The return of wet and cold weather has halted plans for turning cows and calves out to grass on many suckler farms around the country.

Until weather and ground conditions improves.

Outlined are five tips for managing cows and newborn calves indoors.

1. Target better-quality silage to lactating cows

Spring-calving cows will have an increasing demand for energy and protein in early lactation. Therefore, target the best-quality silage on farm to these animals.

Cows in milk should be offered silage on an ad-lib basis, so make sure there is always fodder in the feed passage.

Scrape out any rejected silage on a daily basis before putting in fresh forage.

Offer the rejected silage to either dry cows or stores that will go back to grass in the weeks ahead.

2. Supplementary concentrate

In addition to silage, offer cows some form of concentrate to boost milk production and help lactating animals hold body condition.

A balanced ration will also provide minerals, although when feeding low levels of meal, supplementary trace elements may be beneficial.

If silage is above 70% DMD, feeding 1kg to 1.5kg/cow will suffice and help stretch out fodder supplies.

With silage at 67% to 70% DMD, offer 2kg/cow on a daily basis, rising to 3kg/cow where silage drops below 66% DMD.

3. Priority groups

Where housing allows, there are some cows that should be grouped separately for additional feeding. Separating these cows will also provide extra feed space and prevent bullying.

Cows to prioritise include first-calved heifers, older animals lacking body condition and cows with twins.

4. Shed hygiene

Ideally, cows with calves at foot will be housed on slats, with a separate bedded creep area for calves. Make sure creep pens are dry and regularly topped up with fresh straw.

Run a hand scraper over slats during the day. This can help reduce soiling around the udder as cows lie and ruminate. Clipping tails on cows can also keep udders clean.

Empty out water troughs if they become soiled with dung or forage. Cows should always have clean drinking water available at all times.

5. Stocking density

Until turnout is possible, stocking density will increase in sheds. As it does, the requirement for good ventilation becomes even more important to reduce the risk of disease.

Pay attention to airflow in sheds. Stale, humid air or a strong smell of ammonia are obvious signs of poor airflow, as is cattle having damp, dirty coats.

Cow numbers should be tailored to match feeding space, particularly if you are only offering 1kg to 2kg/head.

If all cows cannot access feed at the same time, there will be cows that get no meal and others that get double their allocation.

To relieve stocking pressure, setting up temporary accommodation in roofed silos or handling units can help.

In addition, setting up a creep area in a feed passage or handling pen also helps to free up pen space for cows.

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