Suckler Culling

I have had a lot of calls on the introduction of a culling or reduction scheme, some in agreement and some in disagreement. It looks like the voluntary schemes will be included in the suite of measures that the Government will use to meet our 2030 emissions targets.

I’ve also had a few queries from farmers who were going to sell sucklers in the next few weeks and are wondering whether to hold off. The thinking is they could be compensated for selling them in a few months’ time.

It’s difficult to say if or when the schemes will be introduced, but I would think that the Department of Agriculture will have to move fast on this one. My advice would be to hold tough on selling until we get more detail around the proposed measures.

The likelihood is that any scheme will take into account the number of cows calved in a particular year, or over a number of years as a reference number in determining the amount of cows that any scheme will be paid out on.

There are also big tax implications where a herd of cows is dispersed in one tax year, so a lot of thought needs to be put into joining up to any scheme.

Body Condition Score

Keep an eye on body condition score of suckler cows. If silage quality is poor there is a risk that body condition could drop off. Take a walk through your cows and look at the condition of them.

They need to be around a 2.5 at calving. A score of 1 is very thin, while a score of 5 is very fat. Calving with too much condition or calving thin cows will lead to problems.

Addressing these issues a few months from calving will lead to better results. Separate out thin cows or first calving heifers for some preferential treatment and then restrict the rest of the herd if they are over-fleshed.

A good quality dry cow mineral should be fed 6-8 weeks prior to calving. Scour vaccines should also be given at the latest a minimum of 2-3 weeks prior to calving.

Break/Family time

Don’t forget to take a break over the Christmas period. On many beef farms workload can be kept to a minimum over the next 7-10 days, with daily herding tasks and feeding animals just carried out.

Put in extra silage on Christmas eve and double up on bedding in creep areas and straw bedded sheds so you have less jobs to do over the holiday period. Spend some time with family and take time away from the farm.

This can sometimes help solve problems or issues when you come back taking a fresh look at things. With spring calving and lambing only a few weeks away, it’s important to recharge the batteries before this busy time.

Happy Christmas

I want to wish all our readers a happy Christmas and the health and good luck to make 2023 a prosperous year on farms. It was great to get back out to shows and events in 2022 to meet farmers and have the chats and hopefully we will meet again in 2023.

As always, if anyone has comments or views on what the livestock team cover on the livestock pages you can contact me at