Getting Your Animals Ready For The Shed

A lot of BEEP participants reporting either rumen fluke or liver fluke or both being positive in dung samples submitted to labs.

Planning for a smooth transition

October is moving fast and the days are getting progressively shorter. Hopefully, the weather will play ball so that we can all extend grazing into next month. Housing stock has begun around the country and is inevitable over the coming weeks. Final repairs and finishing touches to new builds are being done all over the country in anticipation of the turn-in. It is as important to get your animals ready for the sheds too. This plan should be determined by the type of animals to be housed, housing type, disease status and herd history. Vaccination and dosing programmes need to be put in place in advance of housing.

A Limousin weanling bullock born April ’21 weighing 345 kilos sold for €800 at a sale in Skibbereen Mart. Pic. O’Gorman Photography.

Advanced stock to be finished in December/January need to be housed 

In the last few weeks, cattle to be finished this winter have begun to be housed. It is very obvious that these cattle are beginning to lose weight on grass alone over the last four to five weeks. It is not practical to supplement these advanced cattle with meal in the field without specialised equipment. For obvious farmer safety reasons along with ground damage that will occur at this time of year, housing is a much more practical solution.

Recently Dried off Suckler Cows

Care should be taken with cows that have had calves taken from under them recently or soon will have. If cows are being kept outdoors post-weaning, allocate them a bare paddock and offer straw for a number of days. Monitor them for mastitis post-weaning and ensure that they are supplemented with Magnesium to prevent Tetany, particularly with colder nights and October grass being soft and low in nutrients.

Minimal stress at weaning apart from all the noise will set cows up for their next lactation. Choose a weaning method that works for you and is practical in your farm infrastructure. I personally prefer to house the cows for three to four days on straw to monitor closely and ensure thorough drying off occurs. The calves at the same time can be housed on silage and meal or put back to a good paddock of grass with plenty of power in the fence and a well-stocked creep feeder.

Weanling stress-minimising is key

At the point of weaning, calves are at their most vulnerable. This is a stressful time for these calves and weaning should be done with the aim of reducing stress levels as much as possible. Introduction to meal pre-weaning and continuing after weaning considerably reduces stress. Provide a good quality, mineralised concentrate rather than straights at this time. Having a weaning plan is so important, you can’t just decide to wean at the drop of a hat because the weather has suddenly deteriorated. Remember that you are aiming to maintain as much weight as possible post-weaning in preparation for sale or further feeding by yourself. Either way the fewer complications the better the financial outcome for your herd.

Dosing and vaccinations strategies

Considering and weighing up what to dose and vaccinate stock with around housing can prove daunting for many. This decision-making process should be done in conjunction with your Vet ideally. They will set you in the right direction regarding any tests that could be carried out within your herd to establish exposure to particular diseases.

Parasite control advice should be sought from your Vet. Suckler cows often go un-dosed, but is this the right thing to do? Some will dose 1st calvers at drying and not the mature cows. If in doubt, get your Vet to take samples and establish your herds’ parasite burden and establish necessary control measures. This year has seen heightened parasite pressures due to the extra tight grazing in July in particular. I am hearing of a lot of BEEP participants reporting either rumen fluke or liver fluke or both being positive in dung samples submitted to labs.

Ensure with all stock that you follow the manufacturer’s full recommendations when using doses and vaccines. Remember that a lot of the products on the market for Liver Fluke control only kill mature fluke. So, you need to wait until animals are inside long enough for all Fluke to be mature in order to use one of these products.

When it comes to IBR many suckler herds are testing a sample of their cows to try and establish the herd status and take action accordingly. If IBR is identified in a herd your Vet will advise you as to the best course of action. If you have been having a lot of respiratory issues, don’t ignore it, investigate and act. For farms that buy in stock from herds with unknown disease status, best practice seems to be to vaccinate all stock for IBR.

Housing of stock even using all the latest management practices will heighten stress levels in stock resulting in them being more susceptible to picking up disease from carriers within the farm. This seems to be very much the case when it comes to respiratory diseases such as IBR, RSV and PI3.

Many suckler farmers also vaccinate in-calf cows to prevent calf scours and if this has been a problem in the past it should be considered. Other common diseases vaccinated for include Leptospirosis and Salmonella. Both can cause serious issues, reducing fertility and causing calf losses etc.

The male champion at an AXA Agri Insurance sponsored weanling show & sale in Skibbereen Mart owned by Donal Murphy, Baltimore is a Charolais bull born February ’21 weighing 430 kilos which sold for €1,260. Photo O’Gorman Photography.

Shed hygiene pre-winter 

It is important that sheds used for calving and housing young stock in particular are cleaned out and disinfected to avoid the carryover of bugs from last winter.

Weekly Checklist

All Stock 

Get a Silage analysis for Nutrients and Minerals. You will be feeding it soon if you have not already opened the pit or bales.

Grass dry matter is 12-14% currently so monitor intakes and supplement where necessary.

Weanlings on grass are not consuming sufficient dry matter to support their requirements.


Continue to supplement Suckler Cows rearing calves at grass with Magnesium post weaning. There have been many reports of Tetany as nights have been getting colder.


Advanced stock out on grass are not thriving well at present and should be housed for finishing at this stage.

(Source – Irish Examiner – Farming – Brian Reidy – 06/10/2021)

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