1) Pig service

Optimising timing of service is the most important thing to get right when inseminating sows, says BPEX knowledge transfer manager Angela Cliff. Accurately identifying the start of first-standing heat is the most important thing to get right, as inseminating too early or late will result in smaller litters and lower farrowing rates. Insemination must occur some hours before ovulation, which normally happens two-thirds of the way through oestrus, for example 36-44 hours after onset of oestrus. BPEX have a factsheet on optimising service that can be downloaded from their website.

2) Wallow management

Wallow management for outdoor pigs is key as summer kicks into gear, says BPEX knowledge transfer manager Richard Bows. He suggests making the wallow big enough for twice the number of pigs it will serve, replenishing wallows with water in dry periods and ensuring it is more liquid than mud – aim for “emulsion paint consistency”.

For more information, download the factsheet, Action for Productivity no. 4: Heat Stress (outdoor herds)

3) Prepare dairy housing

Now is the time to prepare for housing cows in the autumn, says Richard Davies, DairyCo extension officer. “Consider scrabbling or grooving any concrete that has become slippery. Preventing one cow damaging herself will easily pay for a lot of concrete grooving. If it’s beyond repair, replace it with new concrete.

Are there any improvements required to head rails at the feed area? This is the time to do it. When the bottom of the head rail is really shiny, then it will be worth making changes. Often the rail needs raising and pushing out further away from the cows. For measurements check the DairyCo Housing Guide, individual chapters can be downloaded from the DairyCo website.

Ventilation is another important aspect. “Now is the time to get the builders in and make changes,” says Mr Davies. “Are there adequate inlets and outlets? Does the building become stuffy and smell of ammonia? The problem is most often caused by a lack of outlets.” Chapter 13 of the DairyCo Housing Guide gives information specifically related to the ventilation of building used to house dairy cows.

4) Summer mastitis

The summer weather may be unpredictable, but summer mastitis is not, says Hugh Black, DairyCo extension officer. “So ensure anti-fly spray is applied routinely, observe your dry cows and youngstock regularly and watch out for uneven quarters.” More information on summer mastitis can be found on the DairyCo website.

5) Capitalise on valuable silage aftermath

Silage aftermaths make excellent grazing pasture and will provide good-quality herbage. If grazed effectively, grass use should be very good, as the sward is clean with no rejection sites. In addition, closing off previously grazed areas can be an excellent way to tidy up swards and poor residuals. Good management of these silage aftermaths is crucial to making the most of this valuable resource.

Apportioning silage aftermath for grazing is often difficult as it was all cut at the same time and will result in similar regrowths appearing on the whole of the silage area. To manage this and prevent some of the last area to be grazed becoming too strong and reducing quality, it is important to start grazing these aftermaths early on. Starting the first allocation at the two-leaves stage is an option and will allow time to move across the aftermath fields before covers become too heavy. However, be wary of going in too early (< two leaves) as although this will not do any damage this rotation, repeatedly grazing early can significantly affect yields later in the season. Aim to build up to the three-leaves stage (>2,800kg DM/ha) by the last allocation of the silage aftermath area.

Maintaining good residuals is also key to making the most out of this silage aftermath. Silage-making has left a good residual and this should be used as a target for future grazing. This will ensure the sward retains a high leaf-to-stem ratio and allows cow to consume high-quality (12 ME) grass. To do this, allocate the correct area for your cows – offering too large an area will result in grass not being used by the cow and will make residuals hard to achieve, affecting grass quality at later grazings.

For more information on managing grazing see chapter 5 of DairyCo’s Grass+

6) Wean lambs early

Sheep farmers should consider weaning lambs early to prevent ewes losing too much condition, according to Liz Genever of EBLEX.

“Ewes are likely to be in poor condition this spring as a result of the weather and limited feed supply,” she said.

“Weaning lambs early, at 10-12 weeks or earlier for ewe lambs, can be used as a tool to prevent further condition loss and will give ewes more time to recover condition before tupping.”

7) Plan for winter

Beef farmers should plan now for winter to ensure they have sufficient feed supplies and bedding, advises EBLEX’s Mary Vickers.

“Cereal crops offer various options, as they not only provide grain and straw, but also wholecrop silage.

“Wholecrop cereals, including wheat, barley, triticale and oats, can provide a high-quality forage. Usually, the feed value is between 10 and 11 MJ ME/kg DM for fermented wholecrop and up to 11.5 MJ ME/kg DM for drier wholecrop.”

More information can be found in the EBLEX Better Returns Programme cereals directory.

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