Weighing: Labour and time issues are often given as reasons why more weighing is not carried out on farms. However, it’s a really important tool in assessing performance of stock and, more importantly, your management skills.

If you weigh a group of weanlings this week and they have only gained 0.3kg/day over the winter period, then you know that something went wrong and you can go about correcting it. If no weights are taken, the same thing could happen again next winter. Taking a turnout weight now will also help you assess grazing performance during the year.

It is equally important in assessing cow performance in terms of calf weight gain. September born calves are now coming close to 200 days, an ideal age to get a picture of how good a job the cow has done on the calf. Cows with very light calves or poor performers can be culled.

Inputting these weights on the ICBF database will also improve the accuracy of a cow’s index and increase the reliability helping you make more informed decisions. A weighing scales costs approx. €1,100-€1,400 and is a really good investment for any beef farm. They are also approved for grant aid under TAMS.

Weighing scales can also be hired from local co-ops and marts at a very reasonable rate. Remember if you are selling autumn born weanlings soon be sure to get a weight on both the cow and calf before weaning to be compliant with the SCEP. A mart weight will not suffice for SCEP.

Weather: This week’s wet weather has again delayed turnout on many farms. Suckler farms that started to calve in February are coming under pressure for housing space as more cows calve. It’s very important that the young calf has a clean dry bed. After a week you will get away with housing cows back on slats, but calves will need access to a well bedded creep area. Straw is scarce and expensive, but should be prioritised for calving pens and creep areas.

Some farmers I have spoken to this week have bedded a centre pen in a slatted shed as a temporary measure until weather improves. If cows have to be turned out, turn out the cows with the oldest calves, pick the most sheltered part of the farm and take precautions against tetany.

Feeding some hay or concentrates is the best way of avoiding tetany along with a bolus. Relying on enough intake via licks can be risky. Turning out cows and calves a little earlier will help to reduce straw usage and help keep supplies for freshly calved cows. Herd at least twice a day especially during peroids of tougher weather conditions.

Dirty cattle: Be careful around very dirty cows coming directly off slats for calving or some even calving on slats. Faecal material ingested by the calf can greatly increase the incidence of cryptosporidium infection and can also increase the chances of Johnes infection. If possible try to move cows onto straw before calving and maybe feed dryer silage or hay to pre calving cows to avoid hides and udders becoming very dirty. If a cow is in a calving gate, try to take any daggings off around the udder.