There’s no rush to move stock in­doors

Irish Examiner - Farming - - BEEF SECTOR - Brian Reidy

The good spell of weather over the past few weeks means there is still a lot of grass on many farms. Con­di­tions are ex­cel­lent for graz­ing with sur­faces still hard and dust still ris­ing. Any sig­nif­i­cant rain at this stage of the year will see soil con­di­tions de­te­ri­o­rate and as a re­sult grass util­i­sa­tion will de­crease on most land types. Pad­docks are be­ing grazed out very well at present, set­ting them up well for next spring. At this time of year, grass is low in dry mat­ter, low in en­ergy and high in pro­tein. This means it is of low feed value and this must be taken into ac­count when de­cid­ing what an­i­mals should re­main out to graze it.

Suck­ler man­age­ment

Many suck­ler farms will still only have some of their stock in­doors, if any. How­ever, hous­ing is not far away once all of the grass has gone or weather con­di­tions de­te­ri­o­rate. Man­age­ment of a suck­ler herd changes a lot once in­doors. Most suck­lers seem to calve with­out as­sis­tance when out­doors. Once in­doors, with less ex­er­cise and a typ­i­cally lower plain of nu­tri­tion, cows are of­ten slower to calve and some­times re­quire as­sis­tance.

Late spring/sum­mer calvers with calves

Cows still with calves at foot must be fed ac­cord­ingly. Try to sup­ply suf­fi­cient en­ergy for milk pro­duc­tion re­mem­ber­ing she is also grow­ing her next calf. If cows are in good con­di­tion at hous­ing their diet should aim to main­tain that con­di­tion up to dry­ing off. A silage test will al­low you de­vise the nu­tri­tional re­quire­ments more ac­cu­rately.

Au­tumn calver’s diet in­doors

Cows with young calves must sup­ply suf­fi­cient milk to grow the calf well while also re­quir­ing en­ergy to go back in calf. Again, silage re­sults should de­ter­mine if these cows re­quire sup­ple­men­ta­tion or not once housed. In most cases, sup­ple­men­ta­tion will be re­quired this win­ter as silages are test­ing poorly, while silage may also be in short sup­ply.

In­door calv­ing — just how ap­pro­pri­ate is your setup?

Are your han­dling fa­cil­i­ties ap­pro­pri­ate for suck­lers? Some suck­ler cows can get very ag­gres­sive around calv­ing and can be very pro­tec­tive of their off­spring. Most farms now have a pur­pose built calv­ing gate which re­strains the cow at calv­ing if nec­es­sary. These gates are also ideal for get­ting a calf started suck­ling safely. Check that your calv­ing jack is in full work­ing or­der and the ropes are close at hand. A source of cold wa­ter in the calv­ing box is also handy to help re­sus­ci­tate a calf af­ter a dif­fi­cult calv­ing. En­sure the calv­ing cam­era is work­ing to avoid un-nec­es­sary vis­its to the shed dis­turb­ing cows and par­tic­u­larly heifers in the process of calv­ing. Suck­lers can get stressed around calv­ing if dis­turbed.

Calv­ing Box prepa­ra­tion

It is a good idea where pos­si­ble to clean out and dis­in­fect calv­ing boxes be­tween calv­ings. How easy is it to ac­cess calv­ing boxes to clean them out? Do you need to up­date your calv­ing fa­cil­i­ties to make it safer for you and your stock and health­ier for them also? Hy­giene around calv­ing is crit­i­cal for sub­se­quent calf health.

Get­ting your calves off to a good healthy start

Get­ting am­ple colostrum into a calf soon af­ter calv­ing pro­vides much needed an­ti­bod­ies. This will help to boost the calves’ nat­u­ral im­mune re­sponse fur­ther re­duc­ing the in­ci­dence of dis­ease. If you have vac­ci­nated for scour, it will be of no ben­e­fit if you don’t get suf­fi­cient colostrum into calves in the first few hours af­ter birth. Where pos­si­ble get the calf up and drink­ing ASAP and mon­i­tor their suck­ling ac­tiv­ity in the first few hours.

Ma­ter­nity care

Once a cow has calved in­doors it is ideal if fa­cil­i­ties al­low you to leave the cow and calf in a sin­gle box for as long as pos­si­ble. This will al­low first calvers in par­tic­u­lar to bond with their off­spring and get used to the calf suck­ling. It also al­lows you to mon­i­tor the cow’s in­take and re­duce the risk of any meta­bolic dis­or­ders which may oc­cur soon af­ter calv­ing.

Calf creep fa­cil­i­ties

When the cow and calf re­turn to the main herd it is im­por­tant that the pens are not over­crowded. Most suck­ler cows are housed on slats or cu­bi­cles and with either it is best prac­crit­i­cal tice from an an­i­mal per­for­mance point of view that calves have ac­cess to a sep­a­rate creep area.

A calf creep area doesn’t need to be to elab­o­rate but should pro­vide the ba­sics of a warm, dry, clean bed with ac­cess to feed and clean wa­ter. In­de­pen­dent dairy and beef nu­tri­tion con­sul­tant Brian Reidy, Premier Farm Nu­tri­tion, can be con­tacted at

At Bal­lina Mart, Sean Bourke, Rat­lacken Suck­ler, Best Heifer U-36monthsspon­soredby Dun­leavy Meats, and pre­sented by mart man­ager, Billy lof­tus.

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