Balancing a Hereford calf to finish beef system, a dairy farm and lecturing, our Monitor Farmer Eamon Corcoran shows us that time management is the key to success.
Eamon Corcoran has entered a partnership with his father Edward on their dairy farm in The Rower, Co Kilkenny. Having reared the progeny of their dairy cows and forward sold steers for a number of years, the Corcoran’s decided to begin finishing their own Herford crosses in 2015. “This is our fourth year with Irish Hereford Prime,” Eamon remarks. “We were selling out animals at 580kg live, so we said we might as well push them on and finish them ourselves.”
When rearing their 60 calves on the Corcoran farm, it is a highly efficient process with no expense spared. “Every calf here gets whole milk from the farm for 10 to 11 weeks live weight dependent and ad lib concentrates from two weeks old,” Eamon explains. “They peak at 8L/head, which is a lot of milk, nearly eight to nine thousand euros worth. But they thrive on it.” Eamon’s Hereford bull calves are weighing in at 254 Kgs on 30th August 2018 and heifers are 209 Kgs average weight. Heading into their first winter, calves will be fed a diet of concentrates and silage. Beet will be introduced after this. Last year, 2kg of concentrates were fed due to poor silage quality. “They were getting 5kg of fresh beet and 2kgs of concentrates and silage. Hopefully they will be getting less concentrates this year,” Eamon says.
Silage is tested on the farm annually. Unfortunately due to poor weather, last year’s quality was down to 62 DMD. Protein was low and reaching between 11 and 12%. This was sufficient for calves as they were on a 16% protein nut at the time. “We were hoping to have our second cut in the pit and have testing done by now, however we were forced to zero-graze this In order to feed the dairy herd during July” Eamon remarks. “We haven’t had substantial rainfall here since we took the first cut, but it will come right again soon with a third-cur scheduled in mid-September”
For grassland management, Eamon has divided the farm into three blocks. Each block is soil tested and reseeded over three years, with a break taken on the fourth. Care is taken to ensure that soil fertility is of the highest standard, providing the best quality grass for his animals. “At the moment we have 12 acres sprayed off for reseeding. It has been ploughed, cultivated and limed. Dung has also been applied and ploughed in – so it is ready to go,” Eamon explains. “We need to have the grass in top shape as we finish our cattle off it.” Grass is measured and managed on the farm. Calves are put on low covers of 1100kg DM/ha and are moved quickly through paddocks. Eamon finds that though these covers are low, calves thrive off of them. Steers are placed into heavier covers of 1300-1600kg DM/ha, where Eamon finds they clear paddocks well.
No animal over two years old is kept on the Corcoran farm. Last year saw Eamon finishing all animals off grass in November, with an average age of 20.5 months for his Herefords. Going to slaughter, the animals were 677kg, on average, with the heaviest reaching 740-750kg at 21 months. The average carcass weights were 291kg for heifers and 328kg for the steers. “The Herefords have a great square shape and frame. Last year they were absolutely bursting, they were on grass and they were flying it!” he says. “Some have smaller frames, but it only means they are easier to finish. The Herefords are good solid animals.” Eamon hopes to hold off feeding his finishers nuts as long as possible. With a slaughter date of November 10 and feeding for 100 days, he works backwards from there.
Eamon is an advocate of weighing his stock. This is his first year with his own scales, having used Irish Hereford Prime’s complimentary service until now. “The joy of weighing cattle is that you get to see exactly how they are performing and if you are doing something right… or wrong,” he laughs. “The Herefords make weighing much easier because they are so docile. The get so used to it after a while that they would nearly be walking on to it themselves!” “If you weigh your animals, then you have to act on it. If not, it’s the doing a soil test and still using the same fertiliser regime – useless!”
All animals destined for slaughter in November have begun to receive concentrate feeding, Heifers will begin on a stepped feeding programme. They will receive 2 kg for two weeks, then 4 kg for two weeks and finally 6 kg for remainder of the finishing period. Steers will also begin on 2 kg for two weeks, then 4 kg for two weeks, upgrading to 6 kg for two weeks and finally 8 kg + for remaining period. All finishing animals will remain outdoors on grass until slaughter and will be weighted before, during finishing and prior to slaughter. Autumn re-seeding has been finished as of 3 August, with aim to graze with female Hereford crosses (0 to 1 year olds) in November before housing weather permitting. All Hereford crosses (0 to 1 year olds) will continue to receive 1.5 kg of 16% protein concentrate until housing. They will also receive Bovipast RSP in mid-September and IBR marker live, followed by a booster shot of Bovipast RSP prior to slaughter. Grassland will begin to be closed off for spring grazing from mid-October depending on growth during this month This aims to extend the grazing season without impacting the closing cover so as not to affect spring grazing in 2019.