With breeding just around the corner on many farms, attention is turning to getting it right. On suckler farms using AI, heat detection is extremely important to achieve high pregnancy rates. Tail paint and scratch cards will help to pick up heats. A vasectomised bull is a must for anybody that is unable to keep a regular check on cows, and even with a vasectomised bull, cows need to be checked morning and evening at the bare minimum.

A chin ball harness will help to pick up cows that may have been missed. The best time to pick up cows in heat is between 6am-9am and 6pm-9pm. Take the time to watch cows during this time, even for a 10-minute period. Driving by a field and doing a quick count won’t pick up cows in heat.

Timing of AI is important, and cows are best inseminated going off heat. The AM/PM rule is popular where cows in heat in the pm are inseminated the following morning, and vice versa for cows in heat in the am.

If you are using a stock bull, make sure to fertility test him before he goes out with cows. While a fertility test is only a snapshot in time, it will tell you if the bull is infertile or not. Keep a close eye on cows coming into heat for the first few weeks to make sure there are no repeats.

ANC Stocking rate

Farmers who summer graze stock and wish to obtain the ANC payment need to have stock purchased before the end of April if stock are to be sold off in December this year. There is a 28-week retention period on stock to meet the criteria for the ANC payment. The minimum stocking rate for those 28 weeks is 0.1 LU/Ha.

An animal under one year is counted as 0.4 LU and an animal over two years old is counted as 0.7 LU. A male animal over two years old is counted as 1 LU, while a female animal over two years of age is counted as 0.8 LU. If you have stock for the full 12 months of 2024, then the average stocking rate for the year needs to be 0.1 LU/ Ha.

Donkeys are counted as 1 LU, but can only make up 50% of your stocking rate requirements. Suckler cows are counted as 0.8 LU, while sheep are counted as 0.1 LU. Contact your agricultural adviser if in doubt.


Make sure that measures to prevent tetany are continued for the next few weeks. Sometimes May can be a higher risk period where more lush grass is being eaten. If we get a period of unsettled weather, this will increase the risk of tetany occurring. Be very vigilant if you have lost cows before, and keep licks out with cows until the end of May.


It’s been a hectic week on farms trying to get jobs done in the good weather window. Keep safety at the front of your mind no matter how big the workload is in front of you. Try to spread the load if you can.

Working full time and then spending big hours on the farm in the evening can lead to tiredness, and that’s when a lapse in concentration can happen. Take care when loading and unloading livestock, especially where there are old people and young people around.