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John Joyce: Fodder beet has the cows in great nick ahead of the calving season

Independent.ie logo Independent.ie 2 days ago John Joyce
a close up of a cow: File photo © Ciaran Moran File photo

It's like the calm before the storm as the calving and lambing approaches. We have tried to get the yard ready as best we can and pre-empt problems that might occur during the season.

Most of the preparation is now complete. This includes the calving shed, with plenty of straw on hand, and a lot of the small items like new calf tags, 10pc iodine, long gloves etc. I have also purchased a spare set of ropes for the calving jack as it is an item that can be easily lost on a busy day around calving time.

Nearing the end of last year's calving I also purchased a stomach tube. I only used it on one calf.

It was a middle of the night job, with a small calf too weak to drink and I was fading myself after a long day's work. I have always tried to get the calf to suck the cow or the bottle, but it can be very time-consuming.

We have being using stomach tubes on the farm for the lambs for as long as I can remember, but never made the jump to one for calves.

If used correctly, it is a great aid to have when you are very busy.

The biggest problem I have heading into the mountain of spring work is labour. I now see where dairy farmers are coming from when they talk about a labour shortage.

I have advertised for evening and weekend work but have received little interest. This means I am looking at long hours with little respite.

A part-time job would be a great way for some young farmer to learn the ropes.

Looking ahead, I see labour issues as being one of the biggest challenges to the industry.

There seems to be very few people interested in part-time work, especially if it involves unsocial hours.

For now I will just have to use my time more efficiently and use texts and emails rather than spending too much time on the phone.

And I will look to get more inputs delivered instead of collecting them.

Fodder beet

Hopefully the spring will be early and stock can be turned out earlier - we really need to be getting the animals to do more for themselves.

The fodder beet in cows' diet seems to be doing a great job on their body condition. They are only on about 5kg per head per day, but it is easy to see the difference. I might cut it back or out all together in the run-up to calving and then increase it again after calving in case it swells the unborn calf.

This is the first time I have used beet and I am well impressed. I thought I would have to purchase more machinery to feed it, but the diet feeder is doing an adequate job. I believe it is an under-used feed source and maybe we shouldn't be relying on as much imported feed as we do when tillage farmers can grow this crop.

I have noticed in the last while that a few cows need replacement tags so I will order these next week and I will be able to tag these cows before they leave the shed for the summer.

I usually do this twice a year across the herd and then order what's needed. It is an important job to keep up to date on, but it's unrealistic to be ordering a tag every time an animal loses one.

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