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Ken Gill July/August Update 2023

Calving is just around the corner

Calving is just around the corner

  • Preparations for calving
  • Investment in a calf crate to reduce labour
  • An unexpected surprise with 15 beef heifers in calf!
Revised fodder budget

Revised fodder budget

  • Silage pit was measured
  • Fodder budget updated
  • 25 acres of turnips/rape/kale/vetch to be sown to feed extra in calf heifers
Summer weighing complete

Summer weighing complete

  • Weanlings and yearlings weighed on 26th June
  • Performance at grass has been good since April
  • Yearling bull sold to the factory


Ken is expecting to start calving on the farm in less than a month with the first cow due to calve on 12th of August. He has the cattle shed power washed in case any cows and calves need to be brought in for any reason. New calf tags have been ordered so that Ken can tag the calves as soon as possible after birth. This is the first year that the calves will be DNA registered at birth, which will save him having to genotype them at a later date. He has stocked up on calving gloves and lube, and the calving jack is available if required. The calving gate has also been fixed up in case it is needed.

The biggest challenge at present is to maintain the body condition of the cows at 2.5 to 3.0. They are grazing out paddocks behind the weanlings and store cattle and Ken is leaving them an extra day in each one to avoid them putting on too much weight.

To help reduce workload on the farm, Ken is investing in a new calf crate which can be used for disbudding the calves, after approval is received from his organic certifying body.

Back in May Ken noticed that one heifer began showing signs that she may be in calf and she calved on 6th June with a healthy bull calf. As all the breeding is 100% AI his was a bit of a mystery. He scanned the rest of the heifers and a further 15 of these were confirmed as 6-7 months in calf. One of the ‘bullocks’ was not castrated and appears to have bred most of the heifers earlier this year! He has since been sold to the factory. Ken genotyped him before he left so that he can confirm he parentage. While his ICBF Eurostar figures are only 2 stars on the maternal and terminal indexes, they show that he has a low heifer calving difficulty at 6.3% (albeit at 18% reliability) so Ken is hoping that the calves will be born without any major issues. The heifers are well grown and he has time to restrict them on grass before they are due to calve.

Suckler cows grazing on the farm

Figure 1: Cows are grazing paddocks behind the weanlings and yearlings

Animal Nutrition

Ken measured his silage pit to update his fodder budget for the winter. It measured 30 metres in length x 13.15m width and 2.13m in height. At 26% dry matter it is estimated that the pit contains 142 tonnes of dry matter silage.

There are 100 bales of pea/wheat bales left over from 2022, 131 bales of first cut silage and 71 bales of second cut red clover silage available. Ken expects to make a further 140 pea/wheat bales, 100 bales of red clover silage from this year’s reseed and 30 bales of silage from a third cut of the red clover crop.

While this would have provided him with enough feed for the winter for his planned 63 in calf cows and calves, he now required more feed for the extra 15 in calf heifers and their calves. Therefore he has decided to cut silage from some stronger paddocks and sow 25 acres of a turnips/rape/kale/vetch mix before the end of July to provide enough feed. He will have the option to sell the heifers with calves at foot if necessary.

Pea/wheat combi crop

Figure 2: Pea/wheat combi crop is growing well on the farm


The 2022 born heifers (30) were weighed on 26th June. They averaged 329kg and gained 0.98 kg/day at grass since 5th April. The 2022 born bullocks (35) were an average weight of 358kg and gained 1.04 kg/day since the same date.

The 2021 born heifers (20) weighed 534kg and gained 1.09 kg/day since 5th April. The 2021 born bullocks (38) averaged 587kg and gained 1.24 kg/day at grass since 5th April.

The bull yearling was slaughtered conventionally on 7th July. He was 295kg carcass weight, graded R-2= and made €1445.50.