Tips for weaning to go smoothly
Which will run out first? The weather or the grass? There is still plenty of grass available around the country and hopefully we will get the weather to utilise it.
The last rotation is well under way however, and housing is just around the corner. A few weeks back I wrote about getting sheds and winter facilities ready for the winter. Good planning can make life easier for man and beast when it happens!
It may seem obvious, but it is also a good idea to get your animals ready for the sheds. What this will involve depends on the type of animals to be housed, housing type, disease status, and herd history. Vaccination and dosing programmes need to be put in place well in advance of housing.
At this time of year, weanlings are at their most vulnerable. In spring suckler herds, they have been or soon will be weaned. This is a stressful time for these calves, and weaning should be done with the aim or reducing stress levels as much as possible. Introduction to meal preweaning, and meal continuing after weaning considerably reduces stress. Feed a good quality, high-energy concentrate that will maintain intakes and good rumen health. This feed should include a to quality mineral pack to maintain the animal’s immune systems.
Extra attention should also be given to cows that have had calves taken from under them. Particular care should be taken with first calvers at this stage. Best practice, if cows are being kept outdoors postweaning, is to allocate them a bare paddock, and offer straw for thre or four days after dry ing off.
Monitor them for mastitis and ensure that they are supplemented with magnesium to prevent tetany. If you tick all the boxes around weaning, it should go smoothly, apart from all the noise. Some farms will separate cows from calves but leave them in adjacent paddocks with three strands of electric fence, with plenty of current. Some may also consider housing the cows for a number of days on straw to monitor them closely, and ensure thorough drying-off occurs by reducing their energy intake significantly.
Dosing and vaccination
As housing approaches each year, farmers are considering what to dose and vaccinate stock with.
This decision-making process should be done in conjunction with your vet ideally. Your Vvt will set you in the right direction regarding any tests that could be carried out within your herd to establish exposure to particular diseases. Many suckler herdowners are testing a sample of their cows via random blood samples to establish the herd disease status, and take action accordingly.
If a particular disease is identified in a herd, your vet will advise you as to the best course of action.
If you have been having a lot of respiratory issues, don’t ignore it, investigate and act. For farmers who buy in stock from herds with unknown disease status, the best practice may be to vaccinate all stock for IBR. This decision should be made in conjunction with sound veterinary advice. Housing of stock, even using all of the recommended management practices, will heighten stress levels in stock, resulting in them being more susceptible to picking up disease from carriers within the farm. This seems to be very much the case when it comes to respiratory diseases such as IBR, RSV and PI3.
Many suckler farmers also vaccinate in-calf cows to prevent calf scours, and if scours have been a problem in the past, it should be considered. Other common diseases vaccinated for include Leptospirosis and Salmonella. Parasite control advice should also be sought from your vet. Suckler cows often go un-dosed, but is this the right thing to do?
Some will dose first calvers at drying, but not the mature cows. If in doubt, get your vet to take samples and establish your herd’s parasite burden and establish necessary control measures.
Ensure that you follow the manufacturer’s full recommendations when using doses and vaccines.
As I mentioned here a few weeks ago, it is important that sheds are cleaned out and disinfected, to avoid carryover of bugs from last winter.
In the past weeks, housing of cattle to be finished this winter began.
It is becoming obvious that these cattle are beginning to lose weight on grass alone or at the very best maintaining a constant weight. For many, it is not practical to supplement these advanced cattle, for reasons such as weather, underfoot conditions and the obvious farmer safety issues. As a result, it is best to get them indoors and begin finishing them.
Independent dairy and beef nutrition consultant Brian Reidy, Premier Farm Nutrition, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org