On livestock farms, animals need tending to every day.

But over the Christmas period, there may be extra help available from family members returning home for the holidays.

An extra pair of hands can help speed up the day-to-day tasks, but it may allow for more of the big management jobs to be completed in good time, some of which are outlined.

Scour vaccines in early spring-calving herds

On farms with a history of calf scour, a good vaccine programme is recommended four to six weeks before spring calving starts.

If there is extra help over the holiday period, it will make it much easier to move heavily pregnant cows from the shed to the handling unit and back again.

Fluke and lice

Where cattle were housed in November and have yet to be treated for fluke, make good use of the extra family help available and treat animals over Christmas.

Make sure you choose a dosing product that targets mature fluke at this stage of the year.

Lice is another thing to keep on top of. Cattle will often need two treatments over the winter period, so pay attention for signs of animals scratching against gates and feed rails or licking at their coats.

Weighing cattle

Weigh store cattle and replacement heifers to monitor performance. This will give a good idea if heifers are on track to reach their target breeding weight.

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

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.

Getting sheds ready for calving

Many farmers look to start calving cows in February, which is just over one month away. Now is a good time to start thinking about getting calving facilities ready.

If calving boxes have been used to hold sick cattle, they need moving. The calving pen should be washed and disinfected now.

Think of the disease being spread by a sick animal in urine and dung. It is not the environment for newborn calves.

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

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