Fod­der short­age ad­vice for beef and dairy farms

Irish Examiner - Farming - - FRONT PAGE - Brian Reidy

If this win­ter/spring ever ends, stock might get out to the fields, and when this oc­curs, care­ful man­age­ment is re­quired for a smooth tran­si­tion to grass. Many freshly calved suck­ler cows will be turned out to grass in the week or two, weather per­mit­ting. Or should that be, feed sup­plies lim­it­ing?

Grass cov­ers are very dis­ap­point­ing around the coun­try, if it warms up, graz­ing swards off will be the best way to en­cour­age growth, if sufficient fer­tiliser was ap­plied.

Te­tany risk

There have been re­ports of suck­ler cows go­ing down with te­tany in the re­cent cold and wet spell, due to mag­ne­sium de­fi­ciency. Grass is in­her­ently de­fi­cient in mag­ne­sium, and it is worth not­ing that cows are gen­er­ally de­fi­cient in mag­ne­sium long be­fore they drop with te­tany. A mag­ne­sium de­fi­ciency may re­sult in poor saliva pro­duc­tion, and sub­se­quently poorer di­ges­tion of feed, and lower pro­duc­tion. Mag­ne­sium is a ma­jor min­eral es­sen­tial for per­for­mance in cat­tle. There are many ways to get sufficient mag­ne­sium into cows, some more ef­fec­tive than oth­ers. High-mag lick buck­ets are prob­a­bly the most com­mon method in Ire­land, and work very well if buck­ets are al­ways ac­ces­si­ble. Some use a high-Ob­served mag feed block to sup­ple­ment grass and prevent te­tany. Mag­ne­sium in wa­ter troughs is a pop­u­lar method but may be less ef­fec­tive in wet weather when cows drink less from troughs.

Some may feed a dairy meal to suck­lers at times of te­tany risk, par­tic­u­larly if grass is in short sup­ply. Dust­ing of pad­docks with mag­ne­sium may work very well but I am not con­vinced it is the most ef­fec­tive method. Be sure of your facts be­fore you de­pend on any sin­gle method of te­tany pro­tec­tion, and stick rigidly to what­ever method you choose. The cost of preven­tion is in­signif­i­cant com­pared to los­ing cows.

Get­ting cows back in calf

In­creas­ing grass in­take quickly for both cow and calf will im­prove per­for­mance and re­duce stress. At turn out, the most im­por­tant things to mon­i­tor are grass in­take and ru­men fill. Poor grass in­takes should be sup­ple­mented with for­ages or con­cen­trates. Most suck­lers cows will lose body con­di­tion after calv­ing. This needs to be con­trolled in or­der to pro­duce enough qual­ity milk for her calf while go­ing back in calf quickly. Grass qual­ity and sup­ply will de­ter­mine if you need to sup­ple­ment cows with ad­di­tional for­age or con­cen­trates .

Bull fer­til­ity

An in­fer­tile or sub-fer­tile bull can throw your calv­ing pat­tern into to­tal dis­ar­ray. Empty cows are a se­ri­ous cost to any herd. Mon­i­tor your bull’s ac­tiv­ity closely, aim to keep ac­cu­rate heat de­tec­tion records. heats should be recorded, to watch for re­peats; this will aid in un­cov­er­ing any is­sues with fer­til­ity.

If buy­ing a new bull, try to get him on the farm well in ad­vance of putting him to work.

Many breed­ers now get bulls fer­til­ity tested be­fore sale. It gives the buyer and seller great peace of mind. Buy­ers should de­mand a re­cent fer­til­ity cert be­fore part­ing with money for a new bull.

Breed­ing will be­gin soon, so get your new or old bull ready for ac­tion! Bulls should be in good body con­di­tion be­fore the breed­ing sea­son starts.

In­de­pen­dent dairy and beef nu­tri­tion con­sul­tant Brian Reidy, Pre­mier Farm Nu­tri­tion, can be con­tacted at

Pic­ture: O’Gor­man

The cham­pion An­gus at the re­cent Cor­rin Mart bull show and sale, Sheafield Neville, shown by owner Nor­man Richard­son, Car­rick-On-Shan­non, Co Leitrim; in­cluded are Ben and Elaine Ryall, Water­grasshill, who judged the show, and mart com­mit­tee mem­bers...

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