Autumn calving is in full swing on suckler farms around Ireland. With the new crop of calves hitting the ground, outlined are some management tasks to put on the priority list for autumn-calving herds.

De-horning calves

De-horning calves is best carried out as soon as horn buds start to grow, which can be anywhere from two weeks to four weeks of age.

Make sure calves are properly restrained and administer an anaesthetic to freeze the nerves around the horn.

Make sure the de-horning iron is piping hot and sharp to remove the bud cleanly, then cauterise the horn to stop any bleeding. Use an antiseptic or antibacterial spray to finish the job.

Pneumonia vaccines

Weather conditions are getting more changeable and calves will be at an increased risk of developing respiratory problems.

Vaccinating against respiratory problems, when combined with high levels of herd management, will help to reduce the risks of a pneumonia outbreak in young calves during autumn.

Meal feeding cows

Autumn grass will be low in dry matter, meaning cows are taking in less energy as they graze.

Supplement cows with 1kg to 2kg/head on a general-purpose ration to drive milk production and maintain body condition on autumn grass.

The additional energy supplied by meal will also bring cows back into heat much quicker.

Tetany prevention

Autumn grass will be lush, low in fibre and low in dry matter. Combined with changeable autumn weather, freshly-calved cows are at greater risk of developing grass tetany.

Feeding a high-magnesium ration will drive milk production and help reduce the risk of tetany.

But it is advisable to offer an additional form of magnesium as well, such as a bolus, lick bucket or in water troughs.

Avoid grazing freshly-calved cows on paddocks that have received a lot of slurry in recent weeks, as the tetany will be greatly increased.

Housing cows in advance of breeding

Cows that calved in early August will most likely be ready to serve again in late October. Conception rates are always increased when cows are on a settled diet before, during and after breeding.

Don’t leave these cows outside until late October just because there is grass and the ground is carrying stock.

Housing cows in the middle of breeding or just after service has a negative effect on fertility due to the sudden change in diet.

Instead, house the earliest-calving cows around two to three weeks before breeding starts. This allows cows to settle in the shed and on to silage before they are served.

The later-calving autumn cows can stay outside for as long as possible through the season.

Again, house within two to three weeks of breeding to allow them to get settled on a silage diet.

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