Dairy farmers in Northern Ireland place a lot of emphasis on first-cut silage. Many are now waiting on a dry spell to ensile high-quality grass to conserve as silage. They will then wait for regrowths prior to grazing this land.

A major concern on farms in the North is high potassium first-cut silage. This arises primarily from heavy applications of slurry, shortened intervals from slurry application to ensiling silage and mowing grass too tight with subsequent ensiling of soil and slurry contaminated herbage. These silages result in uterine infections in cows post calving with a subsequent increase in the calving to pregnancy interval.

Many dairy farmers scan cows now to identify those cows in calf which can safely be put out to graze grass. Farmers concur that they cannot successfully manage to get their high yielding cows in calf successfully when grazed grass is the primary part of the diet. Therefore, cows confirmed pregnant >34 days with a single pregnancy and those >70 days with a multiple pregnancy are eligible to graze grass.

In the case of maiden heifers, those confirmed pregnant are put to graze on an outside farm while those not confirmed pregnant are kept with a stock bull. There is less interest in the use of AI at this time of year on Northern Ireland farms, where the primary focus in the dairy industry is autumn calving.

Dr Dan Ryan is a cow fertility expert and can be contacted at www.cowsDNA.com