‘September the last opportunity to make any changes to housing before winter’

The next month provides the last opportunity to make any changes to housing before winter, according to CAFRE Dairying Development Adviser Trevor Alcorn.

Now is the time to assess all your farm buildings with a view to improving animal health/comfort, management and labour efficiency, says Alcorn who is based in the north Tyrone area.

Things to consider:
  • Ventilation for both young and adult stock – can this be improved to help air circulation?
  • Applying lime
  • Cubicles and mats/mattresses – replace/repair any broken/ loose cubicles or worn mattresses; is there a brisket pipe or board fitted?
  • Slippery floors/slats – groove/replace worn concrete to help avoid cows falling down.
  • Feed space/drinkers – is there sufficient feeding/ drinking space for cows? Can this be improved?

September can be a busy month as farmers prepare for the winter period, while also finishing off jobs such as spreading lime and fertiliser if conditions allow, according to Alcorn.

Alcorn advises farmers to analyse silage in preparation for planning the winter diet, while also calculating how much silage you have and how much you need.

It is important to assess the body condition of young stock, especially maiden heifers, to ensure they are in the right shape for servicing, Alcorn says, while also keeping in mind any vaccinations, for example BVD due well in advance of the breeding season.

If ground conditions allow, autumn is the ideal time to apply lime, with a pH of 6.3 the ideal result to get the best out of fertiliser next year, he says.

Autumn is also the best time to subsoil compacted areas leaving them time to rest over the winter period, according to the CAFRE adviser.

If possible Alcorn advises farmers to carry out any final reseeding as early in the month as possible to let new swards establish before winter, while also taking the opportunity to carry out a some dock and weed control where necessary.

The last day for sowing chemical nitrogen (N) and phosphorus fertiliser on grassland is September 15, under the Nitrates Action Programme 2015-2018 and Phosphorus Regulations, Alcorn says.

Until then, the Dairying Development Adviser advises to grow extra grass by applying 35-50kg of Nitrogen per hectare after each field has been grazed.