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John Barry September/October Update 2023

Weaning & weather related sickness

Weaning & weather related sickness

  • Preparation for weaning
  • IBR testing of cows for National Beef Welfare Scheme
  • Health issues in autumn calves
Fodder budgeting for the winter

Fodder budgeting for the winter

  • Updating the fodder budget
  • Following autumn rotation plan to stretch grass in the diet as long as possible
  • Plans to sell stock
Weights update

Weights update

  • Spring herd weighed
  • 200 day calf weights
  • Weaning efficiency of cows

Animal Health

John is preparing for weaning with his spring herd and is trying to avoid stressing hem as much as possible. The bulls were castrated last month and all the weanlings have been given a booster vaccine against RSV, Pi3 and Mannheimia. Some of them were selectively treated for coccidiosis as well. The have moved up to graze the silage ground with their cows and John plans to use the anti-suckling nose paddles to wean them when they return to the yard. The creep feeder is in the field with them so that they can get used to eating ration at least 4 weeks pre-weaning. They will likely be housed before the end of October and will be given a 1-2 week adjustment period before weaning. They can then go back to grass if weather conditions allow.

Spring herd grazing silage ground

Figure 1: Some of the spring born weanlings

Ten cows and 10 heifers have been tested for IBR as part of the National Beef Welfare Scheme and John is awaiting results from this. He has had a history of IBR in the herd and vaccinates all stock against it.

Unfortunately the unsettled weather has caused bother for the autumn calves. Some of them became infested with maggots at less than a week old and had to be treated. They did not have any scour and were at grass when it happened so John is watching them very closely. An outbreak of rotavirus occurred the following week and calves had to be treated for it. The remaining cows to calve have been vaccinated against rotavirus, coronavirus and e.coli in an effort to prevent any further cases.

Autumn born calves at grass

Figure 2: The autumn calves are creep grazing ahead of the cows already

Animal Nutrition

John was confident that he made enough silage for the winter in August. However with the wet autumn, bales of silage were fed at grass to cattle to increase the dry matter in their diets and he has eaten into some of his winter surplus. John usually has a 5 month winter and after amending his fodder budget the remaining silage will cover all the stock until the end of March, if housed at the end of October.

Fortunately grass is available on the farm and John is following an autumn closing plan to ensure that he also has grass next spring. Based on this he will have the autumn herd and store cattle at grass until the end of October and the spring herd will likely be housed in mid to late October.

John plans to sell store cattle in January and if feed stocks get tight they may be sold earlier. The spring cull cows will be fed and sold in the coming month and he also sowed some redstart this year which will provide an extra outdoor feed source to the yearlings. As he is aware of this feed challenge early in the winter period, John can feed ration or straights to the cattle indoors to reduce the silage required. All of this of course is weather dependant but because John has a fodder budget completed he can plan early.

Store cattle at grass

Figure 3: Store cattle at grass


John weighed his spring herd for the SCEP scheme on 30th September. The ICBF 200 day report shows that his heifers gained 1.11 kg/day since birth and had a 200 day weight of 265kg which is above the target of 250kg. The bulls gained 1.21kg/day and had a 200 day weight of 291kg which was close to the target of 300kg.

The average cow weight is 682 and the weaning efficiency is 41%. This is a measure of the calf 200 day weight as a percentage of the cow’s weight. The target is 42% so that the cows will wean a calf that is 50% or more of their own body weight. Overall John is happy with the weights this year considering the challenging weather conditions over the summer.

Weaning performance report

Figure 4: Spring born calf performance from ICBF weaning performance report