Housing space

With another week of difficult weather conditions many farms will now be coming under pressure in terms of holding calved cows indoors. Hygiene needs to be a priority to reduce the disease risk especially in newborn calves. Keep creep areas well bedded with straw at all times.

Avoid as much as possible, mixing calves of various ages (month old calves with newborn calves) in the same housing space as their immune systems are at two very different stages of development.

Create creep areas either within pens using gates or, where space allows, use the centre passage of the shed to make a bedded creep area for calves to lie down. Some calves will be slow to use these areas and may tend to lie on the slats. Take the time to run them out to the straw bedded area until they learn how to use it.

First calved heifers should be the priority to get back to good quality grass when it is possible to do so as they have the greatest challenge to get back cycling again for the upcoming breeding season.

Depending on silage quality, it may be necessary to introduce 1kg to 2kg concentrates while cows are housed. Where 70% DMD silage is available there should be no need for concentrates as long as body condition is good and stock will get to grass in the coming fortnight.

Prepare stock for sale

Increased fertiliser and feed prices and the lack of availability of merchant credit have seen some farmers forced to sell stock earlier than planned. While the beef trade is currently favourable, stock still needs to be prepared for a number of weeks prior to sale.

There is no point selling stock that are not fit for sale as they will never achieve their true potential value. Identify stock that you plan to sell in the coming weeks and feed accordingly. Even three to four weeks can make a big difference.

There is only so much stock that can be offloaded early, which may still leave a cashflow shortage this spring. Talking to your bank at this stage is a better option than waiting until next backend when the problem may be greater.

Plan silage requirements

Now is the time to plan for silage requirements next winter. This year more than ever it is going to be critical to secure enough fodder to feed the stock numbers you plan to carry over the winter months. With the cost of fertiliser and increased contractor charges, there is not going to be a surplus of silage made this summer. Therefore fodder reserves could become very tight next spring.

The fodder calculator available at www.farmersjournal.ie/toolbox under the calculator tab is a great starting point for farmers to get an idea of the amount of silage you will require next winter.

Every bale of silage that can be saved from feeding this spring should be saved, as replacing it for next winter is going to cost a lot more. This is why it is important to get stock out to grass as early as possible in the coming weeks.