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Future Beef Newsletter January 2024

Ruairi Cummins

Farmer Profile | Farm Update

Wesley Browne - Farm Update | John Barry - Farm UpdateTop Tips for January

Top Tips for Jan 2024

 Farmer Profile - Ruairi Cummins

Ruairi and Laura with dog Jess

Ruairi with his daughter Laura and dog Jess.

Ruairi farms with his wife Helen and their three children Ciara, Eoin and Laura in Kilmoganny, Co. Kilkenny. He also works off farm with a local suckler farmer. Ruairi is farming on 35ha of owned land split into two main blocks. The soil type on the home block is a dry mineral. This allows for an extended grazing season on the farm. The outfarm is composed of a heavier type of soil. 

Ruairi runs a 45-cow spring-calving suckler system with bull calves brought through to slaughter at under-16 months and heifers sold as stores at 16-18 months. Some of the lighter bull calves are castrated and sold as stores at 16-18 months also. Ruairi is using two Charolais stock bulls with AI used to breed maiden heifers. 

The whole farm is divided and managed in a paddock system, using both permanent and temporary fencing. Good grassland management is one of the farm’s current strengths. There is good housing on the farm. The farm buildings are a combination of slats and dry bedded sheds.

Ruairi's plan is to possibly increase numbers while also improving farm efficiency. Breeding and grassland management are good on the farm. Improving soil fertility is an area identified for improvement as part of the programme. Click on ‘Read more’ for more on Ruairi’s performance and plans.

 Farm Update - Ruairi Cummins

Newborn Charolais calf with cow

Newborn calf from one of Ruairi’s Charolais stock bulls. 

Preparations for calving have been underway since Ruairi housed his cows in early November. They were housed according to body condition score (BCS). The thin cows, first calvers and in-calf heifers are housed in one shed and fed better quality silage than the fatter cows that are being fed haylage. 

They were scanned and are due to start calving from January 20 until March 31. In the lead up to calving Ruairi is taking a number of steps, as follows.

1. Feeding pre-calving minerals six weeks before calving (from mid December).
2. Vaccinating cows with Rotavec Corona three to 12 weeks pre calving.
3. Penning cows based on calving date after Christmas.
4. Cleaning out and disinfecting calving pens in early January.
5. Keeping pens well bedded to maintain good hygiene.
6. Preparing calving equipment and facilities:

▶ checking the calving camera;
▶ checking handling facilities are in safe working order;
▶ buying calving gloves, powdered colostrum, lube, a stomach tube, naval spray, colour coded calving ropes, feeding bottles, etc.; and,
▶ checking that lights are working properly.

7. Ordering calf tags.
8. Keeping the yard and sheds tidy to avoid any trip hazards.
9. Ensuring the vet’s number is available on his phone and that he has the phone at all times during the calving season.

Click on ‘Read more’ for further information, and click on the video below to see Ruairi’s set up pre-calving. 

 Farm Update - Wesley Browne

Wesely Browne with his animals

Wesley has adopted a system that suits his farm.

The overall system is simple; the cows calve compactly in spring with all of the progeny spending just one winter on the farm, with the exception of his own breeding replacements. The males are finished as bulls at under-16 months and surplus heifers are sold to repeat customers.

Finishing male cattle at under-16 months requires skill and a high level of management to ensure that they meet factory specifications. Wesley has specific targets that the bulls must reach during their lifetime to ensure that they are 500kg at 12 months. He is currently increasing the level of concentrate in the diet to target an average daily gain of 1.5kg per day. In recent years, he has moved away from a full ad-lib concentrate diet, and click ‘Read more’ for further information. 

Finishing bulls

The bulls must be 500kg at 12 months of age.

 Farm Update - John Barry

John Barry

John with his fiancée Sarah and their son Jack.

John joined the Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES) in 2022 and selected a number of actions to help water quality and promote biodiversity on his farm. He installed a 1.5m riparian strip along two main watercourses, selected three fields for extensively grazed pasture, installed a 2m grass margin in six paddocks, is protecting an archaeological monument on the farm, and his attention is now turning to planting two new hedges on the farm before March 31, 2024.

John plans to plant a topped, predominately whitethorn hedge that will be stock proof and good for biodiversity on his farm. He will plant the hedges as follows.

1. Root up the clay using a digger to allow for easier planting; he will not spray off the area beforehand.
2. Plant trees in a double staggered row, with at least five plants per metre.
3. One tree every 50m will be allowed to grow up in the hedge and will be protected by a tree guard.
4. Cut the trees at a slope, one inch above ground level.
5. Press plastic/film over the trees to prevent weeds from growing directly around the trees.
6. Tuck in the plastic/film using a spade so that the clay will hold it down.
7. Fence off the hedge on both sides to prevent livestock accessing the trees. There are a lot of rabbits on John’s farm, so he will keep an eye out for them and add a lower strand of electric wire if required.

Watch the video below for more tips on planting a topped hedge. To read more about John’s other tasks on the farm this winter, click on ’Read more’.

Before and after planting a hedge

Before and after planting a hedge.