Stock under pressure due to nutrition

Still no major increase in temperatures, but there’s the promise of double figures by next week.

Unfortunately, growth will not take off straight away; it will take a while for soil temperatures to rise.

The latest figures suggest that soil temperatures are currently slightly above five degrees C. That needs to be nine-10 degrees before we see good growth.

In reality, on most farms that are currently very short of grass, it will be at least four weeks before a good supply of grass is available, if growth improves next week.

It is very important on heavily stocked farms that the first rotation is not finished until the third week of April. This may mean re-housing some stock, or at least slowing down the rotation by supplementing grass with concentrates. If you begin the second round too quickly, with low farm covers, you could end up chasing grass around the farm for the next few months.

Ensure that you have sufficient fertiliser out in advance of better weather.

Some have used a compound rather than straight nitrogen, as the feeling is that the wet year has washed a lot of nutrients out of the soil. Some are also using fertilisers with some minerals included. Silage ground should also have a proportion of its fertiliser applied, if not already done.

Thin Stock

With little growth and low silage stocks, it has been well reported that many stock are beginning to lose too much condition. Reports from vets suggest a lot of nutrition-related issues on farms.

Vets are running around the country fighting fires, treating animals that are sick due to poor nutrition. Most of this is quite possibly avoidable, if diets were balanced correctly to cater for the animals’ needs.

Energy is an essential nutrient for animals in order to perform basic functions. Animals that are under-supplied with energy will have depressed immune systems, and will find it harder to fight off infections.

There is an over-emphasis on many farms to feed lots of straw to stock, without balancing it correctly for the animals being fed.

Feeding straw requires the balancing concentrate to be higher in protein than those used to balance silage. Now more than ever, it is essential to get correct advice regarding how to feed your animals correctly with ingredients which perhaps you are not used to.

Filling up cattle is only half the job, they must also be performing. Seek expert advice from an animal nutritionist where possible, rather than just take whatever your supplier has on offer.

If we don’t address the issues of underfeeding now, we will pay the costs well into the future.

What should you try to avoid?

* Do not allow suckler cows to lose excessive weight after calving, as it will be very difficult to get them back in calf.

* Calves under cows where grass is scarce should be creep fed, in order to reduce dependency on the suckler cow until sufficient grass is available.

* Bulling heifers must be in a positive energy status in order to come bulling and go in calf.

* Undernourished weanlings indoors or outdoors will be more stressed and more prone to pneumonia etc.

* Stores that you intend to kill off grass need to continue thriving, rather than lose weight, if you want to kill them in the intended time frame. Cash is tight enough this year without delaying your stock going to market, when it is avoidable.

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