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Michael & Niall Biggins November/December Update 2023



  • Winter housing plan for the Suckler Herd
  • 33 weanlings have finished grazing and will be housed shortly
  • The last of culled cows will be sold live to the local mart
Animal Health

Animal Health

  • All stock will be clipped and dosed for lice
  • 2 incidences of rumen fluke causes Michael some concern about the remainder of the herd
  • With the majority of the herd housed – faecal samples will be taken
Animal Nutrition

Animal Nutrition


  • Michael has sourced his dry cow mineral




To ensure optimum animal welfare and performance over the winter period the stock are penned as follows

  • Mature Spring calving cows according to calving date
  • Cows that calved for the first time in 2023
  • In calf heifers calving at 2 years of age in 2024
  • Weanling heifers
  • Remaining unsold Weanlings males

The mature cows are currently getting last years silage  while the 1st calvers plus the weanlings get the best  first cut silage. The in –calf heifers are in very good body condition and the aim is to have this group fit not fat at calving.  Generally 1 bale of silage is fed to 14 cows every 2 days to ensure that they don’t get overfat.

 Picture 1: in calf heifers are getting 1st cut silage

Picture 2: All stock need their backs and tails clipped/treated for lice and then penned

33 weanling heifers remained on grass until the end of November. Michael has them divided into 2 groups. The heavier group are getting 2 kgs of meal while the lighter group are getting 2.5kgs/head/day. Despite the weather , they have grazed off a heavy cover of grass and have been very content outside. As winter housing will be tight, Michael might select 5-6 of the better CH heifers and sell them and keep the remainder until spring.

Once housed the heifers will get the first cut silage and 2 kgs of meal/head/day.

 Picture 3: The heavier group of heifers getting 2kg at grass

Picture 4: This group is getting 2kg of meal

Michael is hoping to select some replacement heifers from this group . They will get preferential treatment over the winter . They will need to be 380-400kgs in May in order to get selected to come into the main herd. They will also be 4 and 5 star heifers.

Animal Health

In November , 2 of the weanling heifers had rumen fluke. Niall treated them immediately with Zanil and while they recovered , one of the heifers was quiet sick. Rumen fuke has not been an issue on the farm for years. While there are no obvious signs of other animals having rumen fluke, Michael is reluctant to go in and blanket treat the herd. He will take faecal samples to determine any more incidences of fluke . The sample will also detect any evidence of both lung and stomach worms.

Picture 5- Faecal sampling will be taken

Picture 6: Cow catcher to help with oral dosing, Michael uses this cather while Niall administers the dose 

Animal Nutrition


Michael will start feeding the dry cow mineral in January but has it sourced already. He looks for a good quality mineral that will meet the following requirements;

Macro Minerals

Magnesium (Mg):  Magnesium plays a crucial role in mobilising calcium from bones and increasing gut absorption, to reduce milk fever. Low levels of magnesium can also cause slow calving. Magnesium is not stored in the body, so it is very important it be fed right up to calving.

After calving Mg supplementation is required especially on lush spring or autumn grass to prevent grass tetany.  

Phosphorous (P): Makes up approx. 30% of total minerals in the body. A phosphorous deficiency can severly affect reproduction, causing silent heats, irregular oestrus and low conception rates. Low phosphorous is also associated with pica – i.e. eating stones etc.  

Sodium (Na):  Aids in nutrient transfer, waste removal, involved in muscle and heart contraction, rumen and blood pH. Deficiency signs are urine licking, reduced male fertility, lower milk production and depraved eating behaviour.

Calcium (Ca):   Calcium maintains normal muscle function and a deficiency can cause difficult calving’s and retained placenta. Obviously once a cow is lactating the requirement for calcium increases dramatically, it is a deficiency in calcium that cause milk fever.  A cow is unable to physically consume her calcium requirement, she has to mobilise it from her own bones. In order for her to be able to do this post calving, she has to start pre calving. Magnesium aids in this process and this is why minerals high in magnesium are fed pre calving. If calcium is fed pre calving, it meets her pre-calving requirement and she won’t have started the process of mobilising calcium from her bones and this will lead to a deficiency after calving, therefore - Do not feed calcium pre calving.

Trace elements

Copper (Cu): Deficiency can lead to small weak calves, scours and decreased milk. In weanlings, it can cause poor growth rates.

Selenium (Se): One of the few elements that can pass through the placenta from the cow to the calf. It is important as a deficiency can cause muscular dystrophy (weakening and wasting of muscle). Some areas are high in Se, so you should test your silage to ensure you do not cause a toxicity. A deficiency can also cause an issue with retained placentas.

Iodine (I): Deficiency can cause small weak calves, dead or hairless calves, or calves that do not want to suck. The animal will have low immunity. It can also lead to poor reproductive performance. It is also not stored in the body and needs to be fed right up to calving.

Cobalt (Co): Involved in the synthesis of B12 by the rumen, deficiencies more often seen in sheep. Can cause a rough coat, poor appetite and anaemia.

Manganese (Mn): A deficiency can affect growth, bone formation and the nervous system leading to poor growth, reproduction and bowing of the joints.

Zinc (Zn): Plays a role in the immune system and repair of damaged tissues. while it is also involved in the synthesis and metabolism of proteins and carbohydrates, teat keratin formation. A deficiency can lead to poor skin, mastitis, slow healing of wounds, bad hoofs and stiff joints. It can also lead to lower conception rates.