Over the last few days, much of the country has seen heavy showers of rain and, looking at the forecast, this situation is set to continue over the coming days.

For calves that have recently been weaned and turned out to grass, this can pose some management issues.

Firstly, increased rainfall is going to reduce the dry matter of the grass they are grazing.

This can result in increased passage rate through calves, making dung looser. This is especially true where calves are grazing really young, leafy swards or recently reseeded swards.

To combat this, it is important to have a fibre source with them to combat the low levels of fibre in the grass.


While it might seem counterproductive to feed straw to calves as we try to have top-quality grass available to stock to drive on daily liveweight gains, it is important for calves to have a balanced diet which includes fibre.

Calves will self-regulate in terms of straw intake – you will see in periods of poor weather more straw being eaten.

Secondly, the poorer weather is going to mean more damage being done around feeders where meal is being fed at grass.

It is important to keep feeders moving to avoid any long-term damage to swards.


Again, for calves that are not long at grass, try to keep them in well-sheltered paddocks until the unsettled weather has passed.

This shelter can be in the form of a hedgerow or trees which will break the wind and rain and significantly reduce the effects of the weather.

Finally, keep a close eye on calves during this poor period of weather, as heavy rainfall, combined with huge swings in temperature, can see a spike in pneumonia in calves.

Be aware of any calf lying on its own, slow to come to the feed trough or if it is showing any signs of illness, such as low ears or a sunken eye.

Bull selection

In this week's Irish Farmers Journal, the Thrive page looks at bull selection for the programme for next year's calves.

We outline what traits should be carefully considered when selecting sires for use on the dairy herd using the dairy beef index (DBI).

Read more

Watch: Thrive dairy calf to beef demo farm update

Watch: Farm Tech Talk - The Livestock Show

Grass growth explosion on Tullamore Farm