Over the Christmas period, there may be some extra help available, with family members returning home for the holidays.

Having a few extra people to call on will provide a good opportunity to get some of the bigger cattle handling and management tasks sorted.

Some of these are outlined below.

1. Vaccinating against scour in spring-calving herds

If there is a history of calf scour on farm, then it may be time to start vaccinating against the disease. Vaccines should be given around six weeks prior to calving.

Having extra help will make it easier to move heavily pregnant cows from the shed to the handling unit and back again.

2. Fluke and lice treatments

If cattle housed in late October or November have not been treated for fluke yet, then pencil this task into the Christmas break.

Again, having extra helps makes it easier to move cattle and keep animals flowing quickly through the handling unit.

Make sure to use a product that targets mature fluke at this stage of the year.

Cattle should also be treated for lice - or they may need a follow-up treatment if this task was completed after housing. Keep an eye out for cattle scratching and licking at their coat.

3. Weighing cattle

Weighing cattle is another task which is easy to complete with help. Weanlings, store and maiden heifers retained for breeding should all be weighed when help is available.

Weighing will give a good handle on which stores need to go back to grass and which animals can be pushed on for finishing.

4. De-horning and castrating autumn calves

On farms with autumn-calving herds, there may be the opportunity to tidy up any horns that were missed or started to regrow. Castration may also be something to consider.

5. Getting sheds ready for spring calving

Where spring calving starts in February, thoughts should be on cleaning and getting calving pens ready for use.

If calving pens have been used to house sick cattle, these animals will have shed disease in urine and dung. Wash and allow to dry before disinfecting.

Fix, alter and re-position calving gates where necessary. Install or replace drinkers in calving pens, as well as work lights when the help is available.