On Wednesday, April 5, the last of the 2022-born cattle on the ABP Demo Farm were turned out to grass. Despite challenging grazing conditions over the past week, drier conditions forecasted for next week will hopefully provide a welcome change in weather conditions. Sean Maher, ABP Food Group’s Advantage Beef Programme farm liaison officer, commented on the performance of the 2022-born cattle over the winter housing period, stating that “performance has been very good”. The last cattle to be turned out had an average weight of 390kg, with the heaviest animal in the batch being an Angus bullock weighing 502kg. Maher also noted that there are a few high performers weighing over the 480kg mark. The first cattle were turned out to grass in February and will be weighed in the coming two weeks to monitor their progress. Due to prolonged rainfall, cattle are grouped in smaller bunches and moved more frequently.
Grazing has been made more difficult due to high levels of rainfall. All first-cut silage ground was grazed earlier in the year and has received an application of chemical fertiliser. However, difficult weather conditions resulted in no slurry being spread on first-cut silage ground, so plans have been changed, and slurry will be targeted on areas of ground that require it, once conditions allow. The average farm grass cover for the first week of April is running at approximately 700kg dry matter (DM)/ha, and the growth rate was 23kg/DM/ha/day. The farm cover for this week last year was 870kg DM/ha.
The ABP Demo Farm currently has 340 calves of all common breeds represented. The average arrival weight of calves was approximately 60kg, and 40 of the first calves to arrive have now been weaned off milk at an average liveweight of 85kg. These calves gained an average of 0.7kg/day since arriving at the ABP Demo Farm. Sean Maher noted that the “changeable weather and variable temperatures have made the last few weeks of calf rearing more tricky.” He emphasized the importance of constantly monitoring calves and checking calf temperatures when calves appear off-form or are not drinking to find sick calves early. All calves are fed milk once-a-day after 28 days of age. Once calves are consuming adequate levels of concentrates, they are gradually reduced to 2L of milk/feed, and then milk is gradually removed from the diet as calves become dependent on solid feed for nutrients.
As for store lambs, only 60 remain on the farm of the 580 store lambs purchased last autumn. Lambs are now being drafted at 51kg with a target carcass weight of 23kg. Maher stated that “the lambs’ performance has been good and the response to concentrates at grass has justified adding meal to the diet.”