1) Reduce feed wastage

The latest hike in grain prices is having a dramatic impact on the cost of production for pig farmers. It is more important than ever to maintain efficiency and minimise feed waste. Look at feed conversion ratios, check that hoppers/feeders are set correctly to reduce feed loss through the slats, make sure feed storage is rodent proof and clean feed bins to avoid mould, says Lis Ravn, BPEX knowledge transfer manager:

Go to www.bpex.org.uk for more feed crisis advice and information.

2) Selecting the right ram

Use Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) to identify rams with the right genetics and think about the traits that will make you most money, advises EBLEX breeding specialist Sam Boon.

“The Signet website, www.signetfbc.co.uk, is a great resource for tracking down rams with high genetic merit” he said.

“Talk to the breeder about your breeding requirements, the health status of the flock and the ram’s pre-sale nutritional regime.

“Finally, make sure you give the ram a physical examination.”

3) Feeding suckled calves

Feeding a high quality, balanced diet to suckled calves will maximise their performance, according to EBLEX livestock scientist Dylan Laws.

“Feed should contain 14-16% crude protein (CP), with moderate to high levels of energy (11-12 ME MJ/kg DM),” he says.

“Include at least 30% digestible fibre in the ration.

“Introduce creep as soon as grazing quality and milk availability reduces and at least six to eight weeks before weaning.”

4) MOT rams

Carry out a ram MOT ten weeks before tupping so there is time to correct any problems, suggests EBLEX.

  • Toes: look for foot damage, good locomotion and no arthritis
  • Teeth: look for under- or over-shot teeth, gaps and molar abscesses
  • Testicles: measure with a tape and check firmness; should be like a flexed bicep with no lumps
  • Tone: aim for body condition score between 3.5-4.0, with the spine well-covered
  • Treat: inoculate if required and think about parasite control.

EBLEX BRP has produced a free tape to measure the circumference of a ram’s testicles. Email brp@eblex.ahdb.org.uk or call 0870 241 8829 to order one.

5) Dealing with the wet

With recent wet conditions DairyCo extension officer, Jo Speed offers the following tips:

  • If cows are out at pasture in wet conditions consider using a separate gateway for cows going in and out of the paddock – using a reel of electric fence can make a temporary gateway to cope with wet conditions under foot
  • Keep an eye on cows feet on wet cow tracks for stone damage and bruising – mobility scoring the herd will identify cows at risk with poorer mobility and provide priority lists for treatment – these cows identified and treated promptly will recover quicker and cost less to treat in the long run
  • Regular foot-bathing through the summer will keep on top of infectious diseases such as digital dermatitis which thrives in wet mild conditions – consider foot bathing as regularly as you can to keep on top of digital dermatitis to keep levels low and prevent herd out breaks
  • Cow tracks still in use will be feeling the pressure during the wet weather – pressure on tracks can be minimised by looking at the way you handle your cows on the track. Cows should be allowed to walk at their own pace and walk with their heads down picking their way across stony or tricky areas- if cows are driven along the track by a dog/human or tractor they will walk close together with their heads on the back of the cow in front and will not be able to see where they are putting their feet. No heads up rule.
  • The same can be said in the collecting yard – cows should be allowed space in the collecting yard to display natural behaviour. If you are using a backing gate it should only be on for five second bursts for every other row in the parlour. Cows tightly packed into the collecting yard and under pressure from a backing gate will be skidding and putting pressure on the white line, causing fractures in the sole of the foot. If the feet are dirty from cow tracks this will be further intensified by the presence of mud and stones.
  • In hot weather it’s important to monitor for signs of heat stress in the collecting yard. Consider installing a fan or water spray to keep the temperature as cool as possible. DairyCo’s latest publication, Dairy housing – a best practice guide, provides more information.

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