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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

New design aims to take the backache from those last scoops in feed bin

Francis Farragher

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Michael and Brenda Egan with their new ‘Tipsy Bin’ – designed to make life easier ‘on the back’ for farmers.

IT can be the bane of many farmers’ lives in their yard as they try to extract the last buckets of meal from their bin leading to one big stretch and at times a stretched back too.

Now, a Glenamaddy entrepreneur is fully confident that he has ‘cracked the problem’ after designing a meal bin that neatly leans over on a bevel to take the ache out of that final clean out.

A couple of years back while out on his brother’s farm, Michael Egan, noticed how awkward it was ‘to get to the bottom of the bin’ and in one of those Eureka moments he thought that there just ‘had to be a better way’.

An Operations Manager for Kingspan and Rom Plastics before that, Michael set about designing the new bin which also incorporates a flat base and a clever water draining hole to facilitate an easy wash out.

Along with his wife Brenda, they have set up a company called Megafab who are now distributing their new Tipsy Bin to locations around the country but mostly in direct sales to farmers.

“We are aiming to sell directly to farmers and feel that the bin at €299 (including VAT) is quite keenly price with a  small delivery charge, depending on location.

“Initially we had hoped to launch the product in March but then the COVID situation happened so we put it off until October and I’m delighted to say that we’re flying it so far. The bin is very practical and user-friendly,” Michael Egan told the Farming Tribune.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Organic farmers in West get €1.3m

Francis Farragher

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Pippa Hackett: More money on the way for organic farming.

CLOSE on 70 organic farmers in Galway will be receiving average payments of almost €4,700 under the Organic Farming Scheme (OFS), the Dept. of Agriculture have confirmed.

Minister of State at the Dept. of Agriculture, Senator Pippa Hackett, confirmed the start of €5.5m worth of OFS payments to 1,200 farmers across the country from Wednesday last.

She said that the advance payments were being made two weeks ahead of schedule, with the success of the scheme being reflected in a 50% increase in organic farming acreage since 2014.

Currently, there are 68 Galway farmers in the OFS scheme who between them will be getting payments of €319,041 this week, an average of €4,691 per participant.

Between the five Connacht counties and Clare, there are now 366 farmers participating in the OFS scheme bringing in total advance payments of just over €1.3m, an average of  €3,500 per participant.

Roscommon has the biggest number of organic farmers in the West with a total figure of 141 participants followed by Galway on 68, Clare and Leitrim 51 each, with Mayo and Sligo having 56 organic farmers split evenly between them.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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

New faces on IFA commodities committee

Francis Farragher

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A NUMBER of new faces will be elected onto the Galway IFA Commodities Committee in a postal vote that will begin next week and be completed by early December.

The most keenly contested position looks like being that of Rural Development representative with three candidates going for the job.

Eamonn Burke, Corrandulla branch, was the outgoing representative, but his term of office ends this month, opening the way for three new nominations.

They are: PJ Conroy, Looscaun, Woodford; Pat Flaherty, Oranmore and Peter Gohery of the Eyrecourt branch.

Rural Development is considered one of the more important positions in that it will be ‘fighting the case’ for the bigger spending areas such as REPS, GLAS and any new environmental scheme.

The other contest is for the position of Grain Representative which had been held by John Daly of Kilconnell, whose term of office is also up.

There are two nomination for this position – Eamonn Burke of Corrandulla and Mervyn Cooke of the Aughrim IFA branch.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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