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Kay O'Sullivan September/October Update

Protecting weanlings this autumn

Protecting weanlings this autumn

  • Ensure weanlings have received vaccines at least 2 weeks before any stress periods
  • Plan your weaning process to minimise stress on calves
  • Continue to take FEC samples from younger cattle
Managing grass this September

Managing grass this September

  • Are you meeting tour autumn grass targets?
  • Have you a closing plan in place?
  • Aim to have 80% of the farm closed by mid-December at the latest if you have cattle and sheep
Weighing for BEEP and to see how finishing cattle are performing

Weighing for BEEP and to see how finishing cattle are performing

  • Draft cattle as they become fit for slaughter
  • Make sure calves and cows are weighed for the BEEP scheme before 1st November
  • Use weighing results to identify any poor performing cows

Animal Health

Kay took a FEC sample from her calves in mid-September which showed 100 egss per gram strongyles, but negative results for lung worms, tapeworms and nematodirus, with a low positive result for coccidia. Based on these results they don’t need to be dosed, but they will be sampled again to watch the stomach worms burden.

The calves received a vaccine on 19th September to protect against RSV and Pi3. They will get a booster for this on 8th October, along with a live vaccine against IBR. This will ensure that calves have adequate immunity built up before the males are castrated after 22nd October to help prevent any respiratory disease. Weaning of the calves will then take place around November/December.

Kay plans her health protocols for the autumn around the weaning process to minimise stress and the risk of disease on calves as much as possible. They are regularly FEC sampled to ensure that they have no heavy burden of stomach worms or lung worms at weaning, and are treated based on results if necessary. They receive their full course of vaccines against respiratory disease at least 2 weeks in advance of any stress periods (weaning/castration/housing) to ensure that they have adequate immunity developed. The bull calves are castrated before weaning so that they are still with their dams afterwards during the recovery period. Kay decides which calves to wean based on the cows’ calving dates. She uses nose paddles on the calves as she finds the calves and cows are much quieter to wean. After 7-10 days with the nose paddles, around one third of the cows are then removed from the main grazing group. This minimises any sudden changes to the calves’ environment and ensures they are still with familiar stock, in familiar paddocks on the same diet of grass. This process has worked well for Kay in the past and she plans to continue with it in the future.


Kay is continuing to measure grass on the farm and has a farm cover of 748 kg DM/ha as of 23rd September. Grass is growing at 18 kg DM/ha/day and the demand on the farm is 17 kg DM/ha. Kay also has 44 days of grass ahead and is happy with this. The target for September is to have an average farm cover of >1000 kg DM/ha and over 25 days of grass ahead. However as Kay has a lower stocking rate and 44 days of grass ahead, she is happy with her farm cover as paddocks could get too strong for grazing otherwise.

Kay has set her autumn rotation planner up on PastureBase. Her farming system is a little different as she has sheep and cattle on the farm, and also out winters stock on the farm which is manageable because of her lower stocking rate (1.12 LU/ha at present). Heifers (3), bullocks (2) and lambs (~25) will be drafted for slaughter as they come fit before the end of the year, which will help to reduce the demand at grass further.

Therefore her autumn rotational planner is a combination of both the cattle and sheep autumn planners. She plans to start closing paddocks on the farm from 22nd October. She will aim to have 20% of the farm grazed by the end of October, 40% by early November, 60% by mid-November and 80% by early December. The remaining 20% will be accessible by the suckler cows over winter where they will have access to silage in a shed, but can also graze paddocks beside the shed to give them exercise and help to keep them fit before calving. This works well for Kay’s farm as she has dry land and finds that the cattle are healthier outdoors over winter. The ewes will be housed before lambing, which will start at the end of January/early February.

The in calf heifers and any remaining cattle for finishing will be moved to the redstart around November.

The purpose of having an autumn closing plan is to set the farm up for grazing in spring. Benefits of it are:

Advantages of having an autumn closing plan are:

  • - It’s free.
  • - Shorter housing period.
  • - Healthier stock.
  • - It will allow you to turn out stock with confidence in the spring.
  • - Grass is a better feed than silage.
  • - It gets young cattle thriving early in the spring.
  • - It gets cows on a rising plain of nutrition after calving in the spring back in calf easier.


Kay weighed the 2022 spring born calves on her farm on 17th September. The heifer calves were an average weight of 204kg, having gained 1.07 kg/day since birth (average birth date 15th April). The bulls weighed 237kg, having gained 1.23kg/day since birth (average birth date 14th April 2022).

From the ICBF weaning performance report, the 200 day weight of the heifer calves was 293kg, which is close to the target of 300kg. The 200 day weight for the bull calves was 250kg which was exactly on target.

The average cow weight was 685kg and the weaning efficiency of the cows was 40%. The target for this is 42%, so that calves will be 50% of their dam’s weight at weaning.

Stock GroupNo. CattleWeighing Date

Average Weight 


ADG Since Last Weighing
2022 Heifers 12 17/09/22 204

1.07 kg/day

(Since birth)

2022 Bulls 12 17/09/22 237

1.23 kg/day

(Since birth)

One finishing bullock is booked into the factory on 6th October. He weighed 552kg on 21st September. One heifer will also be going that was 489kg on the same date.