In this article, CAFRE’s Jack Friar provides wide-ranging advice for suckler farmers concerning stock management, closing silage ground and mineral supplementation for cattle at grass.
Stock management – Remove costly passengers!
With input costs increasing, this is not the year to carry any passengers by forgiving or forgetting even the slightest of problems.
Record as much information as possible at lambing and calving to help with future replacement and culling decisions.
Identify problem ewes/cows based on poor mothering ability or persistent health problems and sell them at the earliest opportunity.
Mineral supplementation at grass
You should consider mineral supplementation at grass for both suckler cows and beef cattle.
Research shows that mineral deficiency is a widespread problem in soils across Northern Ireland.
Selenium and iodine deficiency is of particular concern, especially for suckler cow fertility.
Trace elements play a key role in:
- Embryo survival.
Although mineral deficiency can limit fertility, if you do not meet an animal’s overall nutritional needs, fertility will still be compromised.
Also, you should consider mineral supplementation for beef cattle receiving no concentrates at grass.
Many essential trace elements are involved in energy metabolism and, therefore, feed conversion efficiency. If mineral levels in grazed grass are less than animal requirements, cattle may not grow to their potential.
The ideal way for you to identify a deficiency is to analyse a pooled blood sample from a group of untreated animals. You can usually do this through your veterinary practitioner.
If you identify a deficiency, there are various options available for supplementation, from boluses to slow-release tablets through the drinking water.
Closing silage ground
On another note, ideally, you should close off silage ground for first-cut during the first week of April, with the aim of cutting in mid-May.
The aim of this is to produce high-quality silage to:
- Ensure good daily liveweight gains;
- Reduce concentrate input for finishing cattle or in-lamb ewes this winter.
Although the thought of next winter is at the back of your mind, reducing concentrate inputs should be the focus, considering current global straight prices, which may continue. Poor silage quality will have a knock-on effect this winter.
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