Calving: Spring-calving dairy farms will be busy over the next few months. Two ways of reducing the workload is to milk once a day for the first few weeks and to feed cows at night to increase the number of cows calving during the day. In Moorepark studies, once a day (OAD) milking for up to four weeks in early lactation was found to have no effect on overall lactation milk solids yield, but it saved a lot of time in early spring. However, cows should continue to be “fed well” when on OAD, that is good grass/silage and meal.

On night-time feeding, again Moorepark research shows that this can reduce the number of cows that calve between midnight and 6:30am to just 15% of all calvings. The principle is that if cows are fed at 6pm, they will eat for the next few hours and then ruminate for another few hours and then start thinking about calving 10 or 12 hours later. Farmers who practise this do say that the mornings can be busier because cows tend to calve at around the same time. Cows should be on the night feeding regime for a few weeks prior to calving and there needs to be enough feed space for all cows to feed at the one time. Some farmers have barriers that keep cows away from silage during the day while others lay out the silage during the day and just shove it in at night.

BVD testing: I’m told there is a bit of a delay with An Post and that this is holding up the delivery of some BVD samples to labs. Some farmers are getting caught out and results aren’t back before they want to sell the calves. So it’s important to take the BVD sample promptly and send it away for analysis as soon as possible. The cost of posting samples has remained unchanged at €2 for 10 samples. It is best to use plastic envelopes as supplied by most of the labs. Paper envelopes could get torn, risking samples being lost. The full list of approved BVD testing labs is available on the AHI website. I’m told many of the labs will do special rates for large herds or group deals.

Calves: At its recent CalfCare online events, Animal Health Ireland presented a recipe for homemade electrolytes for scouring calves. These replace some of the fluids lost when a calf has scour. The recipe is as follows:

  • 8g (half a tablespoon) of low salt.
  • 12g (one tablespoon) of bread soda.
  • 40g (two to three tablespoons) of glucose.
  • Each of these ingredients is mixed in 2l of warm water. Some farmers will make up little sachets of these electrolytes and have them on hand if a calf gets sick. It’s important to remember that electrolytes don’t replace milk feeds. Milk should not be reduced to a calf with scour. The key thing with a sick calf is to isolate it from the rest of the calves and keep it warm, for instance using a red lamp. Some farmers find these red lamps a good job in the larger group pens, particularly when air temperatures are low. It’s important to remember that air temperature is not necessarily the same as the temperature in the shed.