2020 has been an extremely unusual year to date for all of us, writes Mícheál Kelly, B&T drystock adviser, Teagasc Galway/Clare.
Between lockdown and the changes in how we run our day-to-day business, the days and weeks have been flying by and it is hard to believe that we are at the end of July.
It might seem crazy to already be talking about planning for weaning suckler calves born this spring but for those of us involved in the new BEEP-S scheme, we have to think ahead as there are certain measures we must comply with to ensure we get the full payment, based on the options that were selected when applying for the Scheme.
As part of the scheme, the weighing of both cows and their calves on the same day is a mandatory measure. This measure was part of last year’s BEEP scheme, which we will be familiar with, but under the new BEEP-S scheme, there were also optional measures farmers could take on.
Under option 2, farmers had the choice of selecting either meal feeding pre-weaning and post-weaning or vaccination of calves.
Completion of this measure is worth €30 per calf, up to a maximum of 100 calves.
There are a few points to note with regard to the meal feeding option which we must make ourselves aware of.
Regardless of the BEEP-S scheme, meal feeding calves is something that is done on the majority of farms prior to weaning calves in order to reduce the stress on calves and ensure there is no drop in liveweight gain.
Within the scheme, however, meal must be fed to calves for four weeks before they are weaned and the meal feeding must continue for two weeks after weaning has taken place.
In effect, the calf must have received meal for six weeks before it can be sold in order to comply with the scheme.
Based on this, if you plan to sell weanlings in mid-September, meal feeding must commence almost straight away.
Remember that the cow and calf have to be weighed on the same day, while the calf is still on the cow in order to comply with the scheme so if not completed already and you plan to sell weanlings in late September, it will be necessary to complete the weighing action in August.
Most will use compound feeds e.g. weanling crunch from a feed merchant, which will already contain minerals and vitamins and comply with the scheme requirements.
For those of you considering using straight feeds e.g. rolled barley, it is important to note that a straight feed must be supplemented with an appropriate mineral fed at the correct rates.
Where you intend on mixing two or more straight feeds at home, there is also a requirement to be registered with the Department of Agriculture as a home-mixer.
If you have not registered as a home mixer, it may be easier to use a compound feedstuff from an approved merchant in order to meet the scheme requirements.
Under the scheme requirements, all of the receipts, invoices and labels of all compound feeding stuff, and/or straights and complementary mineral mixtures used must be held onto as these will be required for verification that meal feeding took place for the six week period prior to sale of the weanlings if you were selected for inspection.
It will be important to have an idea of when you plan to sell your weanlings as you will have to plan a weaning date for these calves.
There is no problem with weaning different groups of calves on different dates but it important to keep track of the weaning date for each group.
The main points to remember are that you will have to have meal receipts etc. to verify that there was a suitable feedstuff on the farm that was fed to the calves at least four weeks before weaning took place and at least six weeks before the weanlings are sold.
The mandatory weighing action must be completed before weaning takes place, therefore, where calves are sold within two weeks of the weighing process, it is not possible that they received two weeks of meal feeding after being weaned and, therefore, they will not be eligible for payment under the meal feeding option.