Weighing, treating parasites and parlour training are all jobs that can be completed in the coming days and weeks with heifers.
Most farms have now housed in-calf heifers ahead of calving in the spring. Ideally, these heifers should be housed in cubicles.
It is important that you weigh your in-calf heifers to ensure they are on target to calve down at the correct weight.
This is particularly important for heifers that have now returned from contract-rearing farms.
These heifers are the next generation entering your herd and it is important that they get off to the best possible start within the herd.
If heifers are calving below target weight, this may have an impact on their performance and fertility.
Heifers that are at the correct weight ahead of calving need to be fed high-quality silage ad-lib, to ensure they continue to grow.
Avoid overcrowding in pens and ensure that there is adequate feed space available for the number of animals in the pen.
Heifers that you determine to be behind target should be penned separately and offered concentrates. These heifers can be fed concentrates for up to six-weeks prior to calving.
Housing is the ideal time to treat animals for parasites such as stomach worms, lungworms and fluke.
Animals cannot pick up a new parasite infection when housed, so reducing the burden on these animals will ensure that performance is not affected.
Dung samples should be taken to determine if there is a parasite burden, if there is no burden heifers should not be treated for parasites.
Treating heifers that do not have a parasite burden is wasteful, expensive and aiding anti-parasitic resistance.
Another job you could consider doing in the coming weeks is training your heifers to the parlour.
Calving is a stressful time for a heifer, introducing them to a new experience will only increase stress levels.
Introducing your heifers to the parlour will make it not a completely new experience to these heifers, once they calve.
You can begin by allowing heifers to access the collecting yard with the front and back gate to the parlour open.
This allows the heifers to move through the parlour themselves. You can then close the front gate and offer heifers concentrates.
Once the heifers are comfortable in the parlour you can start the machine and allow the heifers to become familiar with the noise in the parlour.