National Genotyping Programme

Speaking to the ICBF this week, there are still quite a large number of herds that have yet to send back their genotyping tags.

The deadline for the return of tags to the lab has been extended to 15 December, but ICBF say that after this date any herd that has not sent tags back will be kicked out of the scheme as the labs must have capacity to process calf genotypes in January and thereafter.

Doing the tagging is not an easy job. It takes time, patience and plenty of help.

If mistakes are made in that the wrong cow is tagged, ring up ICBF and ask for a free replacement tag. Do not wait until next spring to sort this out, as that will lead to delays in getting calves registered.

Some farmers are asking why they haven’t gotten results back yet. Updated EBIs and any parentage errors won’t be issued until next year.

The focus now is just on getting any remaining cows or other stock tagged and posted back.

What is important next spring is to tag calves and post samples at least three, if not four or five times per week as delays with An Post could be an issue, as it was with BVD samples last year.

ICBF are working on an app to make it easier for farmers to see what tags have reached the lab and then to approve genotypes.

Nitrates

It’s hard to believe that with just three weeks before 1 January, there is still uncertainty about nitrates. Scientific work from Teagasc showing that farmers can reduce the organic nitrogen excretion rate in cows by feeding lower protein nuts when cows are at grass is to be welcomed.

Don’t forget grass is high in protein, so cows don’t need to be fed high protein meal when at grass in order for the diet to be balanced. In fact, feeding lower protein feeds would be better for the cow and the environment.

There will be some kick-back to this from some feed merchants as they make more money from selling premium, high protein rations. These usually contain imported soya or soya hulls. There is a real opportunity here for more native cereals to be included in dairy rations during the summer.

Rolled barley or wheat is an ideal supplement at grass as it is high in energy and low in protein. The Government needs to come out now and get these measures on feed, calves and slurry in place for January.

Calves

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With cows either dry or close to being dried off on many farms, there is a bit more time available to plan and think ahead for next spring. All the indications are that calves will be retained on farms for longer in the future.

Capacity to rear calves will need to be provided, not only to satisfy legislation but also if there is a TB outbreak or some other event where calves cannot be moved. Calf housing does not have to be elaborate to be effective. Some really simple sheds are often the most effective.

Design calf sheds with efficiency in mind, so think about how calves can be moved in and out easily, how can the pen be bedded and cleaned out mechanically and of course how calves can be fed easily.