Advice for beef farmers: Dry cows can tidy up pastures

Advice for beef farmers
Advice for beef farmers: Dry cows can tidy up pastures
At Macroom Mart last Saturday, three Hereford heifers born March 2018, which weighed 481kg, sold for €850.

Autumn calving in suckler herds will begin in the next month or so. Many have weaned last autumn’s calves, and cows are now dry or soon will be. As well as suckler herds gearing up for calving autumn cows, creep feeding of spring-born calves will commence soon.

Creep feeding spring calves

Creep feeding with meal and forward creeping grass are being introduced in spring calving groups at present. Cows are generally in good condition, and you can afford to let them work a little harder, while offering the calves the best of grass in the next paddock. Any creep meal should be of top quality to encourage intake and aid good performance. Try to keep birds away from feed where possible, to avoid disease that could occur.

Autumn calving cows

In general, almost all sucklers will calve outdoors in the autumn, bar any problems which may occur.

However, make sure that you have everything ready indoors just in case you need to assist any difficult births.

Wash out and disinfect calving boxes before the season gets going. Check that the water troughs in the calving boxes are clean and functioning. Do a quick check of the calving jack and ensure that it is working and that the two ropes are in good order. Switch on your calving camera and make sure it is working properly.

Check that your calving gate is opening and closing properly. Some cows can get very aggressive around calving, so properly functioning equipment is essential for your own safety.

Dry suckler feed  requirements

It is important that you don’t have suckler cows over-conditioned at calving.

They should be dried off in the condition you would like to calve them down in.

It is better to maintain condition during the dry period, rather than trying to adjust it either way.

Dry suckler cows that are too fat at calving tend to have more difficult calvings, and metabolic disorders such as milk fever and held cleanings. This may also have a negative effect on their subsequent fertility. Conversely, cows that are thin don’t have enough energy to calve, and supply poor milk quality to the newborn calf.

Low plane of nutrition

Keeping cows on a relatively low plane of nutrition may involve dry cows grazing behind young-stock, cows with calves, or finishers. This means that the productive stock can get the best of the grass and the dry cows can tidy up behind. It is important for grass quality that the dry cows follow the other stock within 24-48 hours, otherwise they will eat regrowths rather than the grass left behind.

If you must graze dry sucklers on good quality swards, then you should use a strip wire, and consider supplementing with some straw or coarse hay to restrict total energy intake.

Some will strip graze dry cows on strong grazing swards, rather than making bales.

Supply a good quality pre-calver mineral for all dry sucklers for at least four or five weeks before calving.

Please don’t listen to those who claim to never feed a mineral to cows.

Best of luck to them, but there are inherent mineral deficiencies around Ireland, and they need to be addressed, especially in cows close to calving, to avoid a stressful calving season for the farmer and for animals.

If you know of specific mineral deficiencies on your farm, then you may need to give cows a bolus, or get a bespoke mineral premix made up for your herd.

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