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William Kingston March Update

Plan fodder stocks for next winter

Plan fodder stocks for next winter

  • How much silage will be needed for stock?
  • How much will be left over from this year?
  • How many acres will have to be cut this year?
Assess ventilation in cattle sheds

Assess ventilation in cattle sheds

  • Are there cobwebs and dust present?
  • Are there any health issues such as coughing, respiratory disease when cattle are housed?
  • Complete ventilation calculations to assess if there is sufficient air inlets and outlets
Let priority stock to grass

Let priority stock to grass

  • Save on silage and meal costs by letting calved cows and young stock out to grass
  • Get silage fields grazed off before the end of March
  • Avoid giving cattle large areas of ground and move them off paddocks within 3 days to allow for grass recovery


The calved cows (8 cows, 7 calves) that were let out to grass are getting 64% DMD silage at night time, along with 1.5 kg of ration. This can be gradually reduced to 0.5 kg and then cut from their diet as they are in good body condition. They are let out to grass by day and are housed by night.

A fodder budget was completed for the farm. Based on a 5.5 month winter and stock numbers of 40 cows, 40 calves and 35 1-2 year olds, 712 tonnes (890 bales) of silage will be required for next winter. This does not include any ration that will be fed to cattle. William estimates that he will have 50t of silage left in the silage pit and 130 bales of silage. This means that he will have to make 558 tonnes (698 bales) of silage this year. Based on an average yield of 7.5 bales/acre, this means that around 47 acres will have to be cut twice for silage this year.

Animal Health

The ventilation requirements for cattle housed on the home block of land was calculated. The information required for this is the number of animals housed, the weight per animal, the total shed floor area, the air inlet area and the air outlet area.

When animals are grouped in a shed, they produce heat. This heat rises and when it hits the roof it can either be released through an outlet in the roof or if no outlet is available, it will cool down and come back down over the animals again. The air flowing back on the animals will carry harmful bugs and has been proven to cause ill-health and respiratory problems. As the heat from the animals rises, it is replaced by 100% fresh air. This is known as the ‘‘stack effect’’.

Evidence of poor ventilation can include cobwebs and dust in sheds, a smell of ammonia and/or dampness, animal health issues and elevated air temperatures.

For this shed, it was found that the air inlet area is not sufficient for the number of cattle in the shed. By pulling 20 metres of vented sheeting out by 0.23 metres on two sides of the shed, it should increase air flow in the shed without causing a draught and help to prevent any respiratory issues in cattle next winter.


On the out block, 8 cows and 7 calves have been let out for grazing by day since the first week in February. They are block grazing a paddock beside the shed and are given an allocation of grass to last them one day. They are then moved to a fresh block the following day. The cows are housed by night and are fed silage and some ration to prevent grass tetany. William finds that the cattle are healthier at grass, it saves on slurry storage, and it reduces the workload with feeding them and scraping down the shed. He finds that there is no extra work to letting them out. On frosty mornings he doesn’t let them out until around 10am when the ground has thawed to improve grass utilisation. He is also savings half a bale of silage per day, along with 2 kg of ration/cow which equates to approximately €20/day in direct feed costs. There is also the added advantage of the extra weight gained by the calves (approximately 0.5 kg/head/day).

As William and Mark are both working off farm, they have spent the last few weekends tidying up fencing in their silage ground and plan to let the autumn calves to grass by day first, followed by the cows when ground conditions allow. They have picked two fields with covers over 1,000 kg DM/ha that will be grazed out and closed for silage by the end of March. This will clean off the dead material in the fields and allow for fresh re-growths and better quality silage at cutting time. This land has already received 2,200 gallons of slurry per acre which was spread using the dribble bar.