Farmer Focus: Beef scanning results prove varied

There are no complaints here. July saw us take a great quality second-cut, with rain afterwards ensuring super regrowth for a third-cut and grazing. We have spent the morning moving cows and calves to aftermath swards with 3,500kg/DM cover, so it will give the main grazing fields time to recover from hard grazing due to the lack of moisture and probably overstocking.

We housed 40 steers as grass supply was just too tight and they are being fed last year’s fourth-cut, with 6kg blend in an aim to finish them in 90 days. The remaining bulls went to ABP and did well, achieving a carcass average of 398kg. However, the price does not reflect a true return.

Next year, I aim to finish all as bulls, as it doesn’t make sense to waste half a year storing an animal and cutting any advantage a beef farmer has in terms of performance.

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Scanning results were up and down. The cow synchronisation trial showed 66% to first service. I feel if I had selected better it would have been much higher. These cows were AI’d to two Limousin bulls – one of which was black, but both had high maternal values to produce better cows. I also used a British Blue and was quite happy with the results out of 65 cows. I must have been feeling just a bit too confident as heifer scanning day was a disaster. Using the same protocol used to obtain 80% pregnancy rate last year, only the hit rate this year was 50% in comparison.

On the up side, we scanned at 40 days, which allowed me to slip four heifers to a stock bull. I hope I don’t live to regret this.

With dung applied to all paddocks at half the normal rate to hold moisture and bulk autumn grass covers, we move to whole crop for next week.

The big talk in this part of Northern Ireland is wind turbines and digesters. Either people are planning or objecting. Let’s hope all is well with the golden goose.

Sinead and I are off to Dublin Horse Show next week for a few days to view other four-legged animals and relive our childhood memories of ponies and show jumping thrills where the craic will be mighty. Hope we can keep up.

Sam Chesney runs a spring-calving herd of 120 Limousin cross sucklers in Kircubbin, Northern Ireland. He was 2011 Farmers Weekly Beef Farmer of the Year