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John Barry May Update

Breeding season 2022

Breeding season 2022

  • Set breeding season dates
  • Target to breed 90% of eligible females in the first 3 weeks of the breeding season and to have 70% conception rates for these
  • Choose replacement heifers on good replacement traits, visual assessment and weight for age; breed to an easy calving bull with high reliability
Important month for managing grass

Important month for managing grass

  • Measure grass weekly
  • Use ‘mobs’ on PastureBase where grazing groups have allocated paddocks to manage grass easier
  • Replace nutrient offtakes from paddocks cut for silage by spreading 1,000 gallons/acre for every 4 bales/acre
Monitor farm cash flow

Monitor farm cash flow

  • Review farm sales and expenses to date
  • Complete a cash flow plan for expected sales and expenses for the rest of the year
  • Plan your stock sales so that you make the most of market demand, especially if it will help to reduce your input costs


I started breeding my 40 spring calving cows and 11 heifers on 2nd May. I have set breeding season dates to help control the length of my calving season next year. The herd will be bred to AI for 8 weeks until 27th June and then my Charolais stock bull will be let out with them for two/three weeks to mop up. This will allow for a 10/11 week calving spread which will start around 14th February until mid/late April 2023.

A vasectomised bull is used for heat detection on the farm. The bull detects when cows/heifers are in heat and serves them without putting them in calf. They can then be brought in for AI approximately 12 hours later using the am/pm rule, i.e. if the cow is on standing heat this evening, she can be AI’d tomorrow morning. Along with this, I have dates recorded of observed heats before the breeding season starts so I know when to expect cows and heifers to cycle again at around 21 days later. I also observe the herd 3 times per day in the morning, afternoon and evening for around 10 minutes each time to monitor them for signs of heat.

This year I had some May calving cows which have been marked for culling to help tighten the calving spread. As I work off farm they drag out the calving period and I don’t have the same amount of time to spend monitoring them. It also spreads out routine tasks like disbudding and if I want to finish the bulls under 16 months of age there is too much of an age and weight range between the earlier and later born calves. Nine out of 49 cows have been marked for culling due late calving, age and/or a lack of milk this year.

The breeding heifers on the farm were selected on a number of criteria:

  • Date of birth: Ideally 14-16 months of age to calve at 2 years
  • Weight for age: Over 400kg at 14-16 months of age
  • Genotyped
  • Eurostar figure: 4/5 star on the replacement index
  • Daughter milk: Positive figures
  • Daughter calving interval: Negative figure so as not to extend the calving spread
  • Visual assessment: Good feet, wide hips and not too muscly so as to avoid potential calving issues

The heifers will be AI’d to an easy calving Angus bull who is 3.2% heifer calving difficulty at 96% reliability. The heifer calves would have the potential to be kept as replacements.

The Charolais type cows (~9) will be AI’d to a high replacement Simmental bull who is 7.6% for cow calving difficulty, 9.7kg daughter milk, -4.71 days on daughter calving interval and is €196 on the replacement index. The Limousin type cows will be AI’d to a Charolais bull who has 6.5% calving difficulty, 35.7kg carcass weight, 2.44 on carcass conformation and is €164 on the terminal index. Further terminal Charolais and Belgian Blue bulls have also been selected which will be matched to the cows.

I am concerned about TB in the local area and as there is a genetic component to it which is available for the AI bulls, I also looked at the figures. One bull is in the top 10% for TB resistance, a further 2 bulls are in the top 30%, one bull has average resistance and another is in the bottom 30% which is interesting to note.

The breeding targets for the coming weeks are to submit over 90% of eligible females that are over 30 days calved to AI in the first 3 weeks of the breeding season, and to have 70% conception rates for these.


The overall farm cover is 869 kg DM/ha, with a growth rate of 50 kg DM/ha and a demand of 60 kg DM/ha. There are 14 days of grass ahead on the farm for the grazing block. My grass targets for this time of the year are to have a farm cover of 700-800 kg DM/ha and 12-14 days ahead so I am satisfied that these are being met.

As grass growth rates are continuing to climb on the farm, I plan to measure grass once per week on the farm to manage grass quality using the PastureBase Ireland app. I have a number of higher cover paddocks (>2500 kg DM/ha) closed for over 3 weeks for silage/hay and others are being cut at covers of >1800 kg DM/ha which I am taking out weekly. This is allowing me to stagger the paddocks that are at suitable heights for grazing (1400 kg DM/ha) and helping me to manage grass better, instead of cutting all paddocks for silage on the same day and dealing with them all being fit to graze at the same time a few weeks later.

I have also divided the 3 cattle groups into ‘mobs’ on PastureBase by allocating specific fields to the grazing group, which is allowing me to make better use of the information from PastureBase for each farmlet and grazing group.

As I am continuing to monitor grass growth on the farm, I have made the decision to cut out chemical nitrogen applications for this month as there is sufficient grass growth on the farm to match stock demand. Any paddocks that are cut for silage will be getting slurry, applied with the dribble bar, at a rate of 1,000 gallons/acre for every 4 bales/acre cut to replace nutrient offtakes of 6 units of phosphorus and 40 units of potassium per acre. Slurry samples were taken on the farm and the slurry from the fattening bulls contained 8.36 units of phosphorus and 32.79 units of potassium per 1000 gallons. Slurry from the cow’s open slatted tank contained 6.13 units of phosphorus and 27.94 units of potassium per 1000 gallons. Either of these are suitable to help replace nutrient offtakes from silage paddocks.


Earlier in the year, I completed a cash flow plan for the farm using the Teagasc cost control planner to monitor when costs would be incurred, how much these would be and to try and balance them with predicted income from cattle sales.

This month I carried out a mid-year review, to see how sales and expenses compare to the budgeted figures and to last year’s figures. As predicted and as with most Irish farms, the poorest cash flow occurs during March to May at a time where farm sales are generally lower and fertiliser, silage making etc. costs are incurred. Most surprisingly, my fertiliser bill is not as high as expected considering the price rise this year. It is only up 15% on last year’s bill, which is mainly attributed to the high soil fertility on the farm and the reduced need for chemical phosphorus and potassium based on the recent soil sample results which were used to develop a nutrient management plan for the farm.

From examining both the farm costs to date and the expected expenses in the coming months, I am using this information to plan my cattle sales for the year, such as what cattle to sell, when to sell them and what price I can expect to get for them. This is to ensure that I can make the most of higher cattle prices this year so that my beef enterprise will make a healthy profit at the end of the year.