Nitrogen and topping

Grass has headed out in the last week in a lot of strong grazing paddocks on drystock farms. If you are tight for grass the advice is to go in and eat these paddocks and top them off once they are grazed.

Set the topper as low as possible to get a good close shave on the field. A disc mower will apply the best cut and grass will recover quicker after it.

Diesel is now over €1.40/l so make sure it’s worth it. For some farmers it’s been six weeks or more since they have spread nitrogen so it’s time to go out with 20-25 units/N/ac as soon as you can.

It’s expensive but will maintain quality in swards and also help keep cattle putting on weight. With trade where it is at the moment early selling could be an option on some farms this summer.

Culling hard

Cull suckler cows are a great trade at the moment, making up to and over €3,000/head in some marts, while plainer cows may be back a little in price.

Suckler farmers should use the trade conditions to cull hard. If scanning has been completed in autumn calving herds, empty cows should be on a one way ticket.

In-calf heifers will be bought for the same price as culls are making at the moment.

In spring calving herds cows for culling should be earmarked for a separate group. This group shouldn’t be bred again.

If these cows and calves are started on some ration in a group on their own it will mean calves could be weaned earlier, and cows sold earlier before big numbers start to appear out in autumn.

This isn’t a year for giving cows chances. Bad feet, poor fertility, poor milk, bad quality calves, light calves, poor temperament are all valid reasons to cull cows.

Separating heifers and bulls

Mid-summer and December are the months where I usually get calls from finishers with heifers ending up being in calf.

Sometimes it works out and the farmer takes back the heifer without any argument but sometimes there is a dispute about where the heifer got bred, how much the daily rate should be, who pays for testing and mart fees.

It’s a minefield and should be avoided. A lot of marts have signs up to say that female animals are taken as being free of a calf unless stated otherwise.

The reality is that heifers, particularly traditional breeds, can hit puberty as young as six months of age. Calves born in November/December are now seven months of age and should be split up from their male counterparts.

This is the easiest way of avoiding that dreaded phone call to say that you have to take back an in-calf heifer or worse, get the phone call to say something happened her at calving and you have to pay vets fees with no heifer to take back.

I have seen some farmers attach scanning certs to say heifers are not in calf as an extra sales pitch when selling. Scanning is a relatively cheap task and will give you peace of mind when selling.

Some marts in the west offer this service as animals enter the mart but will only pick up pregnancies over 30 days.

I have heard of some farmers injecting Estrumate at sale time but this can result in sick animals where embryos are at a stronger stage, and should be avoided.