Animal health: I’m seeing a lot of herds affected by flies. Some herds are bunching together in fields, while others are constantly agitated and kicking off clusters in the parlour. After all the warm weather flies are more of a problem this year. They can be particularly bad near rivers and wooded areas. They will cause mastitis in dry autumn calvers and in-calf heifers and can cause fierce annoyance to milking cows so they will affect performance. Pour-on treatments seem to do the job but they probably need to be done every few weeks in bad cases. The other big health issue at the moment is pneumonia in youngstock. Nights have gone cold but days are still warm, so the risk is probably higher now. Keep a close eye on calves for signs of panting and animals off feed. Worm counts have been lower all summer due to the dry conditions but they are higher now. Follow recommended dosing rates closely to avoid over or under dosing. Another issue at this time of year is CCN, which is common in calves when grazing lush grass. This is treated with an injection of vitamin B1.

Grass: Average grass growth rates remain lower than normal and this is adding to the pressure on farms struggling to build autumn covers and struggling to fill winter feed deficits. That said, not everyone is under pressure with growth and those in the north and west are really flying it. These farms need to be proactive at taking out paddocks. Growth won’t be long slowing if covers get too strong as there will be a white butt at the base, which will set back regrowth. It’s a balancing act between building up covers for grazing and sourcing winter feed. To make good decisions, you need good information and you won’t have this unless you measure grass. It’s so important this year of all years. Make sure grass is top of the agenda at discussion group meetings. Put pressure on the facilitator to go through how you measure and get set up on PastureBase Ireland to help make decision-making easier. The key thing is to build up cover to a peak of 1,200kg/ha by the end of this month. In loose terms, if you double the average farm cover you get the pre-grazing yield. You don’t want to be grazing any more than 2,400kg/ha as it is just too strong. You don’t want to be grazing covers less than 2,000kg/ha at peak or you will run out of grass too fast when growth slows in October and November.