Ruairi Cummins May/June Update 2023
Breeding update and calving review
- Two groups of cows merged into one for easier management
- All heifers have been bred
- Reviewing 2023 calving performance
Reseeding and silage
- Two paddocks reseeded
- 14-16kg/acre PRG/white clover mix used
- Silage fields ready to cut
Breeding heifers and U16 month bulls
- Replacement heifers gained 0.88kg/day at grass since February
- Six more finishing bulls slaughtered
- Last 4 bulls have increased to 10kg ration and silage
The breeding season began on 10th April with two separate groups of cows and one Charolais bull with each. The two groups are now joined together with the older bull, and the younger bull is separated from the herd. This is leaving it much easier to manage grass, particularly in wet weather as they are moving out of paddocks faster instead of poaching them. Most of the cows have been served now, and there appears to be very few repeating. Breeding will be finished on 15th June and hopefully conception rates will be good. Ruairi noticed that the cows were slower than usual to come cycling this year; the extended time in the shed during March did not help and neither did the cold weather at turnout. The heifers have all been AI’d and were kept in a field beside the yard to make heat detection easier.
Ruairi contacted Wetherby’s to find about the myostatin information for the younger Charolais bull on the farm. It shows that he is a carrier of the Q204x variant which can result in double muscling and enhanced muscle tenderness, but with increased birthweights and increased calving difficulty. This helps to explain the two large calves that were born by c-section this year. The cow’s genetics also come into effect – if she also carries a Q204x variant it further increases the risk of difficult calvings. Ideally if present, the F94L variant will result in calves with increased muscling, reduced external and intramuscular fat but with no increase in birth weights.
With calving now completed and all the calves registered, Ruairi has been examining his calving performance for 2023. Calving began on 30th January and finished on 30th March, resulting in a calving spread of 8 weeks and 3 days. 44 cows calved in total, producing 44 live calves at birth. However 2 calves died before they were 28 days of age which means a mortality figures of 4.5% (target <5%). Due to the excellent calving interval of 367 days, there were 0.95 calves produced for every cow on the farm which is on target. 100% of the heifers calved at 22-26 months of age, and the six week calving rate was 89%. No cows were recycled on the farm, i.e. slipped from one calving season to the other and 7 cows were culled, giving a replacement rate of 16%. Five calves (11.4%) were born with ‘serious difficulty’ and/or ‘requiring veterinary assistance’. Ruairi was very happy with the calving season this year, despite the weather, the 2 c-sections and the work associated with the slower calves as result.
Figure 1: The ICBF Calving Performance report which shows Ruairi’s top 6 KPIs for 2023
Figure 2: Some of the calves born on Ruairi’s farm this year
Ruairi is reseeding two paddocks which were sprayed off at the end of April and were grazed by the cows last week. A contractor sowed grass seed with the direct drill. While Ruairi was considering whether to sow with the drill or a disc harrow and one-pass, both methods would be successful but the direct drill was the quickest. He bought a perennial ryegrass and white clover mix from the local co-op and sowed it at 14-16kg per acre. It contained 3.5kg of Abergain, 3.5kg Aston Energy, 3kg Abermagic and 2kg of Buddy (white clover seed). All varieties are from the Irish recommended lists, and the mix is 30% diploid and 70% tetraploid. Diploids are generally denser grasses than tetraploids and tiller more freely. They are generally better suited to wetter paddocks than tetraploid varieties.
Figure 3: Paddock reseeded by direct drilling
Ruairi rolled one paddock that he thought was damaged and wouldn’t do it again as it compacted the soil in the paddock, but nonetheless grass is continuing to recover in it.
The silage field have grown well and Ruairi is planning to cut silage as soon as weather allows.
Figure 4: Silage field due to be cut
The breeding heifers (7) were weighed on 2nd May and averaged 381kg, having gained 0.88kg/day since 20th February which Ruairi was very happy with.
The final 10 finishing bulls were weighed on 2nd May and averaged 671kg, after gaining 1.27 kg/day since 1st April. Six of them were drafted for slaughter on the same day. They averaged a carcass weight of 412kg, graded U-2+ and made €2308.63 on average. The last 4 bulls are eating 10kg of ration/head/day along with good quality silage and are expected to be slaughtered in the coming weeks.
Figure 5: Some of the remaining finishing bulls