Get winter-ready on the farm with top tips from Teagasc

October sees the fall of leaves so, it’s time to start closing fields, preparing land and livestock for the winter.

Grassland

Extend the grazing season for as long as possible into the autumn. This helps to shorten the winter feeding period.

Aim to prioritise the best grass available towards the most productive stock i.e., calves/weanlings, finishing lambs, beef cattle etc.

Consider applying lime this backend while weather and ground conditions allow.

Lime will encourage growth in the spring by releasing organic N from the soil; encourage earthworm and microbial activity, releasing soil P for plant growth etc.

Graze fields/paddocks down to 4-5cm and close for winter. Start closing in the third week of October and close paddocks in sequence up to late November.

Fields closed in October should be available for grazing from mid-February onwards and those closed in November should be available for grazing in March.

Farmers who out-winter sheep up to January should close an area of the farm and graze these paddocks in rotation.

Post-emergence sprays are essential to control docks, redshank and chickweed (at 2-3 leaf stage which is normally at about six weeks after sowing).

If clover is present in the new ley, use Legumex DB, Underclear or some other appropriate herbicide. If no clover present, use Nintex etc. Check spray label carefully before use.

Farm Management

Ensure to empty slurry tanks before the October 15. Empty and land spread the contents of FYM stores before October 30.

Spreading either after these dates will incur a 20% penalty under Cross Compliance.

Be prepared for the winter, here are some tips on what to do:

  • Clean out animal housing thoroughly.
  • Check for damaged/sagging slats.
  • Ensure all gates and feeding barriers are hanging safely and can be fastened securely.
  • Check water bowls/piping for leakages.
  • Service tractors.
  • Check brakes and hydraulic systems etc.
  • List repairs needed and get them done.
  • Don’t delay. Do it today.

Beef

Scan all cows 35 days after mating has finished. Scanning will verify if cow is in calf and help with the organisation of calving and labour requirements next spring.

After scanning, cull all barren cows or heifers, sell them or fatten them for slaughter.

Creep Grazing helps break the cow/calf link and ensures a supply of quality grass for weanlings.

When it comes to feeding weanlings, calves to be weaned should be fed in open troughs in a creep grazing area, where the amount of meal being fed can be regulated and all calves can be feed and be seen at the same time.

Feed at least 1kg per head/day of a 16% Crude Protein ration for four weeks pre-weaning and two weeks post-weaning.

Finishing Cattle – sell cattle as they become fit.

For beef cattle that are 30-40kg short of slaughter weight, feed 3 to 4kg head/day of a high energy low protein (12-14% CP) ration at grass for six to eight weeks.

Concentrate feeding will increase carcase weight, conformation score and kill out. Under finished cattle could be sold at the mart.

Slaughter beef cattle before they are 30 months of age.

For cattle that are more than 40kg short of slaughter weight which have been on meal at grass, these animals can be housed and finished indoors.

Feeding meal ad-lib indoors will give high weight gains in the short term.

Local vets are reporting a high incidence of hoose this backend. Treat all weanlings for internal parasites, especially hoose.

Liver Fluke – the summer past has been perfect for snails. Treat all stock against all stages of this parasite.

It may be necessary to dose stock again in six or eight weeks’ time depending on the veterinary product used.

Replacement Heifers – selection of replacements should be based on performance, conformation, weight gain, temperament and most of all the maternal traits of their dam.

If involved in the BDGP, use the data supplied by ICBF Eurostar report on replacement indexes to choose replacement heifers of a 4 or 5-star rating.

Once weaned, these potential replacements should be grazed and fed on their own, away from weanling bulls, stock bulls, castrated male steers etc.

By Anthony O’Connor, Teagasc Advisor, Galway/Clare.

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