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23rd February, 2019

Start to prepare your cows for the dry cow period

Dr Dan’s Weekly Diary up to September 17, 2012

The days are getting shorter which is evident in both the mornings and the evenings.  It is now dark when we leave Fermoy each morning.  Thankfully, temperatures are still high and rainfall is low for the week.  There is still some spring wheat and barley to be harvested.  However, crop yields are poor and the straw value may in fact be greater for cattle diets than a lot of the poor quality grass harvested as silage in the past two weeks.

Farm visits this week were in the south of Ireland.  They focused primarily on the end of season scans, which identify the calving pattern for the next year and empty cows for culling.   A noted feature now is that farmers do not plan to recycle empty cows into next year’s breeding programme.  Feed quantity and quality are limited.  The cost of concentrates is now uneconomical for feeding to empty cows.  Also, farmers cannot get the money required from their banks as overdraft facilities have been restricted.

Grass growth rates have improved and I have noted a number of farmers spreading fertilizer in the hope of some additional grass rate growth.  However, farmers need to supplement diets with concentrates now prior to drying off.  Cows are more efficient in live weight gain when fed additional concentrates in late lactation than during the dry cow period.

It will pay to group cows scanned pregnant accurately to body condition score.  There are now eight weeks remaining before dry off periods begin on the majority of grass-based spring calving herds.  First and second lactation cows, lame cows and old cows need attention.  Ask your nutritionist for the best supplementary diet needed to achieve the desired body condition score of 3.0, eight weeks prior to calving.

Farm accidents unfortunately resulted in more deaths this week.  The most noted was three members of the Spence family on a farm outside Hillsborough, County Down.  They succumbed to the toxic fumes associated with the agitation of slurry.  This is one of a series of similar farm accidents.  There will have to be changes enacted in the way slurry is stored and prepared for spreading.

Leaving you on a positive note the demand for primary foods will increase in the month ahead with a consequent increase in prices at the farm gate.  It is noteworthy that we currently have 13 days of food reserves rather than the norm of three months.


Dr.Dan and all the team @