Autumn changes are moving fast

There is a real feel of autumn around in the last week or so. Grass has that soft look and feel to it and all of the summer stem has disappeared from swards.

The final round of fertiliser is well under way and rotation lengths are rapidly heading towards 30 days. All of that and the ploughing is only 4 weeks away.

We have had ideal growing conditions in most parts of the country recently. Unfortunately in some areas they have experienced a lot of rain and in those areas it is not uncommon for cattle to be indoors on silage due to poor ground conditions.

Surplus grass

Most now have a surplus of grass ahead of them. It is worth remembering however that we are now heading towards September and the nights are closing in fast.

This will unfortunately begin to have a negative effect on growth. It is time now to start banking grass to extend the grazing season later on in the year.

Those who do a third cut or still have bales to make will be anxious to get them done soon so that you will be able to bring after-grass into the rotation sooner rather than later. Grass will need a bit of a longer wilt at this time of year particularly if it is being baled.

Weanling of early spring calves

Early born spring suckler calves will on many farms be weaned over the coming weeks and months. It is good practice to feed creep around weaning as it reduces stress on the calf and reduces their dependency on mother’s milk.

This in turn makes it easier for the suckler cow to be dried off without complications. The creep feed supplied to calves should include good quality ingredients, be palatable and include minerals.

Palatability of the creep feed is critical as you need to encourage all calves to eat a sufficient volume of concentrates pre weaning to have the desired effect.

An inclusion of some molasses particularly at introduction will entice weanlings to begin eating ration quickly.

Reduced weaning stress

When weaning calves reducing stress must be your priority. Stressed weanlings are much more prone to illness such as pneumonia.

Any dosing, vaccinating or castrating etc… should be done well in advance of weaning.

Once weaning has occurred then the calves should remain on creep feed for at least 2 weeks or longer.

Most will put cows indoors or in a bare paddock on straw only and send the weanlings as far away as possible so that they won’t hear them bawling at night!

Whatever works best for you, but remember that reducing stress will help to achieve optimum animal performance and reduce illness. Don’t forget that reducing stress on the dry cow should also be an important aspect of the weaning process.

Creep feeding

Using an electric fence in the corner of a paddock as a creep area has become.

The fence is high enough for calves to go under and the meal is fed in an open trough in the creep area with all calves having access to meal at the same time.

One benefit of this is that you can regulate the amount of meal consumed daily by the weanlings as they can all eat at the same time.

You can also be sure that all weanlings are getting some meal and you can identify shy eaters.

You will need plenty of current in the fence however as most suckler cows can be flighty when the want to and the rarely see meal!

Some will also practice forward creeping of grass and with this method you can also feed creep meal to calves in open troughs in the forward paddock.

Managing the dry suckler

Plenty of straw for three or four days after weaning is generally ample to dry off suckler cows. If you have issues on your farm with mastitis consider tubing and/or sealing cows. Once dry and settled many will let dry suckler’s follow other stock to clean out paddocks.

Remember that most suckler’s at drying off have plenty of condition and don’t need to put any more on.

Leave them work a bit harder for their feed for a period of time.


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