Cows grazing with a bull© Tim Scrivener

As many suckler cows are now out with the bull, now is the time to focus on tightening the calving period for next year.

Eblex senior beef and sheep scientist Mary Vickers says a sensible starting point is to aim for a calving period of less than 12 weeks, with 65% calving in the first three weeks.

“A compact calving period will optimise the use of spring grass and make nearly every element of managing the herd easier. This is because the cows are at a similar stage of their production cycle and calves can be managed in bigger, more uniform batches.”

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In herds where the calving period is longer than desired, now is the time to take positive steps to shorten it. Dr Vickers shares her top tips.

  • Make sure the bull is taken out of breeding groups on a planned date
  • Consider selling later-calving cows with calves at foot or keeping them in a separate group to be sold at weaning
  • Scan cows a few weeks after the bull is removed to identify empty cows and separate them for selling before the winter
  • Minimise and try to avoid body condition loss between calving and getting back in-calf
  • Give younger and thinner (BCS lower than 2.5) breeding cows priority grazing as they will start cycling one to two weeks later than those in moderate condition
  • High-quality grass is particularly important for heifers with their first calf at foot to ensure they get back in-calf and continue growing
  • Aim for 8-10cm sward heights in continuously stocked fields and prepare to move cattle if quantity or quality declines