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Mid-Season Management of the Suckler Herd


Tommy Cox, Teagasc Education Officer in Ballinrobe, talks about mid-season management of the suckler herd through grazing management, preparing stock for sale, and cow and calf management. He also discusses breeding and calving pattern, parasite control and the BEEP-S.

With the summer slipping by the old saying, ‘time wait for no one’ springs to mind. As we move into the second half of the year, now is a good time for suckler farmers to take stock of where they are at on their own farms and look at some of the main areas that require attention as we head into the late summer / early autumn period.

Grazing Management

Continuing to maintain an adequate supply of quality grass in front of stock at all times is important to ensure maximum animal performance. Recent rainfall should further push on grass growth following the dry period with the majority of farms having a good supply of grass at present, with very dry farms the exception.  Ideally graze grass covers at 9-10cm high and graze down to a height of 4-5cm high. Where paddocks got strong earlier in the summer or where there are high levels of stem material present topping may be required to maintain quality.  Paddocks where grass covers are too strong should be removed as baled silage. Farmers will shortly have to start building grass covers to try and prolong the grazing season as long as possible into the late autumn.

Preparing stock for sale

For farmers looking to sell weanlings in the coming weeks and months these animals must be treated as priority stock in order to maximise performance and subsequent sale value. Where good quality grass is available these stock should be given priority access to this grass.  After-grass is an ideal quality feed and relatively clean from parasites. Where grass supply is tight or not of sufficient quality, farmers should look at introducing concentrates to weanlings for 4-6 weeks before sale.

Cow and calf management

From now on the milk contribution towards calf performance will be reducing, therefore, allowing calves to creep graze ahead of cows gives them priority access to the best quality grass which will help maintain their performance. With an adequate supply of quality grass, less meal is required giving a potential cost saving for the farm. Installing a creep gate or by raising an electric fence wire are simple cost effective ways of facilitating forward creep grazing of calves.

In the coming weeks with weather becoming more unpredictable and increased pressure on cows, farmers should be cautious of Grass Tetany in suckler cows and magnesium supplementation is advised to reduce the risk of an incidence occurring.

Breeding

At this stage breeding for the majority of spring calving herds has finished and the temptation can be sometimes there to prolong it for a few more weeks. This is where farmers have to be ruthless and stick to the plan to ensure a tight calving pattern for next spring. A tight calving pattern allows for easier management of stock, reduced labour and fewer groups of stock. Scanning can take place 30 days after the stock bull was removed or 30 days after the last AI insemination and this is important to identify cows not in-calf so they can be culled.  

Parasite control

Ensuring an animal remains healthy and free from any parasitic burden is important in maintaining performance as we head into the autumn. During the grazing season, fluke and worms are the main two parasites that affect stock with both stomach and lungworms (Hoose) been particularly prevalent in the second half of grazing season. Recent warm humid weather conditions provide the ideal environment and farmers must remain vigilant when herding. Faecal sampling to determine parasite burden works extremely well but other tell-tale signs of issues include scouring and lack of thrive.  Where lung worm (Hoose) is an issue, a husky cough especially when animals are being moved, can be evident. Where hoose burdens are suspected farmers must act fast as infected stock are susceptible to respiratory diseases due to lung damage. Thus, it is important to treat calves for lungworms well in advance of weaning. Lungworms can be controlled by dosing in July and again two weeks before housing. When dosing ensure the correct dosing procedure is followed to ensure it works.

BEEP-S

Farmers participating in the BEEP-S scheme should be planning to complete all their chosen actions over the next few weeks, especially farmers selling weanlings over the next 2-3 months.  It is important all actions chosen are correctly carried out and recorded correctly to maximize your BEEP-S payment.

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