With the autumn just a couple of weeks away, there a few management tasks for suckler farmers to complete that will prepare calves for weaning, sale or housing.

Treating weanlings and calves for lungworm

It has been a relatively dry summer for the majority of the country and this has kept worm burdens relatively low on pasture.

As such, cattle will have had very little exposure to internal parasites, such as gut and lungworms, leaving them with little chance to build up immunity.

Once grazing ground receives any significant amount of rain, worm populations will rapidly increase and animals such as calves and weanlings will be susceptible to lungworm.

Therefore, be alert for early signs of worms and treat with an appropriate dosing product.

Respiratory vaccines

Take the opportunity to vaccinate against respiratory diseases that cause pneumonia, especially if the herd has a history with the disease.

Vaccinating in advance of weaning will give time for an immune response to build, making the vaccine much more effective.

At the same time, a vaccine is not a substitute for poor herd health, stressing animals when handling or problems with airflow in sheds. Vaccines work effectively when cattle are well managed.

Removing the stock bull

When bringing calves in for worming or vaccinating, use the opportunity to remove the stock bull. Cows served in late August will calve in mid-June, based on a 285- to 290-day gestation period.

For March-, April- and May-calving cows, fertile animals should be long settled in-calf by the end of August, so there should be no issue with removing the stock bull.

Separating bull calves and heifer calves

With the stock bulls removed, it is possible to regroup the herd, with all cows and heifers calves staying together, while cows with bull calves also batched together.

Alternatively, regroup calves that are on target for selling at weanling sales this autumn. Lighter, plainer calves that will be wintered can then be grouped separately.

Introducing meal

With bull and heifer calves separated, or those destined for weanling sales separated from lighter animals, it is possible to target concentrate feeding to high-priority animals.

This is more cost effective and will have animals in a more saleable condition. Bull calves can be offered a higher rate of concentrate than heifers, without going overfat.

Equally, there is no advantage in pumping meal to lighter calves that will be wintered on-farm.

These animals can have meal introduced later in the season or after housing, whichever is more cost effective and better suited to pre-weaning management.

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