The vast majority of male Irish cattle are slaughtered as bullocks (or steers). There were close to 700,000 male cattle slaughtered as bullocks in 2021 compared to just over 150,000 bulls.

For farmers operating a spring calving steer-based system, now is the time to think about castration in male calves. Where castration is to be carried out on-farm without an anaesthetic, it needs to be completed before the animal reaches six months of age.

Vets are now recommending the use of a pain killer to help reduce pain and stress. If you are planning to castrate male animals in the next couple of weeks, one of the first steps is to ensure that the animals have received a clostridial vaccine.

Make sure the vaccine covers tetanus. The primary course and booster vaccine should be given four to six weeks apart.

If using a burdizzo it is advisable to crush the spermatic cord twice, one below the other for 10 seconds each time. Completing this job well in advance of weaning will also decrease the amount of stress put on the animal at the same time.

The smaller the animal, the easier it will be on the operator. Monitor animals after castration for signs of swelling, and watch for any lying on their own and not grazing.

Good handling facilities are important for this job and good help will reduce the chances of getting injured in the process.

Switching to steers is not to be taken lightly. Cow numbers will likely have to drop to facilitate grazing of steers during the second grazing season. Investment in housing may also be required for continental steers for the second winter.


Vets I’ve spoken to this week say mastitis is rampant. Treating cows with a pour-on insecticide can help prevent it, but the cover period varies with different products.

Applying tar can work, but it needs to be reapplied every few days. Cows with summer mastitis will have a swollen udder and flies around the teat.

The swollen udder causes discomfort to the animal, resulting in stiffness and lameness when walking. Cows generally develop a temperature, become isolated and dull in appearance.

When drawing a quarter, the characteristic thick, clotted secretion is present. If an antibiotic tube is being used to treat an infected quarter, make sure you clean the teat and use a glove.

Good hygiene and preventing further infection is very important.


The Irish Farmers Journal Thrive dairy calf-to-beef demonstration farm in Cashel Co Tipperary (Eircode E25 AK44) will host an open day on Tuesday 9 August.

The day will outline the dairy beef system in place on the farm over the last few years, from genetics to calf sourcing and rearing, grassland management and finishing strategies.

The farm rears 150 calves each year and brings them through to beef at between 18 and 22 months of age.

The financial performance of each of the systems in place, be it bullocks or heifers or early- or late-maturing breed types, will all be discussed in detail on the day. Farm tours will kick off at 10.30am. Free registration can be found at