19 April 1996

Early turn-out for held-overs

WITH the uncertainty surrounding spring suckled calves sales many producers could opt to retain calves over the summer, reports Dr Basil Lowman in Signets April Sheep and Beef Notes.

But calves targeted for the spring sales and so pushed hard over the winter are likely to suffer a bigger check when they are turned out at home, he says.

Dr Lowman, therefore, suggests turning out last years store calves as quickly as possible, as soon as the ground is dry enough to carry them. "This will enable them to adjust to grazing gradually and free buildings to house cows with young calves at foot," he says. Despite the late spring, what grass is available will be of high nutritive value, he says. Offering ad lib straw in ring feeders will help keep cattle full and enable them to make the best use of grass.

The alternative is to turn out freshly calved cows, and keep the stores inside. But that means reducing the level of cereal supplements rapidly when they are fed ad lib hay/silage rations.

Dr Lowman says this option will result in more hassle and potentially more severe poaching problems compared with turning out the store cattle. Freshly calved cows will require a much higher level of supplementary feed.

For example ad lib silage as well as some concentrates, if only for the magnesium.