Monthly ‘must do’s’: April 2011

1. NVZ records

By 30 April, farms with NVZ land need to compile records relating to slurry production and storage for the five-month storage period for cattle slurry.

Details of any imports/exports of slurry from the holding need to be up to date, along with sites and duration of use of FYM heaps, says DairyCo extension officer, Chris Coxon.

“The whole farm limit for the amount of nitrogen produced during the previous year also needs to be recorded for the number and type of livestock kept on farm.”

2. Supplementing ewes and lambs at grass

Only consider supplementing grass with concentrates when sward height is below 4cm, says EBLEX livestock scientist, Liz Genever.

“Spring grass is better quality than any bought-in concentrate, and supplementing above this height will reduce grass intake,” she says.

“Forward creep grazing – allowing lambs access to a field before the ewes – will help ensure lambs have the best-quality grass.”

3. Preparation for summer

Exposure to direct sun causes sunburn in pigs, with many side effects on performance, so it is important to prepare early, says Helen Thoday, BPEX knowledge transfer manager.

“Just like when you go on holiday, think shade, thirst and sun block. Talk to other outdoor producers about options for providing shade, adequate clean water supply and digging wallows.”

4. Preventing milk quality drop at grass

Nationally, milk butterfat always falls in April and May as cows change from winter rations to lush spring grass, explains consultant Mike Bray, Kite consulting.

This causes difficulties for milk buyers and represents a cost to the farmer through lower milk prices.

“Make sure forage makes up at least 45% of the ration dry matter and that the Acid Detergent Fibre is at least 20% of the cow’s dry matter,” he says.

Also ensure there is some long fibre in the ration when feeding lush, leafy grass (10% over 4cm) to increase rumen retention time and cudding.

5. Water checks

The long cold spell has loosened rust and scale from inside water pipes on many pig units so check all water drinkers are giving the correct flow for the class of stock, says Paul Thompson, vet consultant for ACMC.

“Measure these flow rates on a regular basis. Periodic flushing and disinfection of the water system is also recommended, particularly where header tanks are used. These can accumulate surprising amounts of sludge and lead to bacterial contamination of the drinking water system.”

6. Focus on farrowing

Being present at farrowing is a critical part of good farrowing house management. When it is not currently possible on your unit, consider altering routines or introducing a rota to provide cover at this crucial time, says Angela Cliff, BPEX knowledge transfer manager.

“Talk to your vet about the practicalities of using products to promote farrowing during the daytime, when you can be present.”

• For more tips on newborn management, download 2TS Action for Productivity fact-sheet from BPEX.

7. Reduce feed waste in growing pigs

The price of wheat has risen sharply to more than £170/t and there is no sign of any respite in feed costs soon, explains Colin Stone, BPEX knowledge transfer manager.

“Producers should assess where they can make efficiencies and reduce feed waste during weaner and finisher production, to secure the best net margins possible.”

• BPEX has put together a technical “feed crisis” advice pack.

8. Worming cattle

Cattle are most at risk from gut and lungworms in their first and second year at grazing, according to EBLEX livestock scientist, Mary Vickers.

“Treat them in the spring according to estimated pasture worm burden. Older cattle develop immunity so are safe to leave untreated.

“Cattle wormers only work effectively when used according to manufacturers’ recommendations. Weigh cattle and apply the correct dose for the heaviest in the group.”

• A new EBLEX Beef BRP Manual on worming cattle can be downloaded

9. Get benchmarking

When your accounting year ends in March, now is the ideal time to have your details collected for business benchmarking to find out how your costs compare to others, says Peter Thorne, DairyCo Milkbench+.

DairyCo Milkbench+ is available to all levy payers at no extra cost, call 02476 478 708.

10. Managing mastitis

Good hygiene practice at lambing is essential to minimise the risk of mastitis, says EBLEX industry development manager, Chris Lloyd.

“Nutrition is also important, as low body condition and poor feeding – which reduce milk production – can cause lambs to damage the udder and therefore also increase the disease risk.

Use coloured ear tags to identify ewes that have had mastitis, so they can be culled before the next tupping.”

• More information can be found on the EBLEX website in Lamb Action for Profit 26: Better Returns from Controlling Mastitis.


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