Fertiliser: With higher fertiliser prices, it could be easy to forget about applying nitrogen.

For farmers who haven’t spread any nitrogen yet, use this week’s dry spell to get it out.

Due to price and supply issues, fertiliser has been slow to move, with some farmers having no fertiliser purchased yet. This could have an impact on grass supply later on when heavy covers are grazed if nitrogen is not spread.

On an average stocked beef farm at 140kg organic N/ha, the recommendation is to have 27 units N/ac spread in March to meet grass demand with another 20 units/ac spread in April.

Regardless of price the advice on fertiliser requirements doesn’t change. April and May are two of the best grass growing months in the year. Urea offers the best value in N fertiliser at the moment, but needs damp cold conditions for it to work at maximum efficiency. At current prices the cost per kg/N (March 2022) is:

  • CAN: €800/t for 270kg N = €2.96/kg N.
  • UREA: €1,000/t for 460kg N = €2.17/kg N.
  • Target the most efficient land with the first application of fertiliser i.e recently reseeded swards, high ryegrass swards, fields that are high in pH, P and K.

    Research has shown that soil temperature needs to be above 6°C before spreading and soil temperatures are running at 6-9°C this week across the country.

    Don’t forget, correcting pH through the application of lime will help release some soil nitrogen and also increase the efficiency of any fertiliser that is spread in the next few months. As soon as ground conditions allow, fertiliser should be one of the first jobs on the list. Silage fertiliser should also be planned for the first week of April. Target 80-100 units of N/ac, 16 units/ac of P and 100 units/ac of K on silage fields.

    All of the P and K requirements can be made up through the application of 3,000 gallons/ac of slurry.

    Calving pens: Don’t limit straw usage in calving pens. Make sure young calves have a clean, dry bed to lie on for the first few days. Try and clean out calving pens on a regular basis.

    Disease will build up in calving pens as calving progresses and this is when problems will arise. If a scour outbreak does occur, a good option is to try and move away from the shed that is being used for calving.

    This will help protect new calves from the disease. This won’t be an option on many farms and if weather conditions are favourable, outdoors is the best option for newborn calves.

    Plenty of fluids are very important for the scouring calf. Using oral antibiotics is questionable in many cases. The use of calf jackets for sick weak calves seems to work well on some farms and can speed up the recovery process.

    Painkillers: There has been a lot of discussion in recent years around the use of painkillers while completing routine tasks like dehorning, castration etc. The use of a painkiller can aid in an animal’s recovery and will decrease the associated stress. It is also recommended to use them after difficult calvings to aid cow and calf recovery.

    Research has shown that the recovery process is accelerated after their use and in a time when animal welfare is becoming more important, the option of using a pain killing injection should be looked at.