Speaking to farmers across the country, the majority are reporting good progress with the breeding season, with fairly typical levels of repeats being recorded to date. A cow served this weekend will be due to calve the last days of March 2023.
In early-spring calving herds where there are still a number of cows left to be served on farm, or where certain cows have been seen to repeat more than once, it is well worthwhile scanning these cows now to see if there are any potential problems.
Some cows could have a cyst or a uterine infection that may need treatment. For other cows, the handling alone may be enough to stimulate heat.
Identifying the problem now will reduce the number of empty cows at the end of the breeding season. In herds that calve March -April, this scan should be delayed for another three weeks to avoid having a large number of cows to scan.
Grass growth and grazing quality has taken a hit in the last week to 10 days. In the south of the country a lack of moisture is compounding the issue with stressed grass plants going to head even at low covers.
Topping should probably be avoided in these areas as it will only further delay any regrowth.
The good news is that grass dry matter is currently high at 18-19%DM compared to an average of around 15%DM, so every paddock has 20% more grass than you think. It also means less grass is needed to meet the intake requirements of stock each day.
In the north and northwest, moisture is not lacking but quality is still an issue. In this situation a round of topping may be the best option post-grazing. On low to medium stocked farms, heavy swards should continue to be skipped for grazing and taken out as baled silage.
Where fertiliser is on hand, spreading a low level of nitrogen will help maintain grass quality, but only spread when there is rain forecast.
Clostridial vaccine booster
While many farmers will give the first clostridial vaccine dose to calves while they are indoors, it is important that a second, booster shot is given four to six weeks later as it is this dose that provides the real immune response.
The vaccination itself only costs around €3/animal and should be standard practice on all farms. Every year, I hear of cattle being lost to clostridial diseases, typically in the back end of the year.
There is nothing more frustrating for farmers who have invested time, money and effort keeping stock thriving all year to go out one morning to find an animal dead in the field due to a clostridial disease when it is quite easy to protect against it.
The biggest risk factor is where stock come into contact with soil. Therefore wet weather and poor grazing conditions are a high risk period, as is a fresh reseed during its first grazing where some soil can be ingested by stock.
Heaps of freshly mounded soil in fields where young stock are grazing should be avoided.