There is a theory that suckler cows are bad for the environment and that they are not profitable, writes Charlie Devaney, beef advisor, Teagasc Castlerea.
But I would argue that, in general, they are reared on the poorest farms with the heaviest soils that are not really suitable for another system.
Would any other system be more profitable on these farms? I think not. From an environmental of point, if we could farm our suckler cows more efficiently then this would improve the situation greatly.
Again, it is my firm belief that if we, as farmers, should practise 5 simple rules;
- Compact calving (provided you have adequate facilities);
- Calve heifers at 2 years of age (Provided they are kept on very good levels of nutrition);
- Cull any cow that does not have a calf every 12 months;
- Have a functional cow (Milk, fertility and produce a reasonable calf);
- Practice Spring-calving with little or no concentrates fed to the cow.
If we follow these 5 rules, then suckler farming would be a lot more financially awarding and more environmentally sustainable.
It might seem early in the year to be discussing scanning, but it is my firm belief that by carrying it out over the next couple of months, it gives us the opportunity to make very good and timely decisions on our farms as regards culling of cows and when our cows will calve.
By scanning early, we can tell the sex of the calf and we can also identify if a cow is carrying twins or not. This will be an important point when it comes to calving your cows.
It gives us the opportunity to start feeding cows that are not in-calf and need to be culled. It also gives us the change to plan the feeding of our cows better.