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Start preparing now for next Spring

As things quieten down, there is an opportunity to prepare in for what is normally the busiest time of the year - calving season. John McNamara, Teagasc/Carbery Joint Programme Co-ordinator outlines some of the key areas which can be looked at in the coming weeks in advance of the calving season.

As the year draws to a close and spring calving herds begin to dry off their cows it is nice to reduce the workload and try to recharge the batteries. As things quieten down, there is an opportunity to prepare in for what is normally the busiest time of the year - calving season. Spare time is usually at a premium during those busy months in spring, so it is important to be as prepared as possible before things start to kick off. Ideally, a checklist should be made of what needs to be done over the coming six to eight weeks.

The key areas to focus on are:

Be organised

Have all the equipment required in place such as calving equipment; disinfectant; stomach tubes/feeding bottles; iodine; arm length gloves; electrolytes/ calf jackets/ infa-red lamp and order enough tags. 

Body Condition Score Cows

Condition score your cows and group them where possible to feed according to Body Condition Score in order to have them calving at 3 – 3.5 BCS.  Test your silage and order a good quality dry cow mineral mix. The majority of metabolic disorders occur during the spring period so feeding a balanced mineral with a particular focus on the Phosphorous, Magnesium and Vitamin D levels is required. Start on time, for at least six weeks before calving. Make sure cows have received all their required vaccines. 

Have appropriate housing

Set up your sheds to suit your winter routine and make life as easy as possible. If there are any adjustments to be made to the sheds, it is not too late to get the work done.  Ensure calf and calving pens are clean and thoroughly disinfected. Calf houses need to be ventilated, draught free and have adequate space for the number for calves intended for the house (min 1.5m2 per calf). Calves need access to clean water and feed also. Ensure calving gate and calving jack are in good working order, so as to be able to handle animals in a safe way.

Have additional help/labour

Make sure you have enough help/labour during the peak months. Are there people local to you that you could approach about working in the spring.  Could you team up with other farmers to source labour; Be flexible and open-minded when it comes to taking people on. That flexibility can unearth people you may not otherwise consider. Take them on before things get busy to teach them the different skills and to familiarise themselves with the layout of the farmyard etc. 

The calving season can be a stressful time of the year, but can be made easier by being organised and setting the farm up so things can run as smoothly as possible. It is important to look after yourself and your family during these quieter months by getting rest when you can and to eat healthy. Finally, remember to think about farm safety when going about your daily routine to avoid accidents especially when fatigue sets in.