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Ed Curtin July/August Update

DairyX calf health and performance

DairyX calf health and performance

  • Vaccinate autumn calving cows if necessary
  • Treat young cattle for lungworms if they start coughing
  • Monitor dairy beef calf performance and avoid stressing them where possible
Meeting grass management targets

Meeting grass management targets

  • Adjust stock weights on PBI if required
  • Target 16-18 days of grass ahead
  • Target a farm cover of 700-800 kg DM/ha
Soil fertility is crucial for grass growth

Soil fertility is crucial for grass growth

  • Check on paddock yields from your PastureBase information
  • Identify fields that need lime and spread it if they haven’t got it already
  • Continue to record graze dates on PastureBase app as cattle leave a paddock

Animal Health

The in calf heifers and cows will be vaccinated against rotavirus and coronavirus 3 to 12 weeks before calving to prevent scours caused by these agents in the calves.

All young cattle (except the in calf heifers) were treated for lungworms on 14th July as they were starting to cough. Ed also suspects that the dairy beef calves are showing symptoms of coccidiosis and will be treating them for it.

No mastitis cases have occurred since the last visit.

The calves suffered after turnout to grass last year where they got very shook and developed coppery coats after 9-10 days at grass. The out farm is in a high Molybdenum area and it was suspected that they were affected by copper lock up. Therefore this year they were treated with a copper bolus before turnout and are also getting mineral tablets through the water which contain Copper, Iodine, Selenium, Cobalt, Zinc, Manganese and Multi-vitamins. The recommended rate is 2 tablets per week/head for cattle over 300kg.

Before moving the calves to the out farm, Ed zero grazed the calves in a shed to get their stomachs used to grass. He then let them out to graze, but they had full time access to a shed when needed. They were on 2-3 kg of ration/head/day and also had access to hay. Ed moved them to the out farm and reduced their ration to 1-1.5 kg/head/day. They got no ration for the first 2 days after turnout due to other commitments that arose. About 10 days after turnout Ed noticed that the coppery coats reappeared again and the calves appeared to have very loose dung. He continued to feed ration and gave them a bale of hay. They are there about 5 weeks now and are recovering quicker than last year which is good to see.

It appears that while copper lock up is likely playing a role, stress on the calves and the sudden change in diet is affecting them. Some ways of avoiding this next year are:

  • Continue to give copper bolus before turnout
  • Turn calves out to grass full time on home farm for 2-3 weeks before moving to out farm
  • Only feed 1-1.5kg of ration/head/day to calves before and after turnout to grass
  • Continue to feed long fibre in the form of hay or straw to calves after turnout to grass to help promote rumen development


The reseed was badly affected by heavy rainfall which caused big ruts in the field which is being repaired today.

Ed measured grass on 10th July on the out farm and was disappointed with the growth rates. He was feeding out silage for a period of time to stretch covers. After looking through his stock details he updated the weights of the stock that were on the farm which may have been underestimating the demand. The average farm cover is in a good place at 854 kg DM/ha but the growth is low at 32 kg DM/ha. After updating the stock weights the demand changed from 41 to 48 kg DM/ha and the days ahead were adjusted from 21 to 18 days ahead. The grass demand will reduce slightly as the in calf heifers will be going home to calve but as the dairy beef yearlings and calves are growing, their intakes will continue to increase.

Soil Fertility

Fertiliser in the form of 27-2.5-5 was spread on 5th July at a rate of 1 bag per acre to help improve grass growth. Ed is disappointed in the overall grass growth as his highest growth rate this year was only 49 kg DM/ha. 

Each paddock has received an average of 80 units of nitrogen per acre year to date, 16.8 units of phosphorus and 33 units of potassium. The Teagasc green book recommends an application rate of 142 units N/acre per year for a calf to beef grazing system at a stocking rate of 2.75 LU/ha which is similar to Ed’s stocking rate. It assumes the first application is from Jan/Feb (12 units per acre), March and April (24 units /acre/month), May (22 units/acre), June (18 units/acre), July/Aug (24 units/acre) and finishing in September at 18 units/acre. However Ed did not start grazing until around 9th April and has spread fertiliser on each paddock between 3 to 5 times since then, with the first round of applications starting on 23rd April.

The paddock yields at present are averaging 4.26 t DM/ha and this is ranging from 1.87 to 8.35 t DM/ha. It appears that soil fertility is variable between the best performing paddocks and the poorer performing paddocks with indexes ranging from 1 to 3 for P and K. However the soil pH appeared to be higher in the best performing paddocks than the poorer paddocks. Ed spread lime on the farm on 1st April so this will improve the soil pH and help improve the response to fertiliser. Most notably the percentage of perennial ryegrass is higher in the better performing fields and they have been reseeded more recently than the poorer fields. The grass growth will be monitored over the remainder of this year’s grazing season to see if the yield improves or reduces in individual paddocks. It will also be important to continue to record graze dates accurately to have a correct estimation of paddock yields.