Calving: As the main calving season kicks off, it’s worth remembering that the most important thing to get right is colostrum management.

Calves will withstand a lot of challenges if they have had enough good-quality colostrum.

Only use colostrum harvested within eight hours of calving, keep it cool in a fridge or freezer and if kept in a fridge use within 48 hours.

Give each calf 3l of colostrum within the first two hours of birth.

This is gold standard calf care, but is also the minimum standard. If time is scarce, use a stomach tube.

Most farmers don’t find any issue in getting the calf to suck from a teat after giving the first feed through a tube.

The second most important thing to get right is to minimise risks of milk fever in freshly calved cows.

Research has shown that cows that get milk fever are twice as likely to be culled within the first month after calving, almost five times more likely to have a left displaced abomasum and eight times more likely to suffer from ketosis and mastitis.

Older, high-yielding, fat cows and those with some Jersey blood seem to be more at risk. Those eating silage high in potash are at particular risk.

Additional magnesium, over and above what is provided in the dry cow mineral pre-calving is a good preventative method, as is giving high-risk cows extra calcium after calving.

This can come in the form of a bolus, liquid feed or a calcium bottle under the skin.

Labour saving: Workload, problems and sometimes stress can increase almost exponentially at this time of year. Different people have different tolerances and you need to keep this in mind when working with others. Farmers can’t expect an employee to work as hard or as long per day as they do. For one thing, they don’t own the business and generally don’t stand to gain or lose financially from the farm over and above their salary.

Maintain a set start and finish time, even during the busiest time.

Deviations from this should only be for exceptional circumstances. If there isn’t enough time in the day to do all the jobs that need to be done, the important jobs will need to be prioritised.

In such situations jobs that can be outsourced should be, such as spreading slurry or fertiliser.

Once-a-day milking and once-a-day feeding of calves greatly reduces the workload during the busiest spell. See more on labour saving tips from Ger Cussen’s farm.

Grass: Ground conditions are as good for late January as can ever be remembered.

Some farmers with autumn calvers or early January calvers have decided to turn cows out to grass already. This gives a head start on grazing, reduces workload in the yard and improves cow performance.

Use the opportunity to get slurry and fertiliser applied where appropriate. If possible, try and target grazings to the traditionally wetter parts of the farm now, presuming these areas are much drier than normal. Having these areas grazed early in the season means they are out of the way and can be grazed again in April. Have the farm ready for grazing now, before things get really busy next month.