Body condition score: The general feeling from talking to farmers is that even though the weather has been quite good, cow body condition score (BCS) has come under pressure in recent weeks.

A combination of low dry matter grass, long walks and wet farm roadways haven’t helped. It’s something that needs to be monitored closely.

Cows can expect to gain 0.2 of a BCS during an eight-week dry period if being fed relatively good silage.

It takes a long time and a lot of high-quality feed for cows to gain BCS while being milked.

Putting thin cows on once-a-day milking for seven weeks prior to drying off increases BCS at calving by 0.18, but drying off cows six weeks early increases BCS by between 0.2 and 0.5. These are the only real options available to farmers now.

Feeding extra meal and high-quality silage will mean cows will milk more and while they will probably gain some BCS over time, it’ll be slow. Early June was a wet time on many farms, particularly in south Munster, so silage quality is middling to poor on many farms, which is very different to recent years.

Weanlings: Spring-born dairy replacement heifers should be weighing around 240kg now, which is around 42% of mature liveweight. This presumes their mature liveweight will be 580kg. Farmers should adjust their own target weight based on the expected liveweight of the heifers when they mature. Whether heifers are still at grass or housed, the lighter animals should be separated and treated differently. This involves preferential access to grass and extra meal if still at grass and if they’re already in the shed they should be getting good-quality silage and extra meal.

Dairy weanlings will only gain about 0.4kg to 0.5kg per day during the winter months, even if on good silage and some meal so if silage is poor or they are challenged in some other way the daily liveweight gain will be less and in some cases it mightn’t be far off zero. Common challenges include a fluke or worm burden or very poor-quality silage. Faecal egg counts should be used to determine stomach worm burden and dose accordingly. It’s harder to determine lungworm burden based on egg counts but if animals have a deep, hoosey cough it’s likely to be caused by lungworm. The same doses that treat stomach worms usually treat lungworm. If dosing for fluke, check if the product is treating adult or immature fluke. If only treating adult fluke, an extra dose will be required. Also, if heifers are still out grazing they will need to be dosed for fluke after housing. Chat to your vet about a winter parasite plan.

Cull cows: Prices for cull dairy cows in the marts is in or around €1 per kilo of liveweight, a bit more or a bit less depending on frame and level of conditioning. Should you sell now or hang on to them and milk on? While silage is plentiful, the cost of replacing that silage is high because fertiliser prices are likely to be at record prices next year, if indeed it will be available at all. While the economics point in favour of milking cull cows on for as long as possible, keep in mind the silage those cows eat needs to be replaced.