Farmer focus: Cows back out to grass after dry spell

About 80% of our calves have now been weaned, with all calves still at grass. They have been batched according to sex.

The bull calves are receiving 3kg of meal and will all be finished as young bulls.

The heifer calves are receiving about 1.5kg of meal and our target is to finish these about 20 months of age.

At housing we will pick which of the heifers are to be kept as replacements and will separate them so they can be fed to achieve our target bulling weight of at least 400kg.

See also: Read more from the livestock farmer focus writers

The excellent spell of weather in October allowed us to return the dry cows back to grass; this will help to reduce the wintering cost of the dry cows.

We are hopeful it will also help improve the condition score of the cows, enabling us to feed restricted levels of silage and further reduce costs in our system.

The dairy-bred calves on our farm that are reared by Farmers Weekly beef finalists John Toland and Gary Fitzpatrick continue to please us.

The earliest batches of bull calves have been housed and are being built up on to an ad-lib meal and straw diet for finishing as young bulls.

All bull calves were weighed before housing. The Limousin, Angus and Hereford cross calves averaged 1.2kgs a day on 2.5kgs of meal and grass and the Friesian calves averaged 0.9 a day.

Despite being pleased with the performance levels of the calves, we hope to see their daily performance increase on the finishing ration.

For the young bull system to work it is vital they receive no setback.

Feed, regular foot-bathing and particular attention to animal health and management will be key to achieving our weight specifications for these calves.

Matthew Brownlee farms 121ha alongside his father. They run 100 Limousin cross suckler cows and buy in store cattle to finish.