BDGP deadline: Farmers who participated in BDGP in 2020 need to be aware the closing date for the rollover scheme in 2021 is 15 January. While the scheme divided opinions on breeding, it formed an important part of suckler farm income in 2020, with an average payment of over €1,700 per suckler farm. The conditions of the 2021 scheme are the exact same as 2020. All farmers that met the conditions for the 2020 scheme are eligible to apply.

For applicants using a stock bull, a genotyped four- or five-star bull must be in the herd on 30 June 2021. Fifty per cent of the reference number of females in the herd must be genotyped four- or five-star on 31 October 2021. Applications can be made on or through an adviser.

Preparing for calving 2021: Early spring-calving suckler herds are just around the corner from calving 2021. Preparation, organisation, planning and good stockmanship are key skills needed at calving time. Hygiene is also vital.

You should have at least one calving pen per 10 cows. This will allow the cow and calf remain in the pen for one to two days. If there is a tight calving spread, more calving pens will be needed. The pen should be at least 3.6m x 4.0m in area.

Having a calving gate eases management at calving time and is almost a must if a C-section is needed. Having a hot water supply close to the calving pens is also very useful. Calving pens should be thoroughly cleaned, power-washed and disinfected with a strong disinfectant before use. I know straw is scare on some farms, but don’t skimp on it around calving time – it’s very important that calves have a clean dry warm bed in their first few days of life.

Check the availability of basic calving equipment, things like disposable gloves for handling cows, spare calving ropes, iodine solution to treat navels, a clean calving jack that is not worn or liable to slip, lubricant, electrolyte powders for scour treatment and a clean stomach tube. Frozen colostrum is a good insurance policy where there is inadequate supply for the 4am calving. Good-quality minerals should be fed to dry cows for a minimum of six weeks pre-calving.

Take care with body condition score and avoid having animals being too fat at calving. Equally important is the timing of restriction; cows shouldn’t be restricted too much coming close to calving. Feeding 0.5kg soya bean meal/head /day will help to boost colostrum production two to three weeks out from calving.

Mart Prices v Factory Prices: Keeping an eye on some mart prices this week, it’s obvious that beef factories are operating a two-tier beef pricing system. In one mart I saw 800kg finished dry cows making €2.20/kg, which would translate into a price of over €4/kg deadweight. The best factory price I have come across this week is €3.60/kg for young cows. Do the sums and don’t be afraid to change things around. If you’re not getting a good price in the mart, you can take them home. That option isn’t there with the factory, so do the research.