Dock management

Docks seem to be a bigger problem on some farms this year. They have the capability of producing over 60,000 seeds per mature plant and these seeds can survive for over 50 years in the soil; germinating when they reach favourable conditions. Docks should be controlled, as they will decrease grass production; they are unpalatable and will reduce silage quality. Docks are usually a problem in very fertile soils or where ground has been poached/damaged where there are open swards. Paddocks poached in early spring and where slurry has been spread, will provide ideal growing conditions for docks, as they will have more open areas and a high availability of nutrients. Docks favour high index potassium (K) soils. Silage fields are generally the worst-affected fields for docks and this is due to silage fields generally receiving high levels of K through large volumes of slurry. Spraying a dock at the right growth stage is very important. If the dock is gone to seed with a reduced leaf area, there is little point in spraying it. The ideal growth stage is the rosette stage, when docks are 15-20cm in leaf area. An actively growing dock will transfer the herbicide down to the root and get a better kill. Spraying three to four weeks after first-cut silage will get the dock at the right growth stage and leave enough time before second-cut silage comes in. Rotating silage ground can be an effective control strategy, but sometimes this isn’t practical on drystock farms. If you are focussing on clover in your swards, use a clover-safe herbicide. When spraying for docks it is essential that you use the correct product, at the correct rate and at the correct time. Always spray when the docks are green, growing and are at the rosette stage. Speak to your merchant about the best product to use on your farm. Some of the main active ingredients to look out for when controlling docks are dicamba, triclopyr and fluroxypyr. Always ensure product labels are read correctly, enough water is used to ensure contact with the weed and only licensed and authorised sprayers are used. Always triple-rinse containers and avoid spraying when rain is forecast within 48 hours.

Under-16-month bulls

Some farmers are wondering about holding off killing under-16-month old bulls until the beef price improves. My opinion is that the beef market will continue to hold or improve in the coming weeks for in-spec stock, with bulls likely to track heifers and bullocks. Gambling on a price increase with bulls is dangerous. The problem is going over the age limit and off the grid could mean a 20-30c/kg penalty. The other factor is if a bull is laying down fat at the end of an intensive finishing period, then the margin they are leaving is reducing. Bulls are expensive to feed and should be slaughtered when you think they are ready.

Culling hard

Suckler cows are a great trade at the moment, making up to and over €3/kg in some marts this week. Suckler farmers should use the positive trade conditions to cull hard. If scanning has been completed in autumn-calving herds, empty cows should be on a one-way ticket.