Christmas has come and gone, the new year is well and truly upon us and the suckler cows will soon be bedding down for this year’s crop of calves. We have compiled a brief list to help suckler farmers throughout the coming year, which we believe will help bring productivity and reduce labour on the farm.
1. Join HerdPlus
2. Weight Record
3. Check out your Suckler Cow Report
4. Use AI
5. Stay safe this Spring
1. Join HerdPlus
If you have not joined HerdPlus yet, put this at the top of your to-do list. For just €60 per year, you have access to all your animal data in the one place. HerdPlus keeps all your pedigree information, breeding information, Eurostars, catalogues and performance data all under one roof. These can be broken down into easily read reports and profiles that are useful during the year, such as before calving, breeding, and selling. Check out what your heifer is in calf to, when she is due and be ready for her calving. Pick your best breeding females and choose a sire accordingly, selecting based on the replacement index for any females you wish to keep replacements from. Use the terminal index for any cows you wish to sell progeny for the weanling trade. Good beef merit without calving issues is particularly important to your success as a herdowner or breeder. Print a catalogue of a bull before a prospective buyer comes to look at him, and provide him with his basic information such as his Eurostars and pedigree all on one page.
- Join for as little as €60 per year
- Access all of your animal data in one location
- Easy to use reports and profiles to aid in decision making
- Choose the best bulls and females to breed from and check for inbreeding
- Generate catalogues when selling animals
- Maximise your herd’s genetic gain!
2. Weight Record
Weight is king in the beef system! Beef animals by and large are sold on weight. Identifying the heaviest weanlings, the calves with the highest or lowest ADG (average daily gain) and best performing dams is a “must” for any suckler farmer trying to breed the best animals for their herd. Gone are the days of “weighing by eye”. Registered cattle scales can be rented for as little as €50 per day in over 106 separate locations across the country, as well as registered technicians who are more than willing to come to your farm, weigh the animals and input the weights. With this small investment and a few short hours of work, farmers can get an accurate insight into the performance of their herd. Herdowners will then see that the 900Kg cow that is producing a calf of 200Kg is not performing as well as the 600Kg cow producing a calf of the same weight. The larger cow is taking up more space, eating more grass and silage, and costing more to keep than the smaller cow, yet they can be getting the same price for the weanlings in the mart. Weighing your animals before you sell them out of the yard gives you the confidence to demand a fair price for your stock from a potential buyer. By weighing calves at 200 days, you can see the dams that have the best milking ability and may help with future breeding decisions.
- Identify the cows and calves with the highest and lowest weights and ADG
- Increase index reliability
- Rent a scales for as little as €50 per day from one of 106 locations (mybeep.ie)
- Request a fair price for animals when selling from your yard
- Identify the cows in your herd with the best milk ability
3. Check out the Suckler Cow Report
The suckler cow report combines the genetic merit of the females in the herd with the on-farm performance and ranks them accordingly. Cows are ranked for their ability to produce calves with a short calving interval, maximum calf weight gain and the number of carcass grades for the cows progeny. The cows information is displayed (age, pedigree, Eurostars, weight, age at first calving, milk & docility) and their next calving date. This report not only shows you the worth of the Replacement Index with most of the top ranked cows having a high index, but it also provides the solid facts of her progeny’s performance. Key information such as the calf DOB, sex, sire, gestation length, breed and 200-day weight details are all displayed. This report alone allows farmers to see the best performing animals in the herd without any doubt. This report is critical when selecting what females to keep replacements from and to ensure genetic gain in any suckler herd.
- Combines genetic merit and on-farm performance to give a thorough analysis of breeding females in the herd
- Displays key informaton on the progeny from each cow in the herd
- Ranks all cows in the herd while correcting for parity
- Identifies cows with good/bad calving intervals to ensure the most fertile cows and kept as replacements
- Free and accessible for all HerdPlus Beef members
4. Use AI
“The bull is half the herd.” This saying has been used time and again, but it never loses its relevance. We are lucky in Ireland to have such a wide variety of high genetic merit beef bulls within AI. Although it is more labour intensive, by using AI breeders can avail of the best genetics available. The ability to select bulls and tailor your choices to give yourself the best combination of maternal and terminal traits cannot be overstated. One cow in the herd might be suited to a slightly harder calving bull, or a bull that will inject “daughter milk” into its progeny, while another cow in the herd may need the exact opposite to this.
AI will allow you to pick two sires that satisfy the needs of both individual cows. This variation in requirements can be hard to satisfy when one sire (stock bull) is used on the herd. Consider this year putting heifers in calf to a high genetic merit, easy calving AI bull and this will hopefully provide you with a replacement heifer of superior quality to its dam. A proven AI bull will also minimise the risk of calving difficulty for the heifer and not compromise her future fertility. If you decide to use a stock bull this year, ensure that the bull is performance recorded, is of high genetic merit and genotyped.
- Access to elite genetics for low costs
- The ability to pick and choose sires for different females
- Proven genetics, less likely to have a hard calving.
- Higher indexes and Eurostars
5. Stay safe this Spring
Spring is without a doubt the busiest time of the year for suckler farms in Ireland. Many calves will be born within the next 3 months. With this comes late nights, early mornings, and a wide variety of dangers on the farm. As agriculture is one of the most dangerous occupations in Ireland, here are a few tips from the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) to think of during this Spring. First and foremost be careful of cows calving. Never trust a cow, even if for 51 weeks of the year she is placid and friendly, if her maternal instincts kick in at calving you better ensure you and your loved ones are nowhere near her. When you are working with cows and calves, ensure your safety by having an escape route.
Cattle are inside and with that comes a lot of machinery work, so make sure that the machinery you are using this Spring has been serviced and is safe. Ensure the brakes and handbrake is working correctly and make sure the PTO is covered. If you need to do work to the machinery, make sure that it is stable, secure, and switched off. Keep children away from the yard, livestock, and machinery, and if they are in the vicinity ensure that they are safe and supervised. If you have an ATV or quadbike – wear a helmet. You should always wear PPE (personal protective equipment) when carrying out jobs around the farm. Correct footwear (wellies), gloves, overalls/boilersuit, and headlamps (when working in low light) are pieces of equipment you should not leave the house without.
Finally, tiredness is one of the main causes of farm accidents during the spring. Ensure to catch up on sleep where possible and do not be afraid to ask for help when its needed. Fatigue can affect your physical ability to work, and it can also negatively affect your mental health. Keeping on top of your sleep and mental health can be critical to having a successful and enjoyable spring period.
Some safety tips:
- Never trust a cow at calving
- Always have an escape route
- Mind your mental health, eat healthy, get sleep, and talk to someone if you need to
- Carry a mobile phone
- Ensure machinery is serviced and safe, make sure the PTO is covered
- Wear a helmet and PPE
- Supervise children
- Farm safety week 2021
- Tips for safe handling of livestock
- Mental health Ireland
- Samaritans – call 116 123.
If you would like to join HerdPlus or discuss any options for the future of your herd, please contact us at [email protected] or 023 882 0452.