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December 2017 Farm Management Tips

04 December 2017
Type Media Article

By Anthony O'Connor, Teagasc Adviser, Galway/Clare Regional Unit

December brings the darkest, shortest days of the year. Time to look to Christmas and the New Year.


All cattle should be housed by now. This will give paddocks a chance to recover, allowing a build-up of grass for early spring grazing. Aim to have your silage fields available to graze in late February/early March.

Fodder: With stock housed on many farms for 2 months at this stage, assess your fodder stocks NOW and complete a simple Fodder Budget. If all the cattle on the farm are now housed, a Fodder Budget can be done. Simply count the number of bales you are feeding in total to all the stock for one week. Then calculate the number of weeks you expect stock to be housed for and work out the number of bales you will require. If you have difficulty working out this type of fodder budget then you can get help at your nearest Teagasc office.

If you are potentially short of fodder, you need to take action now and not wait till after Christmas when potentially the problem could get worse. There is no single strategy to deal with this shortage. A combination of actions could be needed to help you deal with the problem:

One option is to reduce demand by reducing stock numbers.

Suckler Farmers should ensure all cows are scanned and sell any empty cows. There is no point feeding a suckler cow over the winter that will not produce a calf especially when you are short of fodder. 

Weanling and Store Cattle prices have held up fairly well this backend, so again suckler farmers considering keeping these over the winter should consider selling them now as they will probably not get much more for them in spring when they factor in the cost of feed & other costs. By selling a few extra stock you will be reducing the demand for silage on your farm.

For Farmers with Beef Cattle going towards finishing they need to consider pushing them onto high levels of meal to reduce the demand for silage and also to get them finished earlier. 

So again this may not apply to farms in drier areas where the fodder supply should be ok but in the areas badly hit they need to make decisions now to try and avert bigger problems next spring.

Some farmers are buying in round bale silage but be wary of silage quality. If you know where it came from and know it is of reasonable quality it may be worth buying, but if you aren't sure be very wary. You are better off buying & feeding extra meal where you are guaranteed the quality of what you are buying and rationing out your silage this way.


Housing - Pen stock according to sex, age and weight. This will reduce bullying in pens, while helping regulate feed/concentrate levels.

Sucklers - Pen dry suckler cows according to their Body Condition Score (BCS). Restrict feed to cows at BCS 3.5 while increasing feed levels to cows at BCS 2 or less.  

Silage - Your silage quality will determine the feeding strategy for all your stock. Consider having a detailed laboratory analysis done, costing only €36.  Knowing silage feeding value will help regulate meal feeding requirements and could reduce amount of concentrates being fed.

Beef Cattle - Unfinished cattle which were on concentrates at grass can be finished indoors (within two months) on silage and meal fed ad lib. Ration needs to be high energy, low protein 12 to 14% CP.  The higher the energy, the quicker the finish. Aim to slaughter cattle when they are well finished at fat classes 3, 4- and 4= and preferably under 30 months. 

Parasites - Treat all housed stock against stomach worms, hoose, lice and fluke. Any treatment for worms needs to be effective against larvae and adult worms.  All housed cattle need to be treated against early immature, immature and adult stages of Liver Fluke. Again, any lice treatment must be effective against both sucking and biting Lice. Consult your Vet on the most effective product to use on your herd.  Read each product leaflet carefully to check withdrawal periods.

Farm Management:

Lime, P and K - If you are a GLAS participant with a Nutrient Management Plan (NMP) completed for the whole farm, follow these recommendations with the NMP carefully. Soil sample recommendations will pinpoint fields low in Lime, P and K.  These are the fields that Lime, chemical fertiliser, slurry and FYM need to be spread on in 2018. Again, check carefully soil sample results for fields involved in Low Input Permanent Pasture or Traditional Hay Meadow options.