Farmer Focus: Selecting breeding stock earlier for better management

The bull-bred weanling calves on our farm that will be slaughtered under 16 months have been housed.

The remaining male calves, most of which are Angus bred, are clearing up the last of the grass.

They will be castrated and housed in the next fortnight, heifer calves are on the same system.

They will be grazed again next year.

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The selection of replacement heifers will be done at housing and selected heifers grouped together.

This will give us lots of time to get these heifers ready for breeding and ensure they are calving down the following spring before 24 months.

Last year we left the selection of replacement heifers to the spring time. Although all heifers selected were well over 420kg some of the heifers had not cycled, which reduced their chances of mating at the synchronisation process.

Knowing which heifers we are keeping for breeding earlier will allow us to prioritise getting them back to grass early and ensure they are settled and cycling before mating.    

All weanling calves will receive our best-quality silage with the bulls selected for finishing receiving an additional 4kg of meal and 2kg of bread.

The meal and bread levels in this diet will be stepped up as they progress through the finishing period.

Unfortunately no weighing of weanlings has been carried out as yet due to a broken weigh bar on the bridge.

The excellent spell of dry weather enabled dry cows to be returned to the land to eat any remaining grass, which has allowed cattle to build extra body condition and will mean silage can be restricted over the winter period.

Spring-born 2015 heifers were housed in mid-September and are being slaughtered.

These were a mix of Stabiliser, Charolais and Hereford calves. As expected, at housing the Stabiliser and Hereford calves were carrying the most flesh and are slaughtering first.

The Charolais bred calves have required a slightly longer feeding period, but are killing out at heavier weights.

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