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July Cattle Farm Management Tips

30 June 2020
Type Media Article

By John Galvin, B&T Drystock Adviser, Teagasc Galway/Clare

July was named after the infamous Roman emperor Julius Caesar known as an astute businessman with excellent management skills. This month we might hone some of his skills to improve the management of farm business by focusing on a number of key areas.

Grassland Management:

Currently ground conditions are excellent and growth rates are set to increase greatly after a welcome rain forecast.  Graze out fields/paddocks starting at 9-10cm high to a post grazing height of 4-5cm high. Top stemmy pastures post grazing.  Fields with high grass covers should be removed as baled silage. Maintain a good leafy sward for young growing stock. After grass is an ideal quality feed for younger stock and relatively clean from parasites. It’s an optimum time to conduct a winter feed budget especially as first cut silage crops were lighter than normal. At this stage second cut silage ground should be closed up having received 2000-2500gls of slurry/acre + 1-1.5 bags of protected urea + S.

Re-seeding:

The main benefits of reseeding are increased grass yield, quality and to resolve weed issues. It costs €300/acre approximately, so requires careful planning. Reseeding is carried out with more ease and success earlier in the growing season as post sowing management can be difficult later in the season with increased risk of frost. Early soil analysis should be conducted on the phosphorous, potassium and pH status. Old pasture needs to be sprayed off with a glyphosate product and grazed tightly or cut after 7-10 days. It can take a further two weeks for the remaining plant to die off properly essential for improved cultivation.

Parasites at Grass:

Lungworms/gutworms tend to become prevalent in the second half of grazing season. The prolonged period of dry warm weather is conducive to lower levels of parasite activity; however within three weeks after rain, parasite activity tends to increase dramatically. 

Young stock, especially bucket reared calves are susceptible. The symptoms for lungworms include coughing when suddenly moved, which if neglected can leave the animal open to secondary infections such as pneumonia.  Gut worm symptoms may not be as apparent in cattle but these include lack of intake, lack of thrive and scouring. Faecal egg counting can be a very useful tool to establish if a treatment is warranted and if carried out before and after treatment, the efficacy of the product used can be determined. 

Summer Mastitis:

July is a notorious month for summer mastitis with dry autumn calving cows a very high risk. Topping pastures and avoiding fields with a lot of shade where fly populations are high can help mitigate this. Further risk reducing measures include dry cow intramammary tubes, applying Stockholm tar on udders and the use of fly repellents.

BEAM and Herd Management: 

From the 1st of July 2020 to 30th of June 2021 participants in the Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM) must reduce the production of bovine livestock manure nitrogen by 5%. Participants must ensure they meet the criteria otherwise they run the risk of having to repay the grant. For suckler farms this may involve reducing cow numbers or otherwise selling off progeny earlier i.e. selling some off as weanlings v’s selling as yearlings or indeed a combination of both. Considerations for cattle finishers include reducing numbers or finishing animals a few months earlier than usual or a combination of the two measures.

With this in mind your focus should be on these objectives

  • Cull any poor performing/suspect cows sooner rather than later
  • Decide on a date for removing bull from cows & heifers to end breeding season
  • Scan cows & heifers as soon as possible when bull is removed and cull empty ones
  • Maintain thrive/weight gain on all stock to its maximum by monitoring grass quality and supply and maintaining good herd health status
  • Sell stock as they come fit, overweight, over fat or indeed over age cattle are not desirable to meat factories and will be penalised

You must be cognisant of commitments required in other beef schemes (BEEP S & BDGP) before selling cows, heifers and weanlings.

Filling out a projected stock planner for the next twelve months would be beneficial in the management of reducing the nitrogen levels. ICBF and Agfood websites can be used as an aid to monitor these levels.

Farm Safely:

While farms are a wonderful adventure ground for children during the summer, July records high levels of farm accidents annually especially involving children. Sixteen people have died in farming accidents in Ireland to date this year, including three children. Identify the risks that may exist on your farm and set yourself the task of minimising these risks. Do not allow children on farmyards unaccompanied or at least while work is being carried out. 

Let’s make July a positive month in our farming calendar which we can look back on by saying “I came, I saw and I conquered!”