Farm Ireland

Friday 15 December 2017

Get your house in order for winter feeding and nurture

The following checklist should be completed in the next few weeks to ensure that all animal houses are ready when required.

All slurry tanks should be emptied before midnight on October 14 if not already done.

Ensure that all water troughs are in good working order and that a good clean supply of water is available. Any maintenance on pipes, troughs should be undertaken.

Check that all barriers, gates, latches, hinges are working and replaced or fixed where necessary.

Straw bedded houses should be cleaned out by this stage, power washed down and given plenty of time to dry out in order to minimise disease carry over. Lime should be used once the house has dried out.

Ensure that the ventilation in the shed is adequate, watch out for cobwebs in the roof area and raise sheets, put in space boards etc where there is a problem.

Ensure that there are no draughts in the shed.

Pneumonia risk

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With the change in temperature and damper weather over the last week or so there is an increased risk of lungworm (hoose) in many areas.

This puts dairy bred calves in particular at a high risk of pneumonia, due to the high percentage of their diet coming from grazed grass.

Keep a close watch for any signs of coughing and treat early. Increasing the meal feeding to these calves will also help to reduce the stress on these animals.

Silage analysis

It won't be long before we know it and animals will start to be housed again for the winter. In order to correctly supplement our stock over the winter we need to know the quality of silage that we are dealing with.

Silage analysis is the best method of determining this.

The silage should be tested to establish the dry matter, the dry matter digestibility, the energy, the protein etc so that we can then feed meals based on the quality of silage rather than on what we think we have in the pit.

Now is a good time to get your silage analysed to ensure that you have results on hand before animals are housed.

Poor performing calves

Every group of calves has a number of animals that are not performing at the level expected or required.

They may have been sick earlier in life, are getting bullied at the meal trough etc, but for one reason or another they are not doing the same thrive as their comrades.

If you haven't done so already, now is a good time to pull out the weakest 10 to 15pc of calves and keep them in a separate group.

This group needs some tender loving care and should be placed in a small paddock of good quality after grass preferably close to the yard where they can get extra meal twice per day.

At housing, this group should be penned together so that the bigger cattle are not bullying them away from the trough.

The extra meal feeding can continue in order to try and get them back on target with the remaining calves.

Meal feeding at grass

The energy content of grass naturally declines in the autumn, from a position where it may have been supporting an average daily gain (ADG) of 0.9-1kg to a point where it may now only be supporting between 0.5 and 0.7kgs of an ADG depending on quality.

To ensure that calves keep up a good level of daily gain, the meal supplementation should now be increased to counteract the lower energy and the lower level of dry matter in the grass.

Calves should be receiving 1.5 to 2kgs of meal per day.

This will help to maintain performance, reduce stress thereby helping in reducing respiratory sickness.

Finishing steers and heifers at grass should be fed 0.5kg meal per 100kg live weight, eg 3kg per day to a 600kg steer, where the grass quality is very good.

Feed 1kg meal per 100kg live weight, eg 6kg per day to a 600kg steer, where grass is scarce or of lower quality.

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