Shed Space and Bedding

Shed space is becoming tight on many farms, and yesterday’s rain will have further delayed any chance of getting cattle out. Try to keep a clean, dry bed under calves to avoid disease.

If you are short of fodder, feed 2-3 kgs of meal to calved cows, which will reduce forage requirements.

If cattle are out try not to poach and keep cattle in smaller groups. This will help in avoiding damage. Make sure you have a tetany control measure in place, like boluses, buckets or feeding cal-mag.

Feeding silage will help prevent tetany, but it’s difficult in the current conditions. Boluses are probably the best way to guarantee you get the required amount of magnesium into cows that are outdoors.

Cows also have access to high mag lick buckets. Once cattle have access to shelter, they should be ok, but make sure to herd cows and young calves twice daily.

Look for calves getting up and stretching and sucking. Make sure all young calves are keeping up with their mothers when moved. Avoid dehorning or stressing animals too much when weather conditions are bad, as this will only compound problems.


While we have seen and heard many different strategies from vets around assisting calvings on our demo nights over the past three weeks, there is one thing that every vet stressed the importance of, and that was colostrum.

Tullamore Farm vet Donal Lynch would say that a lot of navel infections, scours and pneumonia outbreaks in young calves can generally be traced back to inadequate colostrum intake with the calf.

Following a simple 1,2 3 plan is a good way of remembering the critical points. 1. First milking, 2. Within 2 hours, 3. 3 litres in volume.

A clean bucket for calving and milking is also important. Two stomach tubes, one for sick calves and one for colostrum will help avoid spreading disease.

Calves that suck themselves will get maximum absorption; any calf that has been assisted should get extra attention to make sure they get enough.

Lime and Fertiliser

The pH of soils on many beef farms is below target, and where pH is below target, there are huge benefits in correcting it in terms of fertiliser efficiency and grass growth. If you are planning on spreading some lime, there are some interactions to be aware of.

For grassland fertiliser, if lime is applied in spring then you should avoid using urea for three to six months. Similarly, if ground is limed this spring, then you should also avoid spreading slurry for up to three months, as there will be lower nitrogen availability from the slurry application.

Lime is just as important for grass growth as fertiliser. If lime is to be applied in spring, use a compound NPK fertiliser, if slurry or urea is applied first in early spring, then you can safely apply lime in late spring.

With delayed turnout, many farmers will be contemplating not grazing silage ground at this stage. The weather forecast isn’t great for the next seven days, and grazing into April will delay cutting.

It might be a better decision to close up early, cut early and go for a quality second cut instead.