Ken Gill September/October Update
Breeding season starting soon
- Set breeding start and end dates to keep calving season compacted
- Select easy calving bulls for maiden heifers calving at 2 years of age (<7.5% heifer calving difficulty at >80% reliability)
- Ken’s maiden heifers will be over €120 on the Eurostar index (herd average is €116), over 320kg on 15th June (to gain 100kg by early October and be a minimum of 420kg in early October), preferably genotyped and preferably have >5kg milk with a negative calving interval
Grass growth is declining
- Continue to measure grass and watch farm covers (target 900-1000 kg DM/ha)
- Heavier cattle may have to be housed if grass growth and farm covers decline
- Stubble ground is helpful for stretching grass and kale will be useful for out wintering
2020 born cattle sold
- All non-breeding cattle from 2020 slaughtered
- Ken is targeting for prime cattle to be finished at 24 months of age off of grass only
- Cows that lost calves have been culled
Ken started calving on 29th July and finished on 6th September, which gave him a calving spread of 5.5 weeks. 67 calves are alive on the farm at present and there were no sets of twins. Four calves died at birth/just after due to weak calves, one early arrival and another getting stuck at the hips. One cow is suspected of killing a calf. Another calf had an internal issue and passed away after veterinary treatment. This left Ken with 6 dead calves and an overall mortality rate of 8%.
Breeding will be starting on 26th October and will continue for 6 weeks until around 7th December. Ken has picked AI bulls to suit his breeding females, i.e. the heifers to calve at 24 months will be bred to easy calving Angus bulls such as AA4089 and ZEP, the high Eurostar, milky and docile cows will be bred to maternal bulls like SI4147, SI2152, AU4460, AU6918, LM4302 and LM2190and the rest of the cows will be bred to terminal bulls like AA4087, ZFL, AA4303, AA4840, LM4302, LM2190. Any cows/heifers that repeat will get short gestation bulls to help keep his calving spread tight. They will be housed for breeding as Ken finds it easier for heat detection and for serving cows that way.
Ten cows were selected for culling already that have lost calves, had mastitis, age and temperament. That will leave about 63 cows for breeding. Allowing for 90% going in calf, there will be 56/57 cows. 15 heifers are suitable for breeding and assuming that 13 of these will hold in calf, there should be around 70 cows in calf at the end of the breeding season. Due to an extra 2 cows losing calves, Ken has picked 5 extra heifers to breed to keep his numbers up.
The heifers selected are over €120 on the Eurostar index (herd average is €116), were over 320kg on 15th June (to gain 100kg by early October and be a minimum of 420kg in early October). They are preferably genotyped and preferably have >5kg milk with a negative calving interval. They will be bred to an easy calving Angus bull so that the calves will be polled. AA4089 will be used on some of these. He is 3.9% for heifer calving difficulty with 99% reliability. Carcass weight is okay at 8.7kg and he has a carcass conformation of 0.79. His replacement figures are good as well so good performing heifer calves could make potential replacements. The remainder will be bred to ZEP who is 3.5% for heifer calving difficulty at 97% reliability, has a carcass weight of 6.1kg and a carcass conformation of 1.02. His heifers would also make potential replacements.
Ken measured grass on 1st October and had a farm cover of 322 kg DM/ha. There is a growth rate of 27 kg DM/ha but the demand was at 28 kg DM/ha. When the last batch of cattle are slaughtered it will reduce to 25 kg DM/ha, but there was only 12 days ahead. Ken is very aware that cows and calves are going through grass very quickly, especially in the wet weather. He expects to be housing them over the next few weeks as a result. The yearlings are rotating between stubble ground and grazing ground which is helping to stretch grass for them. They will be out wintered as long as possible on the kale.
All of the 2020 born cattle that are not being kept for breeding have been slaughtered over the last 2 months. 34 steers were killed between 4th August and 6th October. They graded R=3+ on average, with a carcass weight of 362kg at 24.2 months of age and making €2048.47 per head on average.
25 heifers were killed during this time also. They graded R+4- on average, with a carcass weight of 343kg at 24.4 months of age and making €1937.20 per head on average.
Considering none of these cattle were fed any oats or organic ration at grass, and only received 1-2kg of oats/head/day over their two winters, this is exceptional performance for Ken off of grass. This is also the first year where Ken is being paid on the organic grid system, so he is pleased to see that the cattle are performing well. Only 2 heifers had fat covers of 2+ (were still on the grid) and 1 steer was 2-.
The 6 cows that lost their calves were killed conventionally on 5th October. They were an average carcass weight of 331kg, graded O+3=, making an average price of €1491.