Dairy management: Weighing heifers, carrying out a forage analysis and calf housing

As the end of grazing season edges closer and we begin entering a different phase of the year on farms, there are now a number of things farmers should get ticked off their to-do list.

It’s important to monitor the performance of your in-calf and weanling heifers. Therefore, time should be taken to weigh these animals to see if they are hitting targets that you had set out for them.

Another important job to do is to carry out a forage analysis. It’s important to know the value of the feed that you are feeding your animals as it will help you to make better, more informed, management decisions in relation to what your animals require to optimise their performance.

Lastly, even though it may seem like an age away, the calving period won’t be long coming up behind some farmers. Calving starts, on some farms, in January; therefore, time should be made to get the calf house in order.

Replacement Heifers

Now is an ideal time to compare your replacement heifer weights – both for weanlings and in-calf heifers – relative to their target weights.

Where animals are below target, they should be separated from the main group and given preferential treatment. 

Replacement heifer calves which are under-target weight should be fed additional concentrates (1-2kg), along with good-quality silage or grass.

Similarly, if in-calf heifers are too small they must be fed 1-2kg of concentrates and good-quality silage or grass.

If in-calf heifers calve down too small, it can have a knock-on effect on their milk production and fertility performance in the future.

Feed Analysis

If not already done so, a silage sample should be tested. If a forage is not analysed, then farmers will either underestimate or overestimate the amount of meal and/or silage required by stock in order to secure optimal animal performance – which can be costly.

Getting your silage assessed for minerals will also help you to make a more informed decision when purchasing minerals for the herd.

Planning for next spring

It may seem like a long way off, but it is never too early to start getting ready for the busy spring period.

Calf housing should be cleaned thoroughly and any alterations should be made before it will be used. Straw should be purchased, along with any other calving essentials.

The fact that calves have to stay on-farm for at least 10 days should be factored in if the plan is to calve down more cows this spring. The last thing you want is another headache and to be tight for space at such a busy time of the year.