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Teagasc Farm Management Tips for September

28 August 2018
Type Media Article

By Keith Fahy, B & T Drystock Advisor, Teagasc, Athenry

With a significant increase in grass growth around the west recently we must utilise every blade of grass to make up for the tough drought which we experienced in previous weeks. Grass growth on Pasture Base Ireland (PBI) on 22nd August for Connacht was 67kgDm/Ha versus 50kgDm/Ha in Munster. Growth rates in Galway are round 63kgDm/Ha almost twice that of Carlow at 34kgDm/Ha, rainfall has varied significantly throughout the country with only 9mm recorded in the first 21 days of August on Curtin’s farm in Fermoy compared to 69mm in Athenry during the same period. 

Fertiliser and Organic Manure Extensions:  Farmers need to take advantage of the fertiliser and slurry extensions with the chemical fertiliser application deadline now moving from Mid-September to the end of September and the organic manure application deadline moving from mid-October to the end of October. Spreading fertiliser now is essential to aid in building covers for the autumn and may also allow farmers to take out surplus bales. These surplus bales will help decrease the fodder deficit.

Liming/Soil Fertility:  With a record number of soil samples taken throughout the country in the last two years, it is essential that farmers use and interpret these soil results. With only 10% of soils in Ireland in the optimum range for pH, P & K there is massive scope to improve both soil fertility and increase grass growth on farms. Lime is the first major element that needs to be revised on the majority of farms. Aim to have soils at a pH of greater than 6.3 and where soils are peaty in nature ideally have the pH around 5.5 to 5.8. Ground Limestone can be bought, delivered and spread from anywhere between €22-25 giving a fantastic return on Investment. Lime can be spread all year round, ideally on bare ground. Lime according to soil sample advice, a maximum rate of 2.5-3 tonnes per acre is advisable. If the requirement is more than this it is advisable to split the applications into 2 applications over 2-3 years. Lime will improve soil fertility, fertiliser uptake, soil structure and subsequently grass growth. Lime is the cheapest fertiliser you can buy.

Creep Grazing/Creep Feeding Weanlings: Creep grazing is an excellent practice which will help boost both the daily live weight gain of the calf while also helping to break the bond between calf and cow which will reduce the stress at weaning time and thus weaning will not be as abrupt. As spring calving cow’s milk yield is decreasing it is important that the weanling has access to top quality grass to help boost growth rates. Creep/Meal feeding weanlings has proven to be financially rewarding as you are feeding cattle when they are in their peak feed efficiency. Weanlings will have a response rate of approx. 6:1 i.e. for every 6 kg meal they are fed they will put on 1 kg of live weight. If we value a tonne of meal at 280 euro currently, this will equate to 28c/kg. Feeding 6 kg at this price will cost 1.68 at a response of 1 kg live weight of a good continental type weanling valued at 2.60/kg there is a return of almost a euro/92 cent. It is advisable to feed a 15/16% ration or nut at a rate of approx. 2-2.5kg/head for 6-8 weeks prior to sale.

Scan/Cull Empties & Passengers: Scan all cows/heifers 5-6 weeks post breeding to identify empty cows and heifers, these should either be sold or finished immediately once calves are weaned. Spring calving herds should have bulls removed at this stage, if a bull serves a cow this week they will not calve down until June, which will greatly increase the calving spread and also that subsequent offspring will not be fit to sell as a weanling that autumn.

Finish Animals off Grass before Second Winter: Another option for farmers tight on fodder this year might be to pick out a number of forward type stores and start feeding them concentrates at grass. These animals may need to be started immediately on concentrates to ensure they will have a sufficient fat cover prior to slaughter, so that they may be killed off grass before their second winter. Where heifers/Steers are in good condition at present and have thrived well there may be an option to kill these at 20 to 22 months. Consider feeding these animals 5 kg of a 12 to 14% protein Nut along with good quality grass for 60 to 70 days. A low protein high energy maize type nut/ration will help put a good cover of fat on finishing cattle along with good quality high protein grass.

Beef Data Genomics Programme (BDGP) Carbon Navigators: Participants in both BDGP 1&2 must complete their Carbon Navigator either by paper or online at icbf.com before 30th September 2018. If you have not received a letter to complete the Carbon Navigator online you may need to contact ICBF or your Advisor. If you have completed last year’s Carbon Navigator online it is advisable that you do the same again this year. The Carbon Navigator is a compulsory part of the BDGP programme and must be updated yearly.