Hannah McNelis, CAFRE Beef & Sheep Development Adviser, Northern Team, discusses preparing for autumn on beef and sheep farms.
Autumn is just around the corner, and farmers should now start their preparations for the 2022 farming year.
The breeding season will kick off in the coming weeks across sheep farms aiming for a mid-season lambing system.
Hopefully, at this stage, farmers have purchased all new replacement rams they require. Rams should undergo a quarantine period away from all other breeding stock.
Preparing for autumn on farms
Purchasing rams at a later stage does potentially open the farm up to the increased risk of introducing
- Fertility issues;
- Health issues.
Take time to purchase a ram that can be assured to be fully fit and ready for the breeding season. Adopt a quarantine period on your farm with faecal egg counts (FEC) to assess worm and fluke burdens and use the correct anthelmintic product.
Ewes should continue to be body condition scored over the coming weeks. Take action to address thinner or older ewes to ensure they will be fit for breeding.
Ensure you identify all ewes with a history of prolapse, lack of milk or mismothering. Cull these before the start of the breeding season.
Feeding beef cattle at grass
As damp or wet weather conditions creep in over the coming weeks, remember that grass dry matter (DM) will continue to fall. The quality of the grass will fall simultaneously.
If grass covers are looking good on-farm, farmers might find that beef cattle are not overly keen on their meal. This will change quite quickly should the wet weather arrive.
Beef cattle coming close to finish will require supplementary feeding at grass to offset the drop in grass quality.
Assess your finishing ration to ensure the highest quality ingredients are being used, ensuring a high energy ration with sufficient protein.
As a rule of thumb, cattle should be fed at a rate of 0.5kg/100kg of live weight where there is sufficient grass on-farm and 1kg/100kg of live weight where grass is in shorter supply.
Closing off paddocks
While grass covers are precious for the breeding season on sheep farms, any fields that can be closed for the winter should be identified from October onwards.
While it can be tempting to graze ewes on into the winter to shorten the housing period, these grass covers are far more precious in the springtime at turnout.
Older swards of grass should be grazed down tight to 4cm over the next 4 weeks. Allow it to grow over the winter to avoid heavy covers that will turn white with a mat of grass at the base of the sward.
Close heavier fields holding more water and possibly use these to graze ewes and lambs after lambing in spring.
For more technical farming advice, read these articles.