The View from Teagasc: Advice from dairy farmers this October.

Soil test: While too much fertiliser is wasteful, it appears that many farmers are not applying adequate phosphorus (P) or potassium (K), and the application of lime is being

Too many soil samples are being analysed as deficient in either P or K and lime. It takes only one nutrient to be short for grass growth to be restricted.

Take action now and get your farm soil tested this autumn. Investment in fertiliser P and K (where needed) will grow more grass and give a very high return on investment. This investment must be prioritised over the next two to three years as farmers move to milking more cows.

Heifers: Keep heifers growing at about 0.7kg/day (20kg/month) before housing. Target weight is 220kg for HF heifers on December 1.
Weigh your heifers now. Many groups have purchased scales and ICBF also offer a weighing service. Weanlings of 200kg will eat about 2.3 per cent of their bodyweight, which is about 4.5kg of grass dry matter per day.

Where grass is scarce or when ground conditions deteriorate, 1-2kg meal should be fed. Close heifer ground similar to your milking block. Aim to have yearlings at grass in early March.

Autumn-born heifers – how many heifers are eligible for bulling this winter? Check weight by weighing them. Target weight is 330kg for HF animal at breeding. Winter calving herds may have more eligible heifers for breeding than they realise.


■ Lameness – foot bath your cows early this month and again towards the end of October to harden hooves and eliminate Mortellaro before housing begins.
■ Lactose – must be above 4.2 per cent, watch cow nutrition and overall yield up to drying off.
■ Reseeds – don’t forget post emergence spray for seedling docks/chickweed, best time is five-to-eight weeks after sowing to protect clover.
■ Ideally dry off cows in the desired body condition score (BCS) for calving (3.0-3.5).
■ Allow 12-14 week dry period for heifers, second calvers and thin cows, and eight weeks for other animals.
■ Scanning – record results onto Irish Cattle Breeding Federation database.