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Pre-calving management and good planning are key building blocks for suckler success

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WITH 70% of suckler cows calving in the months February to April, most suckler cows are now in mid or late pregnancy. Pre-calving management and preparing for calving are hugely important in order to avoid problems in the coming months. Management aspects to be considered include:

Stocking rate in pens: Most suckler cows are housed by now. As the calf foetus grows, so too does the space required by suckler cows. If pens are overstocked, cow performance will suffer. This is due partly to restricted movement in pens reducing free access to forage and reducing intakes.

Body condition score (BCS): Spring calving suckler cows need to be at BCS 2.5 at calving. Suckler cows should be divided and fed according to their BCS status. Over-fat cows may experience calving difficulties while thin cows may suffer depressed milk yield and may be delayed returning to heat for the next breeding season. 

Restrict feed to fat cows, while thin cows may need concentrates in order to meet their BCS target at calving time. Grouping cows on body condition will allow feeding levels to be targeted to nutritional demand. The ideal situation is where cows can be split into three groups – cows in excessive condition that can be restricted; cows in ideal body condition and fed to maintain that; and under-fleshed cows requiring preferential treatment. Shy feeders, older cows in the herd and first calvers will likely be in this latter group.               

It is important to act early – there is little point trying to starve cows or pump cows up in the weeks approaching calving in the hope of getting cows into the required body condition. Cow condition need to be monitored right throughout the winter so that cows are fit and not fat before calving.

Parasites: Fluke and lice are the most troublesome parasite of mature suckler cows. Well fed, healthy cows should have strong immunity to worms. All housed cows should have been treated for fluke at this stage with products that are effective against immature and adult flukes. If treating cows now, consult your vet on the best product to use. When treating for lice, make sure to cover all the stock in the shed at the one time. 

Mineral/trace element supplementation: Silage is generally well balanced in major minerals but is deficient in trace elements such as Copper, Selenium and Iodine. Pre-calving mineral licks (in buckets) can be offered to cows 4 to 6 weeks prior to calving. Alternatively, if feeding a coarse ration, a dry cow mineral mix can be sprinkled on the ration or silage at a rate of 100grams per head/day for 4 to 6 weeks before calving. Compound rations will contain minerals. 

Vaccination: Where there has been scour outbreaks in young calves in the past, vaccines can be used in combination with good nutrition and hygiene to combat these infections. Vaccines against E.coli, Rotavirus, Coronavirus and Salmonella will give passive immunity to calves via colostrum. These vaccines generally have to be given 1-3 months prior to calving to be effective so may sure you give them on time.

Calving area: Good hygiene is all important. Have calving boxes power washed and disinfected (1 calving box per 10 cows). Ensure sufficient straw is in store. Don’t skimp on straw for very young calves.

Safety: Cows have a strong maternal instinct and can become aggressive in protecting their calves immediately after calving. Ensure cows are safely secured. Check out calving gate to see if it works properly and is secure. Cows showing prolonged calving aggression should be culled and slaughtered after weaning the calf.

*Anthony O’Connor is a Teagasc Adviser, Galway/Clare Regional Unit. Comments to anthony.oconnor@teagasc.ie

Connacht Tribune

Fair Deal reached as Bill is enacted

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Maura Canning: Good day expected.
Maura Canning, the former IFA Farm Family and Social Affairs Chairperson

RELIEF has been expressed this week in farming and political circles that at last the Fair Deal Nursing Home legislations changes have been passed by the Oireachtas.

The Bill went through the Dáil last Thursday and the Seanad on Friday, bringing to a conclusion a campaign that started back in 2012.

Maura Canning, the former IFA Farm Family and Social Affairs Chairperson, told the Farming Tribune there was a great sense of relief that a nine-year long campaign had at last got over the line.

“It has been such a long and difficult campaign to secure this deal with a lot of complications and obstacles along the way. At times, we seemed to be almost there, until something happened to hold up the process, but there really was a great sense of relief last Friday when the Bill at last passed through its final stages,” said Maura Canning.

She paid a particular to former Minister of State, Jim Daly; the current incumbent Mary Butler; and also to the many TDs and Senators that had been lobbied over the years on the issue. “No TD ever failed to return a call,” she said.

The key change in the new Bill is that there will be a three-year cap on the 7.5% annual contribution of the overall value of the farm where the farmer or their spouse is in a nursing home. There are a number of conditions attached to this CAP, the most significant of which is the fact that the farm must be signed over fully to the inheritor for a five-year period and this person must also continue farming on the land.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Stay safe on the farm

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GALWAY farmers have again been reminded during Farm Safety Week to ‘stop, think and slow down’ as they go about their work during the busy Summer season – and indeed for the rest of the year as well.

Roy O’Brien, Galway/Mayo IFA Regional Executive, told the Farming Tribune that too many farm families had been impacted upon by fatalities or life-changing injuries over recent years.

“In their daily work, farmers have to be a bit of everything from a vet to a mechanic to a driver of heavy machinery and often these tasks have to be carried out with no one else around.

“I think that this change of duties represents one of the big challenges to farmers in terms of their own health and safety. Every day can bring a new job and a new safety challenge,” said Roy O’Brien.

Galway IFA Chairperson, Anne Mitchell, said it was shocking to think that between 2011 and 2020, 21 children had lost their lives in farm accidents across the country.

“While children look forward to being home on the farm for the Summer, now is an important time to have conversations about safety.

“Tell them about the dangers and set the rules but don’t expect a child to take on the responsibility of keeping themselves safe. Children do not understand risk,” said Anne Mitchell.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

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The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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Connacht Tribune

Top ten steps to reduce GHGs

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Suckler herds: The longer they can be kept out to grass, the better it is for reducing emissions.

TEAGASC has outlined a 10-step programme to help beef farmers reduce their carbon footprint over the coming years as part of agriculture’s contribution to the cutting of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions.

Martina Harrington, Teagasc Beef Specialist, has outlined that 68% of all agricultural GHG emissions in Ireland are methane based while almost all the rest are nitrous oxide – less than 3% are carbon dioxide.

She explained in the latest edition of the Teagasc magazine, Today’s Farm, that methane is a by-product of the digestive system of animals while nitrous oxide (N2O) is a gas caused by the breakdown of nitrogen.

In terms of methane reductions, Martina Harrington, recommends more efficient suckler cows; better daily weight gains from calves; the possible use of feed additives; and an extension of the grazing season to reduce slurry volumes.

As regards nitrous oxide, she recommends a reduction in the amount of synthetic fertiliser to be applied by improving soil fertility, especially in relation to soil pH levels [liming].

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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