Fertiliser: There is increased movement in the fertiliser market this week as farmers and merchants begin to make the first moves, both at setting prices and agreeing terms.

It’s not good news on the price front and availability is still an issue and is likely to remain to be for at least the first four months of 2022 and maybe even longer.

Bad as prices are, not having access to fertiliser is a much bigger issue and will lead to grass and silage shortages on well-stocked farms.

These things generally have a habit of sorting themselves out, but in the meantime farmers need to protect their own businesses and in the main, this will require doing a deal to buy fertiliser at a very high price.

Of course, many farmers have the ability to reduce the amount of fertiliser they spread, through making better use of slurry, clover, soil fertility, etc, but chemical nitrogen is still required to drive on grass growth. At €900/t for urea, the nitrogen is costing €1.95/kg.

At €700/t for CAN the nitrogen is costing €2.59/kg, so urea is better value than CAN. With 0:7:30 costing around €700/t and 18:6:12 at €750/t, there seems to be better value in 18:6:12 and farmers should prioritise that when filling a load.

Cow care: With many herds now either fully or partially dried off, keep a close eye on recently dried off cows over the coming weeks. Some milk drop will be inevitable but isn’t something to get too worried about provided the cubicles are kept clean.

Keep cows on a restricted diet for a week to 10 days until the udders involute. Avoid the temptation to go in and milk a cow if she is leaking milk. As soon as the udder soaks up, cows should be sorted based on body condition score and fed accordingly. Very thin cows that are calving in February will need good silage and 1kg or 2kg of meal over the winter.

Later-calving cows will have time on their hands.

Over-conditioned cows are likely to be as big a problem as cows too thin. These should also be separated and fed a restricted diet or poorer-quality silage. If feeding meals or on a restricted diet, make sure all cows can feed at the one time.

For cows being fed silage ad lib, 1ft to 2ft of feed space per cow will suffice for the dry period. Run scrapers as often as is necessary to keep passageways clean and clean the water in troughs and drinkers regularly.

Vaccines: As we head towards midwinter, thoughts will be turning to vaccines. Many farmers have moved to giving the annual booster vaccines for IBR and leptospirosis in the dry period.

Some have moved to a once-a-year IBR vaccine programme but some vets still recommend a twice-a-year IBR vaccine. Scour vaccines should be given three to 12 weeks before the animal is due to calve, meaning early January is the optimum time for most spring-calving herds. The thing to remember is that the vaccine is only fully effective when adequate colostrum is given to the calf. I see that Rotavec Corona has changed its packaging from the white/blue pack to a purple pack. It’s the same product, just in a different pack.