Breeding Decisions

Some planning ahead of breeding can help to make important decisions before the breeding season starts. A cow bred on 1 May 2024 based on a 286 day gestation will calve on 11 February 2025.

Ask yourself the question: Is this too early for your farm or is it too late? Spring 2024 was obviously the exception, but could you leave things easier managed if you calved a little later?

At the moment it looks like straw is going to be in tight supply again in winter 2024, so think about what you can do to cut down on straw usage.

If you are planning to AI, cows should be tail-painted now and heats recorded before the breeding season starts.

Teaser bulls should be vasectomised two months before they are required. Make sure cows are on a rising plane of nutrition (i.e good quality spring grass) and are gaining body condition in the next few weeks.

Also make sure vaccinations for BVD and Lepto are up to date on cows and any breeding bulls.

Worm control

There are always questions about fluke and worm control at turnout. With fluke, if the appropriate product was used during the housing period, there shouldn’t be an issue.

New infection can occur if grazing very wet areas of the farm, and stock should be monitored for signs of infection.

Be careful around the use of dosing products to avoid resistance developing on farms. Adult cattle should have sufficient immunity built up from previous grazing, second season grazers may need a dose if sufficient immunity hasn’t built up.

Faecal sampling should be used to determine if dosing is needed.

Suckler calves and dairy calves need to be treated differently. Suckler calves are not as disposed to worm infection as dairy x calves. Dairy calves should get a dose three weeks after turnout and again at appropriate intervals during the year.

If faecal samples show greater than 200 eggs per gram, a dose is needed. At the start of the grazing season, following housing, cattle may have very little or no immunity to lungworm and are susceptible to new infections.

Silage Budget

While it may be a while away, now is probably the right time to do a silage budget for winter 2024/2025. Completing a budget next November when little can be done about it is of little use. Completing one now will mean you can take action over the coming months to boost supply.

Use a few quick guidelines: Suckler cows: 1.4 t/month, store cattle: 1.3t/month and weanlings: 0.7t/month. In a normal year, first cut silage yield will generally come in around 7-9t/acre and second cut will yield 5-7t/acre.

This is far from a normal year, so expect a lot lower yields for first cuts.

This will depend on when you get silage fertiliser out and what the cutting date will be, but most people I have talked to are going to go with a light first cut and spreading extra fertiliser for a big second cut.

Have you got enough area closed up for first cut silage? We are entering into the highest grass growth period of the year, so make sure you capitalise on it. Leave a buffer there for a difficult spring.

As the saying goes; old hay is like old gold, it generally doesn’t decrease in value.