The spring-born calves on the Thrive demo farm in Cashel, Co Tipperary, are currently weighing around the 205kg mark.

However, to reach their target weight of 240kg at housing in November, we need these animals to continue to perform over the next month at grass.

Autumn performance at grass is quite variable depending on quality and management and, therefore, it is critical that a few simple things are done to ensure maximum gains are achieved between now and housing.

Quality grazing

While growth has been positive for the last three weeks, on average there is less grass currently on farms that there normally would be on 1 October.

This means the average housing date will have to be earlier in many cases, all else being equal.

Grass growth rates are expected to slow this week, with reduced daytime temperatures and shortening daylight hours beginning to take effect.

Thankfully, the grass currently on farm is of high quality in most cases and these calves need to be offered the best grass available over the next few weeks.

We can make them work a little harder to clean out paddocks, as we need to eat them bare prior to winter. However, this should only mean one day in every four or five that they are asked to clean out paddocks.

Turning calves into a big field of grass for a fortnight is not the way to do it

For this to happen, allocation of grass needs to be correct. Paddocks need to be allocated so that calves will be entering fresh grass at least twice a week - ideally every 48 hours, but in reality this is hard to achieve on a part-time farm enterprise.

Turning calves into a big field of grass for a fortnight is not the way to do it, as they will have the best grazing eaten in the first few days and then struggle to clean out the rest, while at the same time performance will be poor.

Meal feeding

The calves on the Thrive farm are getting 1kg/day of concentrate and will continue to do so up to housing. This provides a daily boost of energy in the diet and also makes herding much easier, with sick calves noticed at the earliest possible time.

Keep troughs clean of muck and bird droppings. Ideally, turn troughs over after feeding each day and move to clean ground where conditions underfoot are poor.


Ensure calves are dosed for worms where required. If there is any coughing in the group, it is more than likely a sign of lungworm. Faecal egg tests can be taken to determine the need to dose for stomach and gut worms.

Pneumonia vaccinations need to be given well in advance of housing, so that maximum immunity has been reached prior to the stress period of housing.

In most cases, the first dose of a two-shot vaccine needs to be administered six weeks prior to housing, with the second three to four weeks later.

Discuss with your vet what the best vaccination protocol would be for your farm based on issues in previous years.