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Wesley Browne January/February Update 2024



  • Feeding and management of the 48 bulls to target an average daily gain of 1.5kgs until finish
  • Preparation for a busy calving period






  • A review of the 2023 calving season - how did the herd perform ?




Wesley's bulls are mixed in breed type between  simmental, limousin and saler crosses but they have a common target – an  average weight of at least 500 kg by 12 months of age. An average daily live weight gain of 1.5 kg/day from 12 months to finish will give a final live weight of 680  kg. Assuming an average kill out of 58% this will give a carcass weight of 395 kg. Performance levels during this period can reach 1.7 kg per day or greater for certain bulls with strong terminal traits. On average , the bulls will be 12 months of age in mid –February so feeding and management of the bulls is critical at this stage .

Last years slaughter report highlights that Wesley has the system perfected will all of the bulls meeting the market specifications . There are a lot of conservations about the age of slaughter and carbon footprints and a bull system can be very efficient in this regard. Wesley’s actual  average age of slaughter was 15.3 months with the 2022 born bulls. He is targeting to reduce age further over the next few years.

How did Wesley achieve this ?

Choosing the right type of concentrate feed is important. A crude protein content of 16% from weaning to 12 months of age will help grow frame. Wesley uses a 58% cereal ration from weaning until the end of December. After this, he reduces  the crude protein can be reduced to 13% to focus on getting adequate carcass fat cover during the finishing stage. Wesley’s finishing  ration contains a cereal content of 78%. Barley and maize are often the cereals of choice to achieve the desired starch levels for finishing bulls. Gradually increasing concentrate intakes to near  ad-lib levels by approximately 1 kg every 4-5 days is recommended to avoid acidosis  which can permanently reduce growth potential. The bulls on the farm are gradually introduced to the high cereal finishing ration since December by mixing in with the lower cereal starting ration. Wesley reduces the 58% cereal ration while increasing the finishing every 2 days.

Wesley has moved away from fully ad-lib meals to feeding 8kgs plus a high quality silage of 75%DMD. He has found that the bulls will reach the fat cover target of 2 + more efficiently  by including the silage. We can see from the slaughter report above that 3= was the average fat cover in 2022.

As animals will be housed for 7-8 months in this system from weaning to finish, good housing facilities are required, providing adequate ventilation, feeding and lying space with a constant supply of clean water. Bulls consuming on a high cereal diet  can drink 50 litres of water per day. Wesley will check the water bowls daily .

A stringent herd health plan is also in order to eliminate or minimise any disease issues and maximise animal performance. All bulls have been vaccinated and dosed for lice, stomach and lung worms.

Picture 1: Wesley uses a tub feeder to mix silage and ration 

Preparation for Calving

In 2023, Wesley had all is cows calves in under 12 weeks . While there are many advantages to calving so compactly , it does put pressure on housing  facilities and calving pens. Wesley starts calving in February and needs to get calved cows out to grass to free up calving pens etc. This is not always easy in this part of Ireland.

For the last 18 months Wesley has been busy building an additional calving shed adjacent to the main shed. This will increase the number of calving pens and will allow him to keep cows in longer post calving if the weather is poor.

The specification recommend 1 calving pen per 15 cows so with a herd of 90 Wesley needs 6 calving pens.

Wesley feeds a good quality pre-calving mineral for 100 days. He will ensure that the magnesium levels in the mineral will be 17-20% and also have a phosphorous content of at least 4% .

Wesley clipped the cows tails and flanks at the end of December to order to keep them clean from now until post calving. Wesley has found that feeding 1/2 kg of soya per cow, 4 weeks before calving has helped increase the quality of colostrum. 

 Picture 2: the new calving pens will be a welcome addition for the 2024 calving season 


One of the key aspects of running an efficient suckler system is good breeding management and herd fertility. Cow condition score, bull fertility, the incidence of difficult calving and herd health are some of the main factors that affect fertility in the herd.   Good reproductive efficiency is central to economic and environmental sustainability.

The calving report from ICBF  demonstrates clearly  if your herd is hitting the main key performance indicators (KPI) which are required for any efficient, profitable suckler enterprise. Over the years , Wesley has worked hard on building a functional , fertile herd and the reports highlights that the hard work has paid off.

Picture 3: Wesley's 2023 calving report

The report shows that the 94 cows all had a live calf ie 94 calves and they all calved inside 365 days since their last calving. These are the main KPI’s for any suckler herd. Another key driver or both profit and in reducing the carbon footprint is calving at 2 years of age. We can see that 96% of the heifers that calved last year were between 22 and 26 months of age. This is in contrast to the national average of just 26%.

 Picture 4: The graph highlights a compact calving period