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Newford update: Calving progress, replacement heifers and managing through a wet spring

Newford update: Calving progress, replacement heifers and managing through a wet spring

89% of the cows in the Newford herd had calved up to March 24, writes Michael Fagan, who also details the management of the replacement heifers and grassland management on the farm now based in Co. Roscommon.

Commencing on January 29th, 78 live calves are on the ground and there is no health issues to report at the moment. In terms of calving difficulty, an average calving score of 1.57 was recorded; 52 of the cows calved normally, 12 required some assistance, 14 calvings were classed as being considerably difficult and veterinary assistance was required on two occasions.

Table 1: Weekly calvings on Newford

WeekDateNumber of cows calvedPercentage of herd calvedLive calves
1 January 29 - February 4 8 9% 8
2 February 5 - February 11 8 18% 16
3 February 12 - February 18 17 37% 32
4 February 19 - February 25 16 54% 49
5 February 26 - March 3 13 68% 60
6 March 4 - March 10 11 81% 70
7 March 11 - March 17 2 83% 71
8 March 18 - March 24 5 89% 76

With the first calves arriving in late January, the older calves will receive their booster shot for clostridial diseases in the coming days. In addition, all calves are being dehorned as they come of age.

Figure 1: A Hereford cross 7th calver with her Grange Wood Royal Oak sired heifer calf

Heifer calf  and her dam born on Newford

Replacement heifers

Newford has purchased 21 dairy-beef heifer calves as replacements (pictured above) for the 2025 herd. Consisting of 10 Aberdeen Angus, 10 Aubrac and one Hereford, the average price per heifer was €175 and all are either four or five star on the Replacement Index, with a value of €174.

Prior to their arrival, calf pens were cleaned and disinfected and the calves have settled into their milk feeding routine. These calves are getting 6L of a 25% crude protein milk replacer daily, fed 3L in the morning and 3L in the evening, and have access to ad-lib ration.

 Their year older counterparts were turned out to grass on March 29 weighing 290kg. Weather is a major issue this year in terms of getting stock to grass, but the target for these heifers is to weigh 330-340kg before AI. All these heifers are four and five star and have an average Replacement Index value of €156. Booster vaccines for leptospirosis will be administered this week and a teaser bull will run with these heifers during the breeding season.

Managing through a wet spring

Newford is no different than any other farm in the country regarding the wet weather we are all experiencing at the moment. This will have many major knock-on effects for the farm, such as getting chemical fertiliser out which Newford has none spread yet. However, during the very rare time in early March, Newford was lucky to get slurry out on its stubble ground at a rate of 2,500 gallons/ac.

Late turnout of beef animals to grass will have a major effect on the average daily gain. Additionally, all the Newford cows and calves are still indoors, contributing to more cost and labour for the farm and a later finish to the first rotation of grazing.

More information on the Newford herd