Teagasc has provided the following update on the performance of this year’s suckler calves at grass on the Newford Suckler Demonstration Farm in Athenry and how they are meeting the requirements of the BEEP scheme.
Currently, there are 96 suckler calves on the farm and they are on average 5 months of age.
The first calf was born a couple of weeks ahead of time on January 16th and the last calf was born on April 19th.
Almost 90% of the calves were born in six weeks from February 1st to mid-March.
The majority of cows and calves were turned out to grass on March 20th. Turnout was later than planned but once the main batch of cows and calves went to grass, they remained outdoors.
Newford took advantage of good weather and above-average temperatures throughout April and May and achieved a high level of grass utilisation which had a positive impact on the herd’s performance.
Pairs were weighed on July 1st as part of the Beef Environmental Efficiency Programme (BEEP-S scheme).
Weighing is a compulsory measure of the BEEP-S scheme but weighing is a routine practice on Newford farm to monitor animal performance.
As part of the scheme, all calves being submitted for weighing must have been born between July 1st, 2019 and June 30th, 2020 therefore, all 96 calves on Newford farm qualify.
The weighing scales used was registered with ICBF in advance of recording weights and it was calibrated to ensure its accuracy.
All pairs were separated at the start of weighing to prevent any injuries going up the cattle chute.
Calves were weighed individually, and each weight was recorded on a weighing sheet.
The same process was carried out for the cows as both the cow and her calf must be weighed on the same day.
Once the weighing was completed, all weights were uploaded onto the ICBF website which qualifies Newford Farm for the first compulsory measure of the BEEP-S scheme.
The average birthweight of the bull calves this year was 38Kg. And on July 1st, the bull calves averaged 219 Kg equating to an average daily gain of 1.43 kilograms per head per day since birth.
The average birthweight of the heifer calves was 36kg and on July 1st, the average weight of these heifers was 204 Kg.
These heifers have achieved an average daily gain of 1.32 kilograms per head per day since birth.
All calves were sired by 5-star terminal bulls. Ewedenvale Ivor was used on the first-calvers and Fiston, Hideal, Bivouac used on the rest of the suckler cows.
All sires play a very important role as the progeny from these bulls will be finished on the farm.
To achieve this, calves need to perform well at grass, have a good growth rate, along with having good shape and confirmation.
The average weight of the suckler cows was 584 kg; this ranged from 485 kg for the first calvers to 637 kg for the older cows.
During weighing, we also condition scored the cows and the average body score for the herd was 2.7.
Since weighing, all bull calves have been castrated by the vet and all calves have received treatment for worms.
Meal feeding and faecal egg sampling
At Newford, meal feeding was selected for calves and faecal egg sampling of cows as part of optional measures on the BEEP scheme.
Around next week, Newford farm will start meal feeding calves to prepare them for weaning. This is an annual occurrence and will also serve to satisfy one of the optional requirements of the BEEP scheme.
Under the meal feeding option, calves must be fed meals for four weeks prior to weaning and for two weeks post-weaning.
Like last year, the calves were encouraged to creep graze forward ahead of the cows by simply raising the electric wire in one section with two horse PVC plastic posts.
Creep feeding was offered to the calves in troughs, with calves averaging an intake of 1kg to 1.5kg per day.
This process boosted calf performance on the farm by offering the calves the best quality grass and using the cows to clean out paddocks.
Calves will receive concentrates from four weeks before weaning and this will continue right up to housing.
Under action three of the BEEP-S scheme, faecal samples must be taken from the cows to check for the presence of liver and rumen fluke. Newford will sample 20 cows.
One sample pool will be made up of 10 cows consisting of 1st and second calvers and the second pool of 10 cows will be made up of the older cows in the herd.
Cows will be housed for 1-2 hours on a clean floor so fresh samples can be taken. These samples will be sent immediately to a Department of Agriculture approved lab for testing.
Iarlaith will carry out these samplings in October as this action must be completed before November 1st.
Image source: Teagasc / Youtube