Over the last week, there’s been an element of winding down about the yard work.

The last of the young bulls are due to go, there’s a handful of stragglers drawing calving out, but over the last fortnight, the first-calvers finally got back out to grass.

This means that after being a hive of activity since last October, the sheds will fall silent for a while.

I’ve found the year so far a bit similar to the springs of 2013 and 2018. Cold or wet conditions prevailed then until the second half of May before grass growth returned to where you’d expect it to be.

That’s what appears to be happening now and it’s only in the last week that grass growth is passing demand.

With yard work easing off, breeding should get underway before the weekend, it’s all down to when the last of the young bulls are sold. If they leave any silage after them, the heifers will be brought in to tidy it up.

Waste not want not, and all that.

It will be a chance to tail-paint them too and when the feed passage is clear, breeding season will be underway.

There was a higher heifer to bull ratio in last year’s calves and as I had a pair of stock bulls, I hadn’t intended on holding onto any of last year’s pedigree bull calves.

It made more sense to cash-in and try an AI synchronising programme for the heifers instead. That was the plan until February, but as the rain poured down through March and the heifers remained in, that option had to be reconsidered and one group was weaned off ration in preparation for going back to grass.

Breeding theories

Those yearling heifers had more ins and outs than Lanigan’s Ball. Of all the groups they’ve probably had the toughest year, as weather upset plans for them. They’ll put my breeding theories to the test.

Bulling activity with the replacement heifers seemed sporadic last year too, but scanning told a different story.

Last year, as heifer numbers were fewer, all the home-bred heifers were put with the bull.

The plan was for four or five weeks of breeding.

That was on track until a jeep needed to go to the garage for an unexpected repair job and the bull was taken out six weeks later. Three weren’t in-calf and another three were lucky the jeep broke down, as they calved in the sixth week of calving.

Heifer calves were plentiful last year and I would have liked to have run them all again and maybe shorten to three weeks of breeding, however, land is limited on the young stock block so a choice had to be made. I don’t get too sentimental when it comes to heifers, as invariably the “best” heifer would never go in-calf.

There’s been plenty of bulling activity with the older cows and despite being indoors for so long, I’ve noticed more of it with the first-calvers too, even though the last of them only got out to grass last week.

The older cow herd is settled and unless a cow has lameness issues, if she calves early she’ll stay around.

Late-calvers come under more pressure and the short breeding season for the heifers means the most fertile ones survive.

It’s paying off with the older cows, but results in a busier March now, as most of them hold to their first three weeks with the bull.