Although weather conditions have taken a turn over the past week, the ABP Demo Farm in Co. Carlow took advantage of the dry weather in February to get the 2023 grazing season underway on the farm.

A total of 160 of the 2022-born cattle on the demo farm are currently at grass and are in four separate groups. The average weight of these dairy-beef cattle at turnout was 350kg.

“Until recently, ground conditions were good and graze-outs were exceptional,” Advantage Beef Programme farm liaison officer, Sean Maher said.

“Luckily, the demo farm missed much of the snow that other parts of the country received last week.”

However, Sean did say that the turn to wet conditions over the past week has resulted in the farm having to change its grazing strategy.

The area of ground allocated to each batch of grazing cattle has been increased and cattle are not being pushed to graze out paddocks fully.

“This strategy is resulting in poaching being kept to a minimum,” Sean said.

“Growth has been slow at 10kg dry matter (DM)/ha/day and the farm cover is running at 680kg DM/ha.”

Grass covers of 1,200-1,400kg DM/ha are being prioritised for grazing across the silage ground.

“The plan is to get all silage ground grazed off before April 1, in order to make quality first-cut silage by mid-May,” Sean continued.

“A second round of urea will commence on the farm over the coming days, once conditions allow.

“The farm will continue to turn out yearling cattle gradually as time goes on and assuming weather conditions allow, of course.”

2023-born calves

There have been 112 calves purchased to date this year on the farm. The calf breeds that have been purchased include Friesian, Angus, Hereford, Limousin, and Belgian Blue. The average calf arrival weight has been 57kg.

The ABP Demo Farm buys approximately 400 calves every year, and the remaining calves will arrive to the farm in the coming few weeks.

Calves are fed at a rate of 600g of milk powder in a 3L feed and are transitioned to once-a-day feeding upon reaching 28-days of age.

Antibiotic usage is avoided unless absolutely necessary. Sean said that vaccinations, good hygiene and an emphasis on calf comfort all keep antibiotic usage to a minimum on the farm.

“A good bed of straw at all times and the use of calf jackets when needed are both hugely important,” he said.

“During the recent cold spell, calf canopies were placed in the pens and additional milk was fed to calves. This helped maintain calf performance.”

The farm has a preference for buying calves born early in the year, as Sean said they have a “greater ability to utilise grass in the first season than calves born late in the spring”.

Commenting on the calf arrival weights, Sean explained that the calves’ genetic merit has a bigger impact on performance than arrival weight.

“Some very light calves often well outperform their heavier counterparts,” he said.

“When buying calves for your own farm, ask to see the genetics of both the sires and the dams. This can give farmers a more informed view of a calf’s potential,” Sean advised.

Calves will be weaned off milk gradually based on concentrate intake as opposed to weight. Once calves are eating 2kg concentrates/head/day, they are deemed fit to be weaned off milk.

ABP Demo Farm store lambs

180 of the 570 ewe and weather hoggets purchased last autumn have been drafted for slaughter.

Hoggets are drafted at 51kg liveweight with the aim of achieving an average carcass weight of 23kg.

The hoggets remaining on the farm are being supplemented with grass silage and concentrates. This is to conserve grass for the yearling cattle. The remaining hoggets will be drafted for slaughter every each week.

A total of 77 hoggets were drafted last week and the aim is to draft 70-80 hoggets/week for slaughter every week.