A couple of farmers have been in contact to say that heifer calves and replacement heifers aren’t thriving. Spring born calves should be between 27% and 30% of their mature liveweight now. If the mature liveweight is 580kg, then they should be weighing between 155kg and 174kg. It’s important to weigh the calves to know whether they are on target or not.

Just looking at variation within a group may give a false sense of security, particularly if they are not being judged against other calves.

Underperforming heifers are very costly in the long run, with poor milk yields as cows, the main cost. The usual cause of poor performance in calves is health related problems or poor quality grass.

Moving calves to clean grass such as after-grass from silage reduces worm burden and improves grass quality.

Separating lighter calves is a big help, especially when the light calves can get preferential access to grass. This means always having nice grass and never being asked to clean out paddocks. This, combined with 2kg of meal should help to boost performance. It always pays to get light calves back on target weight quickly. Delaying the problem to the second year is too late.


Air temperatures continue to run around two degrees Celsius below normal, and while grass growth rates have improved somewhat, they are still well below normal. Most farmers are continuing to feed heavy as grass is on a knife edge.

It’s hard to believe, but in the next few weeks attention will be turning towards building up covers for the autumn. The long range forecast is for temperatures to remain in the high teens for next week, so I don’t see a big change in growth coming any time soon.

Continue to do the basics well. Measure grass every five days and as soon as growth improves, reduce some of the meal feeding and increase grass intakes. Continue to spread 20kg to 35kg of N/ha after grazing and ideally include some sulphur in all fertiliser applications.

The amount of nitrogen being fixed by clover is debatable – certainly less than expected this year. It’s a risky strategy to be relying on clover to fix all the nitrogen requirements right now. I’ve no doubt that if weather improves then clover will respond, but right now it’s underperforming.


At the Irish Grassland Association summer dairy tour in Laois this week, host farmer Bruce Thompson said one of his goals is to have €200/cow in cash on hand to cover expenses in winter/spring 2025. He is cutting out non-essential expenditure to make sure he has it. I am concerned that some farmers are sleep walking into a bigger cash flow problem.

You can take no solace from a high milk price, because the amount of milk being sold is back significantly and the amount of meal being fed is up significantly. Many farmers have fed as much meal now as they would normally feed in the year. All of this has to be paid for.