Robin Talbot: The politicians tell us they ‘have our back’ but where is the detail?


Robin Talbot: The politicians tell us they ‘have our back’ but where is the detail?

Robin Talbot pictured on the family farm in Ballacolla, Co Laois is a lifelong suckler farmer. Photo: Alf Harvey
Robin Talbot pictured on the family farm in Ballacolla, Co Laois is a lifelong suckler farmer. Photo: Alf Harvey
Ciara Thornton, a 1st year student at Ballyhaise Agriculture College in Co Cavan, feeding pedigree holstein calves on Thomas Kelly’s farm in Philipstown, Drogheda Co Louth. Pic credit; Damien Eagers / INM

I have never seen as much uncertainty in the beef industry as there is at the moment.

The politicians are telling us that, “they have our backs, that they are going to look after us, in the event of a Brexit crash-out”. But, personally, I don’t think that is good enough. They need to spell out the detail of what they mean; and also clarify whether this also holds in the event of a bad-deal Brexit.

For the moment, we have decided not to take any drastic action but rather are adopting a holding position.

For one thing, we are not going to buy any replacement heifers this year.

This is because, like a lot of people, we have taken a big hit in the value of our sales over the winter.

We have 17 home-bred Stabiliser heifer calves on hand this year and they will be our replacements for 2019.

Even if we stay suckling, I think we will do what I thought we would never do and this is to breed all our own replacements.

The reason for this is that I think we need to take dairy genetics out of our suckler herd.

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I suppose that is one of the main reasons why we have bought two young Stabiliser bulls.

Most of our cows and calves have been weighed for the BEEP scheme at this stage.

I don’t know what information will come out of the scheme eventually but one thing we noticed when we were weighing is that there is a huge variation in the size and weight of our cows. If I was to be honest, I don’t think that variation is reflected in the calves.

What I mean is that a huge big cow didn’t necessarily have the biggest calf.

The weighing also brought another thought to mind, that the ideal weight for a suckler cow in our system is around 650kg.

Also, the ideal is that she would have a calf with a light birth-weight, with the ability to grow at 1.4kg/day on mainly milk and grass. This would put the males right on target for a 400kg carcase for an Under-16 month bull system.

We await with interest the information that will come from ICBF on the results of our weighing.

All cows and calves have been out to grass for quite a while now. Even though the weather turned a bit chillier last week, we have plenty of grass.

As we graze out paddocks, we are going in with our second round of fertiliser, which is the same as the first, 2 cwt of 18-6-12 per acre.

From then on, we will be just spreading straight N.

We are continuing to sell our beef heifers. The weights are holding up quite well, averaging around 350kg, but unfortunately there is no good news on price.

We have a few bulls left as well. Like most people this year, we just can’t wait to see the back of them.

Our next big job is to clean out and wash out all of the sheds and pile up the FYM in one of the silage pits, with a view to spreading it on the winter barely stubbles next August.


Also, this year, we need to pay particular attention to power-washing the slats and disinfecting them.

We ended up this year with a few of the young bulls getting mortellaro.

So that is something we need to get on top of as a priority.

We have culled a couple of cows that have it.

For our silage ground, we will spread this week about 3.5 cwt/acre of Cut Sward.

All this ground got 3,000 gallons of slurry in mid-January and our soil results tell us that the land is all OK for lime and is mostly Index 3 for P and K.

The winter barley has got its second application of nitrogen, which has brought the total up to about 120 units per acre.

We will top this up in the near future to about 150 units, depending on the individual fields.

Some of the winter barley has also been sprayed for wild oats.

The winter oats has, so far, got 4cwt/acre of 10-5-25. It has also got a straw shortener.

We put Manganese on the oats and an adjoining field of barley, on our agronomist’s advice, as it was looking a little off-colour.

The winter wheat has got 4 cwt per acre of 10-10-20 and it is just starting to take off.

We are possibly looking at increasing our tillage area. If we do, we probably need to be looking at another break crop. Some of our land has been in barley for a long period. There is a field of beans and a field of oilseed rape sown locally and I will be watching their progress with interest over the summer.

Robin Talbot farms in partnership with his mother Pam and wife Ann, in Ballacolla, Co Laois

Indo Farming


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