Tips for wean­ing to go smoothly

Irish Examiner - Farming - - BEEF SECTOR - Brian Reidy

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.

Wean­lings

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.

Dry cows

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 brian@pfn.ie

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