Herd Management: The golden rules of housing cattle this autumn

Herd Management: The golden rules of housing cattle this autumn

A vet walks through the barn as he takes a break from fertility testing a dairy cows.

As is the way of the world, winter comes around every year and every year, there is a hope that housing can be delayed as long as possible, but this is always dictated by the weather.

As is always the case, it’s a matter of, which will run out first, the weather or the grass?

There is a lot of grass around the country at the moment, and hopefully, we will get the weather to utilise it fully. Many farms are now close to closing paddocks for next year and the last rotation will soon be underway. 

A few weeks back, I wrote about getting sheds and winter facilities ready for the winter. Good planning can make life easier at housing. It is also important to get your animals ready for the sheds. What this will involve depends on the type of animals to be housed, housing type, disease status and herd history.

Vaccination and dosing programmes in consultation with your vet need to be put in place well in advance of housing.

Weanling management once into October 

In the autumn, weanlings tend to be at their most vulnerable. Spring suckler herds have already, or soon will be, weaned. 

This can be a stressful time for these calves, and weaning should be done with the aim of reducing stress levels as much as possible. An introduction to meal well in advance of weaning and continuing after weaning considerably reduces stress.

Feed a good quality, high-energy concentrate that will maintain intake and good rumen health. This feed should also include a top-quality mineral pack to maintain the animal’s immune systems. Good quality forage must also be supplied whether weanlings remain on grass or are being housed.

Dry cows calving in spring 2023 

Attention should also be given to cows that have just been dried off. Particular care should be taken with 1st calver’s at this stage. Best practice if cows are being kept outdoors post-weaning is to allocate them a bare paddock and offer straw for three to four days post dry-off. 

Monitor them for mastitis post-weaning. Some cows' udder involution can be much slower than others.

Housing advanced stock 

In the past few weeks, cattle to be finished this winter are beginning to be housed. 

It is becoming obvious that these cattle are beginning to lose weight on grass alone or at the very best maintaining their weight. For many it is not practical to supplement these advanced cattle in the field. 

As a result, it is best to get them indoors and begin finishing them. It is always great to have heavier stock on some meal before housing as it makes the transition to the shed much easier for them.

  • Brian Reidy is an independent ruminant nutritionist at Premier Farm Nutrition.

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