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John Barry July/August 2023

Spring breeding season finished

Spring breeding season finished

  • Breeding season finished on 22nd July
  • Charolais bull mopped up the last few repeats
  • Heat detection options & costs
Managing autumn calves

Managing autumn calves

  • Autumn calves weaned
  • Autumn calves castrated
  • Cattle dosed for lungworms due to coughing
Managing grass for the autumn

Managing grass for the autumn

  • 20 units pro urea/acre spread
  • Reducing demand by weaning autumn calves & selling stores
  • More silage cut


Breeding finished for the spring herd on 22nd July. The Charolais stock bull was let out to mop up any repeats and the cows and heifers will be scanned in September to determine how many are in calf.

John was considering heat detection options for the herd going forward. He finds that the Ai born calves are superior to those from the stock bull and would like to use more AI on the farm. The inclusion of automated heat detection systems in the new TAMS scheme is making it look more attractive. One automated system involves 24 hour monitoring of cows via individual tags or collars which record and send information to a central base station.

If John was to purchase 90 tags from one supplier for his suckler cows the costings are as follows;

  • €80/tag x 90 cows = €7200
  • Plus base station = €3500
  • Add VAT at 23% = €2461
  • Minus TAMS: 40% on €2822 + €80/tag = €4008.80
  • Battery life = 3 years
  • TOTAL = €9152.20 or €3050 /year

Another option is to purchase 90 collars and the costings are as follows;

  • €125/collar x 90 cows = €11250
  • Plus base station = €3500
  • Add VAT at 23% = €3392.50
  • Minus TAMS: 40% on €2822 + €112.25/tag = €5169.80
  • Battery life = 7 years
  • TOTAL = €12,972.70 or €1853 /year

The option that John chose this year to help with heat detection was a vasectomised bull. He bought him on 4th April for €750 at 335kg. The estimated costs are outlined below;

  • Feed cost – grass (12.17 kg DM/day x 12.1 c/kg DM x 240 days) = €353
  • Feed cost – silage (5.61 kg DM/day x 21.8 c/kg DM x 125 days) = €153
  • Feed cost – ration (850kg) = €351
  • Health = €20
  • Fixed costs (365 days @ €330/LU) = €330
  • Total costs = €1957
  • Minus value at sale (April of following year) = €1700 (378kg carcass weight at €4.50/kg)
  • Net cost = €257/year

A further aid that he can add to the vasectomised bull is a monitoring collar, which could also be used on his Charolais stock bull. The costings for this are;

  • €3000 hardware (x2 collars inc. 100 tags)
  • Plus €630/year from year 2
  • Add cost of vasectomised bull + €257/year
  • = €6805 over 5 years or €1361/year

For the autumn herd, John will be able to use the vasectomised bull to run with these. He does not plan to invest in any of the heat detection technology this year but may consider it as an option in the future.

There are pros and cons to all systems, for instance there are health and safety risks associated with the vasectomised bull and it is not recommended to keep them for a second year, despite it being the cheapest option. Adding a heat detection collar to his stock bull would help to estimate calving dates more accurately for the cows. And while the automated health and heat monitoring system is the most expensive, it would provide 24 hour monitoring of the cows outside of the breeding season too.

Vasectomised bull with chin ball

Figure 1: Vasectomised bull with chin ball harness running with cows and heifers

Animal Health

The store cattle and the autumn weanlings were coughing and so John dosed them with an injection solution to treat them for lung worms.

The autumn calves have been weaned from the cows and the males have been castrated. They are now grazing with the store cattle at grass.

Store cattle at grass

Figure 2: Store cattle at grass


Grass growth was 39kg DM/ha on the farm on 19th July and was just matching the stock demand of 41 kg DM/ha. John is reducing demand on the farm by weaning the autumn herd in the last month and grazing the autumn cows on low covers, while the autumn calves have joined the store group. He is also selling off store heifers and bullocks from spring 2022 in batches through the mart.

20 units of protected urea/acre was spread in early July to help boost grass growth. John also plans to take a second cut of silage as soon as he can so that the fields will be available for grazing in the autumn.

Grass wedge

Figure 3: Grass wedge on 19th July 2023

John cut one field that was sown with perennial ryegrass, red clover and white clover in 2022. It yield 33 bales on 5.2 acres (just over 6 bales per acre) so he was very happy with that.

He also cut one of his other silage fields on 25th July and it yielded 79 bales, or 7.1 bales/acre.