Monthly livestock must-dos for May

Plan for summer on outdoor units

Outdoor pig producers should start planning how to minimise heat stress in their animals during the summer months, says Richard Bows, BPEX knowledge transfer manager. Step one: Provide wallows and ensure they do not dry up. Step two: Provide a dry, clean bed of straw in the shade Step three: Encourage recently farrowed sows to lie in their arcs, so that piglets are able to suckle, and ensure arcs are well-insulated, open vents to improve ventilation and consider painting the arcs white to reflect sunlight. For more information on heat stress download www.bpex.org.uk/2TS/publications/

Set aside time for performance data

Producers should set aside time to make sure pig performance figures are entered into recording systems accurately and to interpret the management reports, says Charlotte West, BPEX knowledge transfer manager. Understanding trends in their herd data helps producers identify where changes can be made to improve performance, such as increasing numbers of pigs a sow a year and reducing pre-weaning mortality, she adds.

Producers can find out more about how to get the most from a recording system by viewing the online presentation from Danish pig consultant and ex-production manager Sanne Baden, given during the latest BPEX Live webinar 

Dairy

The importance of good grass management

According to DairyCo extension officer Piers Badnell, it is important to make sure cows graze tight. In the first two rounds of grazing, if we are lax, it affects the grass quality negatively for the rest of the season. “Therefore you have to make sure cows graze to a good residual, this is aided by optimal allocation and an edge of appetite. Where the weather forecast is good this drives up the dry matter and intake potential of the grass.”

Piers advises not to chase grass in order to get on top of it. “If it has got away from you, take it out and turn it into silage. A very good grass farmer I know says: ‘If you know where the cows are going for the next week or so then you have too much, any more than a couple of days is too much.’ He is spot on. Especially at this time of year when we get some warmer nights, grass growth rates accelerate so fast it is easy to get left behind. As a result, quality declines, quantity will be compromised, palatability will suffer and waste will proliferate. So manage ahead of your grass to capitalise on its potential.”

Beef and sheep

Look for compaction, but don’t act yet

Aerators or sward lifters should only be used when there are clear signs of compaction and at the appropriate time, advises EBLEX livestock scientist Liz Genever.

“First, carry out a soil assessment by digging holes,” she says. “This will help prioritise fields that need attention.

“Where soil is compacted, producers can use topsoil looseners – either aerators to deal with a problem in the top 5-10cm of soil, or sward lifters, which tackle compaction at a depth of 10-25cm.

“However, ADAS guidelines state clearly that autumn is the best time to remedy compaction. Dealing with it in spring may cause more problems.”

Avoid overfeeding bulls

Over-feeding breeding bulls to achieve high growth rates can limit their performance, warns EBLEX’s Dylan Laws.

“Feeding high levels of concentrates for prolonged periods can increase the risks of skeletal problems such as arthritis and haemorrhages in the hoof, leading to mobility problems,” he said.

“It can also reduce sperm production and reserves, and increase the risk of abnormalities.

“Bulls don’t need to be big at the point of sale to be fertile. Providing they reach 45% of mature body weight 15 weeks before the breeding season, they can be fertile when needed.”

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