May 2024 Newsletter

It has not been an easy spring so far, especially for those spring block calving herds who have struggled in the wet weather with poor grass growth and reduced grazing intakes. Unsurprisingly, UK grass growth rates in 2024 are well behind last year and the 5 year average, and spring calving cows have been struggling to meet their nutritional requirements from grazed grass. Given limited stocks of good quality silage on many farms, cows have lost body condition in early lactation, which will potentially cause problems later on. With calving now finishing in many spring block calving herds, attention now switches to getting cows back in calf. The aim is to have 80% of cows calved within the first 6 weeks of the calving season, and this requires that 75% of cows are back in calf by 100 days in milk (100 day In Calf Rate). Less than 10% of the cows should be barren at the end of breeding. Having a tight calving block means that workload is concentrated at key times through the year, with maximum grass utilization in the spring. Undoubtedly, the key is to ensure that the cows are fit, healthy and cycling by the start of the breeding season. There are many factors that contribute to this such as nutrition, genetics, infectious disease status and cow management.

Key current actions for spring block calvers include; check body condition score to ensure that cows are in body condition score 2.5 – 3.5 (on a 5 point scale). Consider blood testing the cows as this will provide good evidence of what the cows think of their current diet. Energy balance is crucial at this stage, and allows the opportunity for buffer feeding where necessary.

Pre-breeding checks by your vet will help identify cows with uterine infections (whites) or cysts, and should be undertaken in all cows at 3 weeks calved in block calving herds to ensure that cows are clean and cycling prior to mating. Starting heat detection in advance of the planned start of mating can help identify any non-bulling cows early and enable them to be checked by the vet. Don’t forget about bulling heifers, always aim for most heifers to calve at the start of the calving period to give them longer to recover prior to re-breeding.

The slow spring has definitely eased our TB workload with less of a rush to turn-out cattle. We are as always working under the watchful eyes of both APHA and XL Farmcare and we thank those of you who have encountered an inspector while we have been on farm with you. We have run into a few issues lately with paperwork where cattle have been incorrectly assumed dead or not present on the farm. This sort of situation causes a big headache for us as we are signing off a legal document to say the test is complete and all animals are accounted for. Generally these issues arise where tags are missing or cattle have recently moved to slaughter. Where a TB test is submitted incorrectly, we are fined £50 for an admin charge for each mistake. Obviously we want to avoid these where at all possible. We would be grateful if any discrepancies could be resolved prior to reading the test on day 2. We are not allowed to leave the paperwork with you but you are welcome to take copies or photos to enable this. Your assistance is gratefully appreciated; however, where we are provided with incorrect information resulting in a fine, we reserve the right to add this to your account.

A good number of you have enrolled in the TBAS visits that are 100% funded. It looks as thought this funding could be in its last year so if you would like to delve a bit deeper into TB control on your farm, Emily would be delighted to enrol you so please get in touch.

We are holding a Sheep Focus meeting on Thursday 6th June at 12.00pm to discuss the recently launched sheep wormer Startect, as well a review of sheep fertility and techniques to improve reproductive performance. Please call to book a place, all are welcome.

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