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Ken Gill March/April Update 2024

Scanning results & calving heifers at 2 years

Scanning results & calving heifers at 2 years

  • Scanning results
  • Calving difficulty of heifers calving at 24 months
  • Watch Ken on the Future Beef webinar
Soil sample results

Soil sample results

  • Soil samples taken
  • NMP developed
  • Soil fertility has improved overall
Podcast feature

Podcast feature


  • Listen to Ken featuring on the Beef Edge podcast




The herd was scanned on 8th February to determine how many heifers and cows were in calf. 72 females were bred in total, consisting of 14 heifers and 58 cows. The scanning results showed that 10 heifers and 52 cows are due to calve in autumn 2024, resulting in a 71% conception rate for the heifers and a 90% conception rate for the cows in 6 weeks of breeding.

There are 4 heifers left to calve from the rogue bull. One heifer delivered her calf by c-section and both her and the calf are out at grass.

The heifers that were put in calf by the rogue bull were not bred and will be sold later this year as their calves are young. There are 4-5 cull cows that are almost fit for the factory.

Ken has been analysing the calving difficulty of the heifers that calved on his farm over the last number of years. Since 2019 70 heifers have calved on the farm at 22-26 months of age. From 2019 to 2022 only 2 out of 46 heifers (4%) scored 3 or 4 on calving difficulty, where they were at their target breeding weights and were bred to an easy calving AI bull.

However in 2023 5 out of 24 heifers (21%) scored 3 or 4 on calving difficulty. This was due to a combination of reasons including heifers not at target weights at breeding, the high calving difficulty of the rogue bull that put them in calf and they were unsuitable for breeding due to narrow pelvises etc.

While it was an experience that Ken is not keen to repeat, it really emphasised the importance to him of selecting the right heifers at breeding and matching the correct bull to them to ensure heifers calve with minimal difficulty at 24 months of age.

You can listen to Ken discussing this in more detail on the Future Beef webinar below:

In calf heifer

Figure 1: One of Ken’s in calf heifers that is due to calve this autumn at 24 months of age


The cows, calves and store cattle were weighed on 29th March.

The 2023 born heifers (25) averaged 226kg and gained 0.88kg/day since birth.

The 2023 born bullocks (42) averaged 238kg and gained 0.91kg/day since birth.

The 2022 born heifers (26) averaged 458kg and 10 of these gained 0.56 kg/day since their previous weighing on 22nd December.

The 2022 born bullocks (34) averaged 514kg and gained 0.64 kg/day since 22nd December.

Weanlings at grass

Figure 2: Autumn born weanlings at grass

Soil Fertility

Soil samples were taken on Ken’s farm and have been used to develop a nutrient management plan for the farm.

Overall the soil fertility is excellent with 48% of the farm with a soil PH over 6.2 and in index 3 or higher for P and K. This has increased from 34% when the farm was last soil sampled in 2021/2022.

The soil pH has increased on the farm and now only 5% of the farm has a pH less than 6.2, with 19% in the range of 6.2-6.5 and 73% with a soil pH greater than 6.5. 12t of lime is required for the farm which Ken plans to spread this year.

Many of Ken’s fields are over 20% organic matter and as such they are classified as peaty soils. This means that despite the P index result for the farm, they have to be regarded as P index 3 as peaty soils cannot build up P and are only given maintenance application rates. 17% of the farm is in index 1 and 13% in index 2, with the remainder in index 3 or higher.

The K indexes are good on the farm too, with 38% in index 2 and the remainder in index 3 or higher.

Based on the results, Ken will be carrying out the following tasks this year:

  • Spreading lime where required at 2t/acre
  • Spreading organic poultry manure on tillage ground to supply nutrients for growth
  • Spreading slurry on silage fields to help replace nutrient offtakes
  • Spreading slurry and FYM on lower index fields

He has spring oats and a pea/barley crop which will be undersown with grass to sow his year. Weather permitting, he hopes to sow in mid-April by ploughing and setting the seed with a one-pass.

Soil fertility 2023/2024

Figure 3: 2023/2024 soil fertility

Soil Fertility 2021/2022

Figure 4: 2021/2022 soil fertility


Figure 5: FYM ready for spreading