50 heifers born in 2022 from the ABP Demo Farm have been sent to the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) Tully Progeny Test centre for performance trials. These trials will collect data on methane emissions, food conversion efficiency (FCR), and liveweight gain. The group of heifers going to Tully had an average weight of 416kg, with the heaviest heifer weighing 490kg and sired by AA6331 (Deelish Shotgun). The batch of heifers included a mix of breeds such as Angus, Hereford, Limousin, Aubrac, and Belgian Blue. A similar-sized batch of bullocks will be identified for Tully in September/October. The remaining heifers will be left at grass until mid to late August, when feeding for their finishing period will begin.
Sean Maher, a member of the Advantage Beef Programme team, explained that the ABP Demo Farm managed to keep grazed grass in the diet of the cattle without the need for silage supplementation. However, higher levels of concentrates were fed to calves at grass. The yearling cattle had to graze paddocks with grass covers of over 2,000kg, which would normally be taken out for silage but were grazed due to the scarcity of grass.
All 2023-born calves are now at grass on the ABP Demo Farm, with the final few late March-born calves turned out in the last two weeks. Next week, all cattle will be weighed to assess the impact of the weather on their performance in the last month.
The current period is critical for the 2023-born calves to ensure optimum performance. After seven weeks without rain followed by a large amount falling in a short space of time, there has been a huge burst in grass growth. The grass walk this week showed a growth rate of 98kg DM/ha, with a farm cover of 865kg DM/ha accounting for ground locked up for second-cut silage. However, this nitrogen-rich and highly digestible grass poses a major risk to calves developing summer scour syndrome. To prevent this, it is important to ensure adequate fiber remains in the calf diet, which can be achieved through feeding straw. Additionally, it is crucial to avoid grazing very lush pasture with high levels of nitrogen applied. Monitoring calves closely over the next few weeks and contacting a vet or nutritionist if any issues are suspected is highly recommended.
If summer scour is suspected, action needs to be taken quickly. On the ABP Demo Farm, if a calf is suspected of having this problem, it will be checked for a temperature and signs of drooling in the mouth. Any suspect cases will be housed for a few days and fed concentrate and forage while closely monitoring their condition. Calves on the farm are currently consuming 1.5kg of concentrates per day, which will be gradually reduced to 1kg per day over the next few weeks. The percentage of protein in their feed has also decreased from 18% to 16%. All calves have recently received their second round of vaccinations, and worm burdens will be monitored in all batches of cattle through dung sampling in the coming month. There is currently a high population of flies, which could lead to issues with sore eyes, especially for calves grazing heavy covers of grass or eating from troughs. If this becomes a problem on the farm, a fly treatment will be applied to the calves.