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John Barry March/April Update 2023

Spring Vaccination Plan

Spring Vaccination Plan

  • Spring born calves will be vaccinated against RSV, Pi3 and Mannheimia haemolytica
  • Spring calving cows have been given IBR & rotavirus/coronovirus/e.coli vaccinations
  • Breeding cows and heifers will be vaccinated against leptospirosis pre-breeding
Planning for 2023

Planning for 2023

  • Nutrient management plan updated for 2023
  • Slurry samples taken
  • Lime plans 2023
Grazing conditions are ideal this spring

Grazing conditions are ideal this spring

  • Grazing update
  • Grass re-growths are good
  • Farm walk on 1st March 2023

Animal Health

Vaccinations are a crucial part of John Barry’s herd health plan. John is currently in the middle of the calving season so the prevention of respiratory disease in the spring born calves is the main focus. John vaccinates all spring born calves against RSV, Pi3 and Mannheimia haemolytica and IBR

Calf scours were an issue on John’s farm, but since he has started a vaccination programme against rotavirus, coronavirus and Ecoli, touch wood things have really improved for John. 

But it’s now all about the calf at this time of year, we also have to think about next year’s calf crop and the breeding season. On the health side, John has to plan his Leptospirosis vaccination protocol- for heifers, this could have to start 10 weeks before the bull can go in.

Spring calving cows will be supplemented with a magnesium lick bucket and a bale of hay to prevent grass tetany.

The autumn calving cows are also vaccinated against leptospirosis at least 2 weeks pre-breeding in the autumn. They receive an IBR vaccine 5-10 weeks pre-calving, but are not vaccinated against rotavirus, coronavirus and e.coli. John calves most of the cows indoors in calving pens and they go back to grass directly afterwards from August onwards, which he finds results in a lower incidence of scours in calves at that time of the year.

Getting calves and cows to grass as soon as possible after calving is a priority for John on the farm. He finds that they are much healthier and he has less disease pressures than if they were in the shed. As he works off farm, any sick animals on the farm are a drain on his time and also affect live weight gains so prevention is better than cure to him.

Watch the video below for best practice when administering vaccinations.

Soil Fertility

John took soil samples on his farm last year through the Signpost programme and these are now guiding his nutrient application decisions. His NMP was updated for 2023 so that he can plan his chemical and organic fertiliser applications based on each field’s soil fertility and cropping decisions.

Slurry sample results were taken on the farm and came back with the following results:

  • Sample 1 (outdoor tank for spring cows): 12.8 units N, 7.54 units P, 22 units K at 7.86% dry matter
  • Sample 2 (indoor tank for autumn cows): 13.6 units N, 10.8 units P, 42.3 units K at 9.66% dry matter

John will be spreading slurry on his silage ground at a rate of 2,500 gallons/acre using the dribble bar. His silage crop requirements are 80 units N, 16 units P and 100 units K, without allowing for any build-up of soil indexes.

Spreading the better quality slurry from the autumn cows’ tank means that he will apply 34 units N, 27 units P and 106 units K which is more than enough to meet the first cut silage requirements. It can be then topped up with one bag of 46% protected urea per acre, or 46 units of a protected urea plus sulphur fertiliser.

The soil fertility on the farm is quite good overall with 93% of the farm in index 3 or higher for phosphorus and 75% of the farm in index 3 or higher for potassium. The biggest area for improvement is in the soil pH where 66% of the farm is less than the target pH of 6.2. Last year John spread over 70t of lime to help correct this. A further 140t will be required this year and in 2024 to help rise the soil pH to its optimum.

Research shows that liming acidic soils increases grass production by 1.0t DM/ha. An application of 5t/ha of ground limestone to correct soil pH represents a cost of €25/ha/year over 5 years. The return on investment from lime gives €4-€7 worth extra grass for every €1 invested in lime, which is financially beneficial to John.

When spreading lime, John follows these guidelines:

-              Spread on grass covers <800 kg DM/ha.

-              Do not spread more than 3t/acre in a 2 year period.

-              Avoid cutting silage for 3-6 months on paddocks that have been limed.

-              To minimise N losses from slurry (up to 50%) and urea, apply cattle slurry first and then apply the lime                  7 to 10 days later.

John's Soil Fertility Infographic


Following on from John’s last update, he is progressing well through his spring rotation plan. After grazing just under one third of the farm which was the target for 1st March, the store cattle at grass have moved over to start grazing the silage ground. John plans to have it closed before 17th March and will fertilise it with slurry and chemical fertiliser then. This year he plans to cut silage in mid-May instead of June as it was done last year. He hopes that this will improve the silage quality, as well as reducing his exposure to a summer drought which severely affected grass growth rates on the farm in 2022.

A farm walk is being held on John’s farm on Weds 1st March at 2pm. 

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