Beginning our virtual farm walk today (Thursday, May 13) on the farm of Teagasc Green Acres Calf to Beef programme participants Austin and Jarlath Ruane, Jarlath speaks to Agriland about his daily tasks and current farming systems.
Farming in Claremorris in Co. Mayo, the farm is running a calf-to-beef system alongside a lowland flock of sheep in a mixed grazing structure.
This year 60 spring-born bull calves are being reared on an automatic feeder. The plan is to carry these calves right through to slaughter with the majority being bullocks.
In terms of the breeds purchased this year, a mixture of Angus, Holstein and Limousin calves were sourced off local dairy farms.
Morning routine with calves
The day-to-day morning activities on the west of Ireland farm involves the monitoring of the calves’ automatic milk feeder which records the levels of feed that each calf is consuming daily.
The Ruanes’ calves are working off a 55-day feeding curve, which entails each calf being fed 125g of powder per litre of milk mixed. At the start of the 55-day milk feeding period 6L of milk are fed per calf per day and this is reduced gradually to 2L before weaning.
From there, the calves will be checked for any signs of illness, while also casting their eyes over the drinking troughs to ensure that fresh and clean water is available.
To aid rumen development the calves are fed an 18% crude protein pencil nut along with a straw being available in feeders.
When the calves are weaned they are moved out to fresh grass which also has a sheltered hut provided. The calves are allocated fresh grass every two days and they are fed 2kg of meal/head/day.
This meal feeding will be reduced to 1kg/head/day at once they have been out at grass for a couple of weeks.
The calves are also provided with straw feed to continue with assisting rumen development.
Mixed grazing system
The farm is incorporating a mixed grazed system which involves a 55-head spring-lambing flock of lowland sheep following into the paddocks which calves have grazed to achieve better grass sward cleanouts.
The spring lambs are targeted to be slaughtered from the end of May carrying through to August. All replacement females are purchased in, as Jarlath explains that it keeps their system as simple as possible.
Currently there are 61 2020-born bullocks running on the farm – with 33 head of two-year-old cattle.
Within the group of 24-month-old bullocks, there is the presence of Jersey males, which Jarlath plans to kill between July and September this year.
The target carcass weight for these bullocks will be around 300kg, which Jarlath explains is well below the carcass weight target of 350-360kg he has set for the calves (that are not Jersey-bred) he purchased this year.
Following on from this, some of the younger bullocks will be killed at 21-22 months-of-age in the shed at the end of the year – with the target average carcass weight being around the 315kg mark.
The fields allocated for first cut silage were grazed out fully at the start of the year with ewes and lambs and then closed off in late March.
Jarlath explained that the yield is not at the desired levels which it should be achieving after receiving applications of fertiliser. This is due to the lack of suitable weather for growth, hampering grassland production.
Although Jarlath goes on to mention how even though yield is slightly back, he will progress and cut for baled silage at the end of May to keep quality high silage of between 72-76%DMD.
There will be no major concerns yet if there is a deficit in bales produced from this first cut, as more paddocks can be pulled out from the grazing rotation for baling as the summer progresses, if necessary.
Stay tuned to Agriland for more videos being released throughout the day from Ruanes’ farm and we get the advice from Teagasc advisors about maximising performance on calf-to-beef and mixed grazing systems.