The heavy downpour of rain during the week has left many farmers with little or no choice other than to house cattle for the winter.
Over the last fortnight or so, many farmers made the decision to house finishing stock or heavier animals such as cows, as ground conditions started to deteriorate.
If at all possible, every effort should be made to keep cattle out on grass as long as possible. This is more likely going to be achievable for farmers who have weanlings, that are lighter and won’t rip up the ground – that’s if the weather doesn’t continue to stay wet.
In terms of prepping for the winter, it’s important to have a plan in place for the housing period. Special attention should be given to lying space and ventilation.
Winter housing can be a costly time on beef farms, so by ensuring no overcrowding occurs – which can lead to a significant reduction in animal performance – and that there is adequate airflow in and out of the shed, then costs can be reduced.
According to Teagasc, suckler cows housed in slatted houses require 2.5-3.0m²/cow, while cattle weighing over 275kg require 2.0-2.5m²/animal. Weanlings or cattle weighing under 275kg are required to have 1.2-1.5m²/animal.
Lighter animals (under 275kg), according to Teagasc, that are housed in straw-bedded sheds, require 2.4-3.0m²/animal; heavier cattle (over 275kg) need 4.0-5.0m²/head.
In order to get the most liveweight gain from your cattle, over the winter months, it is advisable to group animals in accordance with weight.
This will stop heavier animals bullying lighter animals for space at the feed face. In addition, significant gains can be made in finishing enterprises when all of the animals in a group are the one size.
Along with an adequate feed space, cattle should always have access to fresh, clean water at all times.
Farmers should ensure that there is a continual flow of fresh air throughout the shed. In addition, draughts should be kept to a minimum to prevent cattle from getting chills.
By making simple modifications, such as removing some of the side sheeting of sheds, fresh air can be circulated around the shed.