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John Barry June Update

Important month for breeding

Important month for breeding

  • Monitor number of repeat serves if using a bull on your farm
  • Use ICBF beef calving report action list when choosing cows for culling
  • Stick to set breeding dates to minimise calving spread next spring
Grass growth rates are back

Grass growth rates are back

  • Walk farm every 5 to 7 days, especially where grass is tight
  • Wean autumn calvers to reduce demand
  • Spread 60-80 units N, 10 units P and 60 units K for second cut silage
Keep an eye on fodder reserves for the winter

Keep an eye on fodder reserves for the winter

  • Measure your silage pit and count bales to see how much feed you have made
  • Enter expected cattle numbers and silage figures on to PastureBase to see how much more you need to make for the winter
  • Estimate how many acres of silage need to be closed for second cut to produce enough winter fodder


John had let his Charolais bull out for breeding with the cows but unfortunately he hurt is leg so John is now back AI’ing the spring herd. His vasectomised bull was sold so this is causing extra workload for heat detection but he has no other option. John plans to finish breeding around 18th July to give an 11 week breeding season. There are approximately 42 serves so far, which includes repeats, out of 40 cows and 11 heifers.

As John has finished calving on the farm, he generated the ICBF beef calving report for 2022 to examine the performance of the spring calving herd. His calving interval for this year was 396 days, which is just above the national average of 395 days. The target is 365 days so this will be a target for the next few years.

Although John had a number of difficult calvings early in the season, he ended up with a mortality rate of 0% which was excellent. The calves per cow per year was 0.92, which is above the national average of 0.86 but below the target of 0.95 despite 0% mortality. This a combination of the 2 recycled cows which slipped from one calving season to the next, and the higher calving interval.

The percentage of heifers calved at 22-26 months of age was 24%, due to some autumn born heifers being bred for the spring calving herd. This can be easily improved over the next few years by strictly keeping spring born heifers as replacements for the spring herd and keeping autumn born heifers for the autumn herd. Some of these heifers were home bred and others were bought in.

The spring 6 week calving rate was 26% as the cows are slow to start calving in February and March (8%). 90% calved between April and May which affected this figure. However the autumn 6 week calving rate was excellent at 81% which compacts the calving spread and delivers a more even spread of calves. It also simplifies workload as routine tasks like castration, vaccination and disbudding can be carried out at the same time for all the calves.

John had decided earlier in the year that he was going to cull 9 of his cows that calved in May as they dragged out the calving spread for him which is difficult when he works off farm. Some of these have also been selected due to age and/or a lack of milk. The action list on the beef calving report shows a number of cows that had a calving interval/calving over 390 days and/or were recycled and/or had a difficult calving. Most of the cows that John had selected for culling also appeared on this list. By culling deliberately for late calving, lack of milk and for cows that aren’t in calf, John will be naturally selecting for more fertile and milky cows which will help to reduce the calving interval and improving his spring 6 week calving rate. Having set breeding dates is also important to achieve this which are from 2nd May to ~18th July (11 weeks) and will have cows calving from mid-February to mid/late April in 2023.

Key Performance IndicatorJohn's HerdNational Average
Calving interval 396 days 395 days
Mortality (dead at 28 days) 0% 2.36%
Calves per cow per year 0.92 0.86
% heifers calved 22-26 month of age 24% 23%
Spring 6 week calving rate 26% 54%
Autumn 6 week calving rate 81% 62%
Recycled cows 2% 17%
AI sired calves 70% 16%


Grass growth has reduced significantly on the farm. Met Eireann showed that parts of Ireland, including the location of John’s farm, were in a soil moisture deficit. While grass is still green on the lower parts of the farm, higher areas are struggling to recover from tight grazings and silage cuts and are visibly browner.

Unfortunately there is very little that John can do for grass growth until rain comes, but he has taken steps to reduce the grass demand on the farm. The autumn cows and calves were housed for weaning which reduced the demand from 46 kg DM/ha to 35 kg DM/ha to balance with the grass growth of 37 kg DM/ha. The change in the number of days ahead can be calculated by dividing the average farm cover/ha by the new demand/ha which changed John’s days ahead from 10 to 14. He also sold an extra 10 store cattle about one month earlier than last year which is a help.

John’s latest grass wedge on 30th June showed a farm cover of 490 kg DM/ha, with a demand of 47 kg DM/ha and a low growth rate of 37 kg DM/ha. He is hoping that the further rain that is forecasted will help to improve the grass growth. He had 10 days of grass ahead.

John will be fertilising his silage ground for second cut with slurry at a rate of 1500 gallons per acre, spread with a dribble bar, and 1.2 – 1.4 bags of protected urea/acre. This will leave him with some slurry which can be spread at a light rate on grazing paddocks to help recovery after being cut for silage.

Animal Nutrition

John updated his fodder budget after completing his first cut silage. Earlier in the year it was estimated that he could find it difficult to have enough fodder for all his cattle over winter but fortunately the silage yielded well for his. He required 221t of dry matter to feed 75 cows, 75 weanlings/yearlings and 40 store cattle for a 5 month winter, with the young cattle receiving 2kg ration/head/day.

He now has a full pit of silage which contains 236t dry matter and has 230 bales of silage in the yard which contains 55t dry matter. John estimates that he will make a further 252 bales of silage (36 acres x 7 bales/acre) which will give him more than enough feed for the winter. It also gives him great flexibility and peace of mind so that if he needs to feed silage during poor grass growth periods, or has a longer winter than planned that he shouldn’t run out of feed.