Over 650,000 suckler cows in Ireland are registered in the BEEP-S scheme this year, the vast majority of which will be in spring-calving herds.

As we head for last few weeks of August, many farmers will be at least starting to plan for weaning.

Within the programme, the weighing of both cows and calves pre-weaning is a mandatory action that commands a payment of €50 for the first 10 cow and calf pairs, followed by €40 per cow and calf pair up to a maximum of 100 pairs.

Following this, optional action one gives a choice between feeding meal to calves pre- and post-weaning, or implementing a vaccination protocol against pneumonia. This option carries a payment of €30 per calf.

By far the most popular choice within this action is to meal feed calves. However, in order for farmers to fully comply with the scheme’s terms and conditions, there are a few things that need to be carefully considered.

  • Calves must be supplemented with a compound feed containing appropriate minerals and vitamins. What this means is that the feed you are using should be specifically formulated for weanlings and fed according to the manufacturers guidelines. Any feed sold as weanling ration will have minerals and vitamins included at a rate in accordance with the rate at which it is to be fed – say 2kg to 4kg per head per day.
  • Where straights are being fed, it is necessary to consult your feed rep, nutritionist or farm adviser to ensure the correct level of nutrition is being achieved and mineral supplementation will be required.

    Also, where two or more straights are being fed, participants must register with the Department as a home-mixer. This is only the case for example where farms are buying in straight barley, straight soya and minerals and mixing it at home to make a ration.

  • Calves must be fed for four weeks prior to weaning. This means that you must be able to prove you had the correct supplement feed on your farm on the date four weeks prior to weaning. For this purpose, retain all receipts, a feed label off the bag or delivery dockets from feed mills and keep them in a safe place, as they will need to be produced in the event of an inspection.
  • Calves must be fed for two weeks post-weaning. Again, farmers will need to be able to provide receipts or deliver docket details that prove that there was a sufficient amount of feed purchased to supply all weanlings on the farm for the entire six week period. This is unlikely to be an issue, as most farmers will continue to feed cattle up to the point of sale or over the winter period where stock are to be wintered on-farm.
  • One thing to be careful of where weanlings are being sold is that they have remained on the farm for two weeks post-weaning, receiving meal prior to the date of sale.

    The action is quite simple, but having everything in order prior to the onset of feeding will mean there are no mistakes made. Record dates in your diary or on your phone for the start of meal feeding and your weaning date, which will be more than four weeks later.

    It is worth making a plan for weaning now. so that there are no surprises with scheme dates in the coming weeks. If meal feeding of calves was to start today, they could not be weaned until 20 September, and could not be sold until 4 October.