Proinnsias Creedon February Update
Measure grass and set up spring grazing plan
- Walk farm and measure grass
- Identify paddocks suitable for grazing for stock (sheltered, covers 800-900 kg DM/ha)
- Set up spring rotation planner on PastureBase and record grazing dates to monitor progress
Know what to look for when buying calves
- Buying calves directly from a farm will reduce stress on calves and reduce the risk of disease
- Check that there is no evidence of disease, injury or discharge and that calves are alert with a clean damp nose and bright eyes
- Have a health plan in place for bought-in calves
Check nutrient levels of milk replacer and ration for dairyX calves
- Check labels of milk replacer and calf ration before buying them
- Ensure they meet the nutrient recommendations outlined below
- Give calves ad-lib access to a fibre source (preferably straw) and clean water
Proinnsias and Ciarán have two grass walks completed so far this year. The latest farm cover is 753 kg DM/ha and these range from 75 to 1450 kg DM/ha. As parts of the farm are heavy in nature and are still quite wet, it will be a challenge for Proinnsias to achieve his spring grazing targets.
The aim of the spring rotation planner is to save on feed costs, improve the live weight gain of cattle and to set up paddocks for the second round of grazing. As Proinnsias has a heavy farm his targets are to:
- Graze 33% of the farm (grazing ground) by 17th March (4.16 adjusted acres/week if starting week of 14th Feb)
- Graze a further 33% (silage ground) by early April (10.4 adjusted acres/ week, total of 66% grazed)
- Graze final 33% (grazing ground) by 20th April (6.93 acres/week, total of 100% grazed)
By early April, the grass growth on the farm should match what is required by the cattle and paddocks that are grazed early have sufficient time to recover. By setting targets, Proinnsias can monitor the area grazed weekly.
Proinnsias’s biggest challenge will be to complete the first rotation by 20th April and to get his silage ground grazed. The finishing cattle will not be going back to grass, so he will have 31 x yearlings and 28 x 1-2 year old cattle for grazing. To achieve his grazing targets, Proinnsias will have to start grazing lower covers to ensure that he meets his weekly targets. He has already planned which paddocks to let stock to as they are sheltered and have covers ~850 kg DM/ha when weather allows. The cattle will not get any silage the previous night so that they will be hungry going to grass and this will avoid unnecessary poaching of fields.
A spring rotation planner has been set up on PastureBase Ireland which Proinnsias can use to track his progress, by entering the dates that paddocks are grazed as cattle leave them. Soil temperatures ranged from 8.3 to 8.9oC on the farm.
Proinnsias plan to buy 30 Angus and Hereford dairyX calves from the week of 20th February. He would prefer to buy them directly from farms where possible to reduce the risk of disease, but will source them through marts where necessary.
When buying calves, they should be assessed carefully to ensure that they are healthy and fit for transport. They should be at least 10 days of age, have firm and worn flat hooves, have a dry, shrivelled and withered umbilical cord, be alert with a clean damp nose and bright eyes, have supple skin and a shiny coat, have no signs of disease, injury or discharge and must not be lame.
When calves are being transported to the farm they should have 0.3-0.4 m2 per <50kg calf and travel in a clean, dry and disinfected trailer. The front of the trailer should be solid, there should be no sharp projections, the floor should be non-slip and the ramp angle should be less than 36.4%/20o00’.
A few days after arrival to the farm, calves will receive an intranasal vaccination to prevent respiratory disease caused by RSV & Pi3. This protocol has been put in place after discussion with Proinnsias's vet after an outbreak of pneumonia occurred a number of years ago.
Proinnsias has purchased milk replacer at a cost of €58 per 25kg bag.
Milk replacers should be fed as indicated by the manufacturer and should meet the following recommendations:
- Have milk-derived proteins sources, which include skim milk powder and whey powder
- >20% crude protein
- 18-20% fat
- <0.15% crude fibre
- 1% calcium
- 0.7% phosphorus
- 9,000 IU/kg vitamin A
- 600 IU/kg vitamin D
- 50 IU/kg vitamin E
Rations for calves should be:
- Coarse ration, i.e. not pellets
- >18% crude protein
- 13-14 MJ/kg dry matter (0.95 UFL)
- Max. 4% oil
- 8-10% crude fibre
Calves also need to be fed a fibre source such as hay, or ideally straw, to help develop their rumens and prevent digestive upsets, along with having full-time access to clean, fresh water.
On arrival to the farm, the calves will follow this feeding schedule as recommended for the first four days:
- Day 1 PM: Ad lib access to warm electrolyte solution and allow the calf to rest overnight
- Day 2 AM: 2L of milk replacer (38oC)
- Day 2 PM: 2L of electrolyte solution (38oC)
- Day 3 AM: 2L of milk replacer (38oC) & a handful of ration
- Day 3 PM: 2L of electrolyte solution (38oC)
- Day 4: Normal feeding schedule and ad lib access to ration