Special sales of suckler weanlings will get under way in coming weeks, providing valuable income for many farms.
Having calves in prime selling condition attracts greater buying interest. Hopefully, this will translate into higher returns for weanlings
Where suckler farmers plant to sell weanlings this autumn, outlined are five tips to prepare animals for sale.
1. Creep feeding calves
Grazing conditions are extremely difficult and wet, low dry matter grass will reduce liveweight gain. Introducing creep feed in the final four to six weeks prior to selling will boost weight gain.
Ideally, heifers and bull calves will be split before feeding meals, so higher levels of concentrate can be targeted to male animals. But splitting calves into separate grazing groups is not always practical.
At a ration price of €410/t, feeding good-quality bull calves 4kg/day will cost €1.62 and support weight gain in the region of 1.5kg/day on good grass in high genetic merit animals.
At a conservative mart price of €3/kg, the outlined weight gain is worth around €4.50/day, covering the cost of purchased feed.
Heifers can be offered 2kg/day, or 3kg/day if grass is in short supply, and animals have higher conformation.
2. Use creep grazing to break cow-calf bond
When it works, creep grazing is a great way to break the cow-calf bond. But it can test the patience of any farmer.
Creep grazing needs good fencing to work. The other key is not to try too much too soon, by giving calves too big an area to graze in front of cows.
Start by setting the feeder up in one corner of a paddock. Fence this corner off with temporary electric wire.
Raise the wire by five to six inches at one end to let calves pass under, but a good electric charge will be needed to keep cows back.
To raise the wire, either hang the reel higher on the boundary fence or tape two plastic posts or pig tails together to give a taller post.
By starting off using one corner of the field, calves are still in sight of the cow, keeping animals settled.
Once calves are used to creeping forward, they can gradually be given a bigger area of fresh grass or let into the next paddock.
3. Keeping on top of parasite control
Make sure calves are properly wormed in the run-up to autumn sales. This will keep worm burdens low and reduce the risk of pneumonia.
Animals that are free of parasites are better placed to cope with stress when moving to the mart and will attract greater buying interest.
Vaccinating against respiratory diseases can also generate greater buying interest, again improving sale price.
4. Tidy up horns
Tidy up any stray horns that were missed when disbudding or have regrown to help improve the visual appearance of weanlings.
Talk to mart managers and enquire about what buyers tend to look for at the autumn sales each year.
Some marts have buyers that pay premiums for male calves that are castrated. At other marts, there is no price difference between castrated and entire bull calves.
This info can help you choose a mart to suit your weanlings. Talk to your vet about castrating spring-born calves if necessary.
5. Grazing silage aftermath
Silage ground will hopefully come back into the grazing rotation shortly. Regrowth after second cut will provide high-quality grazing and, if possible, target to cows with calves destined for sale this autumn.