The breeding season begins in May for suckler farmers and bull management is key at this time of year. To get the most out of your bull you should:
- Be aware that your bull is half your herd. Check your bull for signs of ill health, especially his legs and feet.
- He must be in good condition before being let out with cows.
- He should have a strong libido, a good supply of high sperm count semen.
- If you had a lot of empty cows last year or are concerned about your bull fertility, you should get him fertility tested at a cost of roughly €90.
- Keep a record of cow and bull activity as a high number of cows repeating would indicate a problem.
You should be checking cows and calves at least once a day if not twice. Nights have been very cold with ground frost in places and this is when calves will get chills and scour.
Here’s how you can manage calves at this time of year:
- Calves like children will get sick very quick (over 2/3hrs) and will need treatment but will also respond quickly when treated.
- Calves vaccinated against Blackleg, Redwater and Tetanus etc in early April will need a second shot four to six weeks later for full cover.
- If you have a paddock system in place using one strand of electric wire it should be possible to raise the wire in one place to allow calves to run ahead and graze fresh grass.
- This will help their overall weight gain as they get older and begin to eat more grass later in summer.
Anthony O’Connor, Teagasc Adviser, Galway/Clare Regional Unit.