Buying weanlings: While numbers are small at weanling sales, cattle are starting to come out and there have been a few special sales already around the country. Trade is good, especially at the top end of the market, but there is value out there. Buying weanlings early is a big advantage if you can graze them outdoors for the next few months. Allowing animals to settle before the stressful housing period also has major advantages. Buying a 350kg weanling now, as opposed to buying a 350kg weaning in October, means you could have a weanling going into the shed 60kg heavier at minimum cost. Grazing a 400kg weanling on grass will cost €0.80/day, as opposed to costing €1.80/day indoors. That’s a saving of €60 on feed costs and could be the difference in a positive or negative margin. If buying weanlings, try to look for store animals not pumped up on meal – these will perform best at grass for the next few months. Allow bought-in weanlings to settle before dosing or handling and keep a close eye for any signs of pneumonia.
First-calving heifers: Cows or heifers that have calved at 24 months for the first time need preferential treatment around this time of year, as they are still growing animals and need to be treated accordingly. These animals should be weaned first, to allow them regain some condition before housing. Trying to put on condition indoors will cost more and calving problems can occur if you do this too close to calving. Where these heifers are very thin, with condition score less than 2, they should get 2-3kg of concentrates and good-quality grass to allow them pick up again.