With an estimated 1.5m births to take place on Irish dairy and suckler farms over the next three months, next week marks the start of the busiest time of year on these farms.

The calving season can make or break the year, especially in a suckler system. Preparation is key and this week we have outlined a few simple steps to make sure you are prepared for calving and that you are equipped to deal with anything that comes your way. A calf’s life starts off with colostrum and it is essential that a calf receives adequate colostrum within two hours of birth. It’s also important that it’s good-quality colostrum.

Declan Marren outlines good colostrum management, including details on how to test the quality of the colostrum that you feed to calves. If colostrum quality is poor, tweaks in the dry cow diet may be required to lift quality.

Tommy Moyles visits Bandon Mart in Co Cork to check out their new system for selling calves to exporters and he also talks to Andrew Cromie from ICBF about the new ICBF Stock €xpress tool used to select calves for sale. The aim of this programme is to increase the quality of calves that are traded, an important step for the long-term sustainability of both dairy and beef farms.

Looking at 2020 insemination data, we see that Jersey usage is down and progress is being made with the dairy beef index. However, more progress is needed on the use of beef AI in the dairy herd and sire identification at birth. John Crowe visits a super calf-rearing setup in Tipperary and Declan Marren talks to Teagasc’s Nicky Byrne on the calf-rearing element of the dairy calf-to-beef trial in Teagasc, Grange, Co Meath.