Bountiful harvest eases preparations for winter

It may only be the end of July, but planning for the winter is well under way.

Much of the second cut silage has now been made, or will soon be saved. As well as getting sufficient feed for the winter, time must be spent getting the yard and sheds ready for housing. Make a list of necessary repairs, and get started.

While a lot of grass silage that will be saved is now in the yard, third cut and bales will still be made.

The cereal harvest is progressing nicely, and thankfully. the weather has been kind so far. Grain quality seems excellent. Grain off the combine continues to represent excellent value for livestock farmers, and it should be taken advantage of, if at all possible.

Native barley, wheat and oats are exceptionally high in starch and energy, and when preserved and balanced well, will help to improve animal performance and reduce costs greatly. If you have the facility to store grain for the winter, now is the time to do it.

Maize silage crops look excellent all over the country, particularly if sown under plastic. All we need now is a good spell of weather around the harvest time, about eight or ten weeks away, to get the crop in the pit.

Beet crops look like returning massive yields, and will also provide excellent energy to finish stock this winter.

Thrive on grass

Grass continues to grow well around the country, and is providing excellent feed value at present. All stock are performing really well on properly managed grass. Keep grass growing well, with sufficient fertiliser application, as it will soon be time to begin banking grass.

Animals intended for finishing off grass over the coming weeks should be supplemented with a low protein concentrate to get the required weight gain and fat cover at slaughter.

Late-born, bucket-reared calves should also continue to be supplemented at this stage, in order to maintain growth rates before housing.

Parasite Control

Many dairy farms I have visited over the last number of weeks have seen a significant response to dosing for worms. On some farms, I have observed all groups of cattle coughing, including calves, replacement heifers and milking cows.

Some of this is down to not dosing often enough, or under-dosing at low rates.

It is easier for a dairy farmer to identify a response to dosing, as it can be measured in the milk tank on a daily basis. However, in a beef farm, measurement is much more difficult, if regular weighing is not being carried out. Regular dosing of grazing stock is critical, in order to control parasites and keep growth rates on target. It may be a dry summer, but there are still parasites on the grass.

Stocking up on Straw

With so much hay made this summer, the demand for straw is not as strong as last year.

I prefer straw as a roughage source for cattle, because it promotes better rumen function. Calves certainly perform significantly better when fed straw, as it doesn’t give them “pot bellies“, like those fed hay. Wheaten, barley, oaten and rape straws are all excellent sources of fibre, and will all be fed this winter on many farms to supplement grass silage.

One issue which pops up every year is the variation in the weight of bales. Before you buy bales, get an approximate weight, to see what you are getting for your money. Compare the options available to you, and make your purchasing decision based on the lowest cost per tonne of straw, according to bale weight. If you have capacity to store straw, buying straight from the field offers the best value.


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