Monthly must dos: Get prepared for calving

As we head into February the AHDB has put together some action points to look at during the month.


Get prepared for calving

With calving time approaching on many suckler units now is the time to get calving pens and supplies ready. 

Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe scour in suckler calves and can cause high mortality rates if not caught quickly.

Fluids are crucial and separation of the calves with their dams is necessary to reduce disease spread. If a problem does occur in a herd, in following years vaccination of the cows three to 12 weeks before calving should be carried out.

For more information on rotavirus and other diseases download the Eblex Beef Diseases Directory from

See also: See January’s must dos


Keep track of your flock this spring

Lambing is a busy time of year so make sure you keep track of what’s going on with your flock when you’re on the move. Eblex has produced a flock notebook for recording important measurements such as lambing, diets and weaning.

An online flock management calendar can also be used as a reminder for key tasks. Register to use the flock calendar at


Stock taking

Interpreting pig performance and cost data is key to fully understanding herd performance and whether changes are needed according to Stephen Winfield, Bpex lead knowledge transfer manager. But producers need to ensure the right pig data is being collected and is recorded accurately.

Mr Winfield says the first step is to do a regular stock take to check the number and type of animals on the unit are reflected accurately in the recording programme, otherwise all other information can be skewed.

There is more information about the recording toolkit on Bpex’s website.   

Ensure stockmen are there at farrowing

Having stockmen present to monitor farrowing and assist where needed is key to help newborn piglets get a good start and reduce mortality rates, says Angela Cliff, Bpex knowledge transfer manager: Newborns are poorly equipped to keep warm and piglets are also born with no immunity.

“Producers could consider altering routines or rotas to provide cover at farrowing time or discuss with their vet the practicalities of using products to promote farrowing during the daytime, when the stockman can be present,” she says.  

See also: Better gilt management boosts pig numbers in Northern Ireland


Winter grass growth

Growth over the winter will be varied depending on altitude, shelter, location, though it may be a good idea to see what you have got, and make a plan accordingly, says DairyCo technical extension officer Piers Badnell.

“With the current market conditions, it will be arguably more important this season to make grass work hard for you. So have a look and don’t miss an opportunity.”

Routine checks

James Aitken, Nadis vet expert, says routine jobs for February should include checking stocking density of calf housing.

As calves grow over the winter, stocking density will naturally increase, even if no extra animals are added to the accommodation. This will increase the risk of many diseases including pneumonia and scours.

It is also a good time to review standard operating procedures to ensure survival of newborn lambs, including making sure all lambs get at least 200ml/kg bodyweight of colostrum in the first 24 hours, and making sure navels are dipped in strong iodine as soon as possible after birth.