Castration: I’ve had several calls with regard to castration in the past few weeks. Studies at Grange have shown that there is no advantage in terms of liveweight gain by delaying castration as the weight gained is lost post-castration. Under law, calves over six months must be given an anesthetic before castration is carried out. Farmers who are buying weanling bulls that will be castrated should bear this in mind. For those in a suckler-to-steer beef system, the banding method of castration at the calf stage may be beneficial from a management and safety viewpoint. However, many farmers who sell weanlings or steers tend to avoid this method as there is a perception that the visual appearance (ie lack of scrotum) may affect buyer demand. Burdizzo castration may be less stressful for bull calves at five or six months, while surgical castration may be more suitable for bulls from seven to 17 months. When using the burdizzo method, each cord should be crushed twice for 10 seconds each time, one below the other. When using the banding method, ensure the animal has received a clostridial/tetanus vaccine four weeks prior to banding, with the booster given at banding. If you are castrating animals that are outdoors, the advice is to do it in the morning and avoid mixing groups. Allow housed weanlings access to straw bedding to reduce discomfort.

Grass supply and housing: With wetter weather, the focus will be on housing for many farmers in the coming weeks. The advice is to house on a dry day. With ground conditions still quite firm, some farmers may resort to grazing paddocks or fields that should be closed. Unless there is a heavy grass cover of over 1,100kg DM/ha, then these paddocks should remain closed. The energy content is low in grass at this time of year and grass DM is currently about 13-14%, which will reduce overall energy intake further. Housing over the next week or two and targeting an early turnout in spring will give you a much greater return in terms of animal performance. The target should be to have 100% of the farm closed for the winter by mid-November on wet farms and early December on dry farms.