Autumn calving cows

With autumn calving getting into full swing on some farms, it’s important to keep a close eye on cows to avoid losses.

Where calving is taking place outdoors, it is advisable to move cows nearing calving to a maternity/calving paddock near the yard – or somewhere close where they can be watched regularly during the day. Mature cows may not be a major concern but first- and second-calving cows should be moved if possible. If intervention is required, they can be easily moved into a yard or pen for handling. In general, if calving is not progressing after one to two hours after the first water bag has burst, then the cow should be handled to ensure she is dilated and the calf is in the correct position.

Don’t forget to supplement autumn-calving cows with minerals before calving. Think safety all the time. Freshly calved cows are one of the most dangerous animals on the farm. Don’t take chances and seek help if you are entering a pen to assist at a calving.


Dosing history should be looked at to make sure weanlings’ lungs are clear in advance of the stressful weaning period. Faecal samples won’t pick up lungworm infection and it’s important to monitor animals for coughing when herding. Ivermectin-based products will give an instant kill and have a three- to four-week residual activity period. White/yellow drenches will not give as severe a kill and may be a better choice where you think there is a bad lungworm infection or in purchased weanlings where you aren’t sure of the dosing history.

Grass supplies

With demand dropping off on farms as second-cut silage area comes back into the rotation, the pressure will ease on the grazing block, so you can lengthen the rotation and allow covers to build up.

On heavier stocked farms, another round of nitrogen may be required. Teagasc trials at Johnstown Castle show that every kilo of N applied in autumn gives a response of 27kg of grass growth in August, 19kg in September and 10kg in October. The final date for N applications is 15 September. The earlier the application, the bigger the response will be.

Tullamore Farm

Attention has turned to building grass covers on Tullamore Farm. Average farm cover is around 900kg/DM/ha and the target is to be around 1,000kg/DM/ha by the first week of September or to have 30 days grass ahead.

Second-cut silage area will take the pressure off the main grazing block and allow covers to build in the coming weeks. All calves will receive a booster vaccine for pneumonia next week in advance of weaning. Farm manager Shaun Diver is encouraging calves to creep graze ahead of cows. Bull calves have started to be offered creep feed in adjacent paddocks at the rate of 1.5kg/head/day. This will go up to 2kg once they start eating while heifer calves will start on 1kg/head/day in advance of weaning. The final pregnancy scan was completed this week with 71/75 cows in calf and 36/38 heifers in calf. Culls and empties will be separated and fed meal at grass to get them closer to finish before housing.