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Breeding, drafting lambs and preparing for silage with Oliva Hynes, Future Beef Farmer

Breeding, drafting lambs and preparing for silage with Oliva Hynes, Future Beef Farmer

Olivia Hynes farms full time in Co. Roscommon on 70ha, split between owned and rented land. Operating a mixed farming system, carrying 45 suckler cows and 280 ewes, June centres on breeding, saving silage and the drafting of lambs.

Breeding

Olivia normally uses two rounds of AI for six weeks, picking a mix of strong terminal sires along with high-value replacement bulls. A Limousin bull was then let in for the last three weeks to mop up. However, there has been a change to the breeding policy as a result of the bull being sub-fertile in 2023.

Olivia decided not to purchase another bull and will use 100% AI this year. The purchase price, along with the maintenance cost for a bull that will only be used for a couple of weeks, is difficult to justify. In addition, Olivia had not the time to source a bull that was easy calving and had good milk figures of 7kg plus. AI will give a choice of bulls with the right traits backed up with a high reliability figure. However, going all AI is a big step.

Olivia has been using AI for the last numbers of years for six weeks, so it just means extending the period to nine weeks. Breeding started in May and every effort is being made to pick up the heats. The cows and heifers are in great body condition and received a mineral bolus in April. She is using a vasectomised bull with a chin ball and she had heats recorded in advance of the start of the breeding season.

AI means Oliva has a team of bulls to choose from. Charolais bulls like Lapon and Cloonradoon Rickey have been selected for terminal stock. Both are five stars for terminal traits and will be used on mature cows only. For weanling sales, Olivia likes the Belgian Blue bull Delure, which she has found to be easy calving and the progeny are U grade.

On the replacement side, Olivia has purchased straws of the Limousin bull Powerful Proper. He will be mainly used on heifers and he is 6.2% for calving difficulty. Olivia wants to stay below 8% for heifers. There is also a highly reliability figure with the bull of 99%.

To improve the milk traits, Olivia will be using the Simmental bull Gucci SI4250. He is 7.4kg for milk, 19.2kg for carcass, so the replacements will be milky and will not increase in overall size.

Olivia will scan after 30 days to check conception rates, which is good practice.

In the below video, Olivia Hynes provides an update from her farm. Olivia outlines her experience this year, including difficulties faced during the spring and her use of AI:

Grassland

With the sheep flock lambing in February and the cows calving in March/April, there is huge demand for grass in spring. The average farm cover (AFC) for April was below 500kg DM/ha. With the recent lift in temperatures, grass is growing well with an AFC now of 750kg DM/ha.

With only two bales of silage left, the cupboard is bare. A big priority this year is to get silage stocks made. There will be 40ac ready to cut at the end of the first week of June. Any paddock that gets too strong will be removed as baled silage when it is 2,000-3,000kg DM/ha. While this will be a light crop, the quality will be excellent.

Olivia needs a high quality silage for the ewes and weanlings, while a more average silage will be sufficient for the spring calving suckler cows.

Performance

One of the main reasons Olivia lambs is February is to sell the lambs off grass with no meal to the local factory. June is all about drafting lambs for sale. Around 25-30 lambs are picked out weekly that meet factory specifications. The target carcass size is 19kg. Selling lambs at this time of year helps greatly with cash flow for the farm. There are a lot of bills to be paid from spring time.

Olivia has good handling facilities and it takes approximately one hour to draft 25-30 lambs. It is time well spent. The lambs are vaccinated, worm dosed and moved on to fresh grass on a regular basis.

This article first appeared in the Future Beef newsletter for June. Find out more about the Future Beef Programme here.

For more information on Olivia Hynes’ farm, her aims and targets, click here.

BEEF2024

Farmers enrolled in the Future Beef Programme will feature heavily at the upcoming BEEF2024 Open Day in Teagasc Grange, where a dedicated Suckler Beef Village will be present. BEEF 2024 will be held at Teagasc, Grange, Co. Meath, Eircode: C15 PW93, on Wednesday, June 26 from 9am to 4pm.

Dr Paul Crosson, Beef Enterprise Leader; Dr Orla Keane, Research Officer; and Pearse Kelly, Head of Drystock Knowledge Transfer, provide an insight as to what to expect on the day in this short clip:

The theme of this year’s event is ‘Securing your future’. There are significant challenges in relation to farm succession, profitability, market disturbances, reducing the environmental footprint and high costs of production, however, the market for grass-fed beef as a high quality, sustainable human food protein source is strong.

The focus of BEEF2024 will be on the application of technologies that will help beef farmers increase the profitability and environmental sustainability of their family farm businesses. The roadmap to environmentally sustainable beef production as outlined in the Signpost Programme will feature.

Find out more about BEEF2024 here.