1) Reduce autumn infertility risk

Sows and gilts that are served from mid-September to late October may suffer from infertility problems, including delayed oestrus, increased returns and abortions, warned BPEX knowledge transfer manager Angela Cliff.

Predisposing factors include sows being weaned in poorer condition, warm days, cool nights and decreasing day lengths.

Go online for more guidance on solving autumn reproductive problems.

2) Quarantine of incoming sheep

Sheep that have been in contact with other sheep must be quarantined when they are brought on to the holding, EBLEX’s Katie Brian reminded producers.

“Animals coming on to the holding should be quarantined for a minimum of 21 days,” she said.

“This will help prevent the introduction of sheep scab, resistant worms and footrot in particular, but also fluke, lice, contagious ovine digital dermatitis (CODD), Maedi Visna (MV) and enzootic abortion.

More information can be found in the EBLEX BRP Sheep Diseases Directory.

3) Check your buildings

Are your buildings ready to house cows again? You have a few more weeks to get them in shape, said Richard Davies of DairyCo.

“Were there any problems last winter that might be avoided this year? Are there any low cost changes you can make now to make a real difference to your cows’ environment through the winter months?”

Temperature and ventilation are one area where you can make a significant difference to your housing, and it doesn’t have to involve major remodelling.

4) Options for pure dairy-bred male calves

Surplus male dairy calves can prove useful for beef farmers looking to source additional animals to rear and finish, according to EBLEX livestock scientist Mary Vickers.

“It is possible to produce good-quality beef from pure dairy male cattle, however this requires careful management,” she said.

“Success depends on running a system that suits the animals, the farm and the customer’s requirements.

More information can be found in the newEBLEX BRP manual, Better Returns from Pure Dairy-Bred Male Calves.

5) Take care of pregnant ewes

Fertilised eggs do not attach themselves to the ewe’s uterus for up to three weeks after mating and are very vulnerable to stress, according to EBLEX advice.

Making any sudden changes to the diet or undertaking any unnecessary handling at this time may cause the egg be lost.

And don’t neglect the rams once they have done their duty. Feed them well and ensure any treatments such as vaccinations are up-to-date.

More information can be found in the EBLEX BRP manual, Target Ewe Fertility for Better Returns.

6) Plan grazing for 2013

Take a walk and make a plan now to set yourself up for grazing in 2013, said DairyCo’s Piers Badnell.

“After a difficult year, grass has got away in some places, so it needs to be brought back under control to reduce winter kill so that it doesn’t affect grass quality in the spring,” he said.

“For grazing early February next year we should be closing those paddocks in early October and these paddocks should be eaten out well to 1,500kg DM/ha – about 5cm.”

Graze milkers if you have suitable cows, dry stock and youngstock, or even consider taking silage into bales. If it is wilted well, grass that has been grazed can be successfully baled, even if it has dung spots.

“The chances of spoilage are very low – you will be surprised,” he said. “But I would not advocate putting in a pit (if you do then make sure it’s on its own so if there are any problems it will not contaminate other cuts).

Getting rid of excess grass is imperative – it may cost you but the return on that investment is easily repaid by top-quality grazing in the spring.

7) Reduce pre-weaning mortality

Producers can use a marker to help make fostering or split suckling as effective as possible in improving litter performance, said Charlotte West, BPEX knowledge transfer manager.

“When walking the farrowing house, stockman can carry a marker with them so they can mark those piglets which have successfully suckled first.”

This will come in handy if fostering or split suckling is carried out later on as stockmen will know which piglets should be moved.

8) Get protocols in place

The use of protocols (standard operating procedures) can save you time and money. A protocol will ensure a task is done as effectively and efficiently as possible every time, said Izak Van Heerden, DairyCo extension officer.

“For example, an in-parlour pre-milking routine which includes strip, drip, dry and apply with the right lag time can prevent over-milking and could increase milk yield and reduce mastitis.

“What’s more, as our girls are creatures of habit they will love us for it. Now is the perfect time to review or write on farm protocols, before the full winter routine kicks in when there’s time to make sure everyone knows exactly the right way of doing that specific task.”

9) Bird-proofing

Improving bird-proofing on pig units could help reduce the risk of some diseases entering, said Helen Clarke, BPEX veterinary project manager.

“Birds, especially starlings and seagulls, can carry diseases such as swine dysentery and salmonella on to a unit.

“Increase the level of bird-proofing of buildings, in readiness for winter, by adding appropriate bird netting around openings and vents in buildings and blocking up holes and cracks around windows, doors and floor spaces. “

Download KT Bulletin 16: Bird control and prevention.

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