The list of jobs to complete on a suckler farm can seem never ending.
Hopefully, there will be family members off on holidays over Christmas that can lend a hand to get bigger jobs sorted.
Outlined are five jobs to tick off over the Christmas period while this help is available.
1. Weigh stores and replacement heifers
Weighing replacement heifers, weanlings and store cattle will give a good indication of performance since housing or weaning time.
Use this info to determine which cattle will finish out of the shed, which animals need to go back to grass and which cattle could be sold live this spring.
Weighing maiden heifers is recommended to check whether animals will be heavy enough for breeding come late spring.
If heifers are below target weight gain by the end of December, there is still time to alter the diet and get animals back on track.
2. Feed pre-calving minerals
Pre-calving minerals should be introduced around six to eight weeks before calving starts. This means cows calving in February should get minerals from the end of December.
There are various methods of feeding minerals. If a mineral bolus is given pre-calving, then use the extra help over the Christmas period to get this job ticked off.
3. Vaccinating against calf scour
On farms with a history of calf scour, consider vaccinating February- and March-calving cows over the Christmas period when extra help is available for handling cows.
A scour vaccine, like any vaccine, is not a quick-fix or substitute for poorly managed cows, poor shed hygiene or calves not getting enough colostrum after birth. But under the right herd management, it can greatly reduce the risk of a scour outbreak.
4. Cleaning out calving pens
If calving pens have been used as a sick bay this winter or to isolate bought in animals, then it is important these pens are cleaned with a pressure washer, then left to dry before disinfecting.
Also, if there are calving gates that need altering or lights to install in calving pens, get these jobs completed as early as possible.
5. Order ear tags
Another job to tick off over Christmas is ordering ear tags. As of 1 January 2022, each set of cattle tags purchased from your regular supplier must contain at least one electronic ear tag.
Older tags carried over from 2021 can be used to tag calves born during the upcoming spring. However, come 1 July 2022, any calf born after this date is legally required to have at least one electronic ear tag.
Given the change, it is recommended to order tags early to avoid any backlog in supply chains when spring calving gets under way.