring calving cows

  • Vaccinate against scour 3 to 12 weeks before calving
  • Take faecal samples 6 weeks after housing to determine if they need a dose
  • Monitor stock for evidence of lice and mange


John was deciding whether to keep his 2021 spring born bulls for finishing or to sell them live. They ranged in birth dates from 19th Dec 2020 to 12th May 2021, and in weight from 250 kg to 550 kg.

They were housed in November and are all currently eating 2kg of meal and 70% DMD silage.

At an estimated cost of €4.20/day over a finishing period of 165 days, it is estimated that it would cost €700 to bring them to finish. The heavier bulls would make ~€1100 by selling live, and would make ~€1827 in the factory (420kg carcass weight @ €4.35/kg), and it is expected that the price and carcass weights would be higher.

John decided to sell his lightest 5 bulls live, which would reduce his workload and make more housing space for his other bulls which can be moved from a loose shed to slats and make feeding safer. The risk of bringing heavier bulls to the mart and not selling them would affect their weight gains, and risk bringing home disease.

The lighter spring born bulls from 2021 that were sold averaged 405kg live weight and made €3.01/kg at an average of 10 months of age.

Any of the bulls that are over 500kg will be moving to a finishing diet.

Soil Fertility

John has an unroofed 5 bay slatted tank on his farm. This year he is using it to store slurry when other tanks are getting full in the yard. This is giving him great flexibility for slurry storage and planning this spring so that it can be spread in good conditions (dry, no rain forecast, soil temperature over >5oC) and on fields that will yield the best response (drier fields, perennial ryegrass, recent reseeds, good soil fertility, covers over 400 kg DM/ha).

At a value of €39 per 1,000 gallons of slurry, this equates to €97.50/acre at a spreading rate of 2,500 gallons/acre. With fertiliser prices so high, John has huge potential to reduce his costs this year by simply maximising the use of organic manures on his farm.

John plans to roof the tank this year, which will give him extra storage capacity for next winter. He will not be increasing stock numbers on the farm, which would offset the extra capacity.

A dribble bar is used to spread slurry on the farm. This means an extra 3 units of nitrogen per 1,000 gallons of slurry spread will be available to the grass plant, instead of lost to the atmosphere.

Animal Health

The spring calving cows will be a priority on the farm over the next few months. They will be getting their vaccination against E. coli adhesin F5 (K99) antigen, rotavirus and coronavirus this week, which will be in the recommended 3 to 12 weeks before calving. This triggers antibodies to be produced in the cows, which is then passed on to calf at birth through the colostrum. However, it is crucial that calves receive sufficient colostrum in the first hour of birth – 3 litres in the first hour is recommended, so that the antibodies transfer across to the calf.

By reducing the risk of scour in new born calves, it reduces the risk of weight loss and illness, damage to the calf’s gut, the risk of death, and extra labour and stress for John at an already busy calving time.

Faecal samples were sent away for the suckler cows in December which were tested for lung worms, stomach worms, coccidia, liver fluke and rumen fluke, after they were housed for at least 6 weeks. The faecal samples were tested with the coproantigen test which looks for secretions from the liver fluke in the faeces of the host animal. In field situations it can detect fluke infections from around 5 - 6 weeks after infection, whereas other tests can only pick it up from 8 weeks plus.

The results came back clear, and the cows have no signs of loose dung or coughing so John did not dose them. This saved him financially from dosing them unnecessarily, the time of doing it, and also reduces the risk of developing anthelminthic resistance on the farm.

The cows have not been treated for lice or mange either, but John is monitoring them in case any evidence of either appears. As the cows have access to an unroofed slatted area for feeding, there is less risk of them developing lice or mange issues than if they were in a fully enclosed shed.