Helen Mulqueen from Kilcommon, Shinrone outside Birr, County Offaly, loves the farming life but also enjoys her day time job working for Herdwatch in sales and support.
She farms, along with her mother, Geraldine, and her father, Patsy, 96 acres and lease a further 30 acres four miles from the home farm.
In an insight into her farming week, Helen says that calving is in full swing at the minute, with 22 cows calved and a nitrates inspection in the middle of the hustle and bustle.
For once, calving is going quiet well. So far, there has been very little trouble with cows or heifers calving so fingers crossed it will stay like that.
Even though, for the 22 cows that have calved we have had three calves that came backwards, it is only a small percentage if that is all we get until the end of calving, but it would be a lot if it continued this way.
This time of the year vets bills gets crazy, so this spring we are hoping to nail it on time, working towards a ‘Prevention’ rather than a ‘Cure’ system. It is a costly system at the time, but not as costly as vet’s bills when trying to cure an animal – between time, vet call outs and bottles of injections and doses, it really adds up.
“Our herd has previously suffered from IBR and Coccidiosis, along with that we had a scare of Crypto last spring. To keep this under control the cows are given an IBR booster vaccine every year and once each calf is 18 days old, they are vaccinated for IBR,” says Helen. This is where we find Herdwatch handy, once we have up to five calves around 18 days old, they can be checked from the app in the yard and I set a notification for the repeat vaccination for three weeks time.”
Helen says that they are vaccinated for all four diseases on the same day as the repeat IBR vaccination. They get Vecoxan to prevent against coccidiosis, Baycox to prevent against cryptosporidium and Bovipast RSP to prevent against pneumonia.
“It is crucial to give the repeat vaccination exactly on time other-wise it does not work as effectively. This will show up on my ‘to do list’ in Herdwatch. I think the app is a godsend, “killing two birds with the one stone” as the saying goes. The repeat treatment is recorded and it is recorded for Bord Bia too,” she says.
Helen says that they are trying to work harder on looking after the cows before calving, making sure they provide them with good quality silage and pre-calver buckets every few days.
“I used to use the bag of minerals but found that all of the cows were not getting the same quantity, so leaving in a few buckets is much more effective,” says Helen.
As it is such a busy time of the year, along with maintaining the scraping of the cubicles and liming them twice daily to prevent mastitis, the family needs to keep paper work up-to-date and use everything we can to keep the work load to a minimum.
“Not being on the farm throughout the day and trying to manage the paper work, I find that the app is a very easy way to catch up on any treatments that have been done each day, any feed purchased or any cows that were served. It helps that I do not have to face into paperwork at night, it is the last thing anyone wants to do,” she explains.
Last week, the Mulqueens received notification that they were having a nitrates inspection the following day. This is their third inspection since 2011.
“It can be very hard to make all improvements within a short space of time, but thankfully this time we got the thumbs up,” she says.
There are plenty of other jobs around the farm and in the last few weeks, the family emptied out some of the dung that was in the dung stead.
“For the past year, we have tried to do as much work as possible ourselves by renting out machinery instead of getting a contractor in. In the long-run, it can work out a lot more cost effective, so we hired out a dung spreader from Hire-Agri, Rathcabbin,” she reveals. “At the minute, we are getting the fertilizer out and getting any bit of fencing fixed up before we let out a few yearlings. All is very busy, but that is the nature of farming and I love it.”
The learn more about the Herwatch app log on to www.herdwatch.ie