'We paid a heavy price for delay in the cow booster vaccinations'
I sometimes wonder whether we made the right decision to go to autumn calving, but the experience of the past few weeks has totally vindicated our decision.
More than 90pc of our cows now calve in the August-September period but, this year, we had 26 cows to calve in Christmas week. Just before they started calving, the weather turned bad and the yard was extremely slippery with snow and ice. I made the decision not to let them out of the shed to give them their booster shot of Trivacton 6 because of the risk of injury. That error of judgement has really come back to haunt me.
While the calving went ahead relatively trouble-free, I had to brave the freezing cold to check them at night. But once the calves got to 4-5 days old, a lot of them started developing E-Coli scour. We had the vet in the yard once during the autumn calving, whereas with this particular batch, he called three times on some days.
Several calves had to be put on drips, one of them three times, and we lost four calves -- a mortality rate of 15pc, compared to under 2pc with the earlier batch. A lot of the calves that recovered are still not back to where they should be. On top of all that was the extra work and hassle in treating the sick calves.
One thing is certain. All cows will be vaccinated next year.
The bulls have all been removed from the autumn herd, so now we have to wait more than a month until we scan them. This is always an apprehensive time. Even though I don't see any cows bulling at the moment, you can never be sure how the breeding season has gone until they are scanned.
All the straw-bedded lie-back areas have been cleaned out in recent weeks. Normally we would spread that farm- yard manure on our maize ground, but circumstances don't allow that this year. So we spread it on paddocks where the cows will graze for the summer.
In previous years we would have spread quite a bit of urea for early grass but, last year, I think the urea that we spread early was almost totally wasted.