1) New crop barley warning
Do not forget that new-crop barley can give unpleasant enteric effects caused by the presence of beta-glucans, warns pig nutritionist Phil Baynes of Baynes Nutrition.
“Beta-glucans are non-starch polysaccharides that form gels in the gut and require enzymes to break them down – potentially causing scour problems.”
When using more than 20% barley in the final feed, the enzyme beta-glucanase should be included in the ration. This is available on request, either in feed or in the premix. After a month, the level of beta-glucan should have subsided and the enzyme should no longer be required.
“And when using old crop barley, make sure it is still fit for feed, there is no contamination from mould and it is fed as freshly from the mill as possible,” says Dr Baynes.
Observe dry cows and youngstock regularly and look for uneven quarters, says vet Sotirios Karvountzis of the Shepton Veterinary Group, part of XL Vets.
“Ensure anti-fly spray is applied every three to four weeks, particularly on animals kept in valleys, near lakes, waterways and so on to prevent summer mastitis problems.”
3) Optimise beef herd fertility
Watching bulls working and looking for cows on heat is time well spent and indicates how well the breeding season is going in spring-calving herds, according to EBLEX’s Mary Vickers.
“Lameness, or other health problems, can have a disastrous effect on bull fertility and, consequently, the calving pattern.
“It is also important females are in good body condition during and after service to optimise conception rates and embryo survival,” she says.
4) Keep a focus on forage
Now is the time to pay close attention to home-grown forage, says DairyCo extension officer, Chris Duller.
• In showery weather it is likely that the odd grazing paddock may have suffered from poor use when wet – make sure these are either topped as the cows come out or pre-mowed for the next grazing to maximise quality and intakes.
• Leys with a significant clover content of more than 30% will be starting to fix nitrogen at a rate of around 1kg N/ha/day – ease up on the nitrogen and let the clover do the work.
• Don’t forget sulphur applications for second-cut and third-cut silages.
• Pay particular attention to cereal crops. With grain and straw prices heading skywards, don’t take your eyes off valuable cereal fields. Be observant so that any pest and disease problems can be detected and treated early. If you normally make whole crop, think seriously about taking it through to crimp or a grain crop.
5) Look after ewe lambs
Ewe lambs that gave birth earlier this year need feeding for growth and body condition post-weaning, says Liz Genever of EBLEX.
“They should be at least 85% of their mature weight at their second mating. A mule with 75kg mature weight should be 45kg at her first tupping and 60kg at her second.
“Good quality grass at a height of 4-6cm should allow them to gain weight and body condition.”
6) Making final decisions on winter feeding strategy
With the modest first-cut grass silage crops made this year, the pressure is already on forage stocks for a number of dairy producers, says Andrew Thompson, managing director of Promar International.
“Assessing detailed supply and demand of these stocks is critical to prevent problems from occurring in late winter. Most alternatives look expensive, but include straw and concentrate, outsourced youngstock rearing, out-wintering of youngstock on stubble crops, whole cropping cereals, feeding bulk feeds and reducing stock numbers.”
7) Holiday cover
It is important to plan and organise holiday cover well in advance so that staff are not too stretched and pig performance is not affected, says Colin Stone, BPEX knowledge transfer manager.
“When possible, give relief staff the chance to shadow other workers beforehand and ensure there are work instructions to hand. Template work instructions on a number of tasks, from split-suckling to loading and unloading pigs, can be downloaded from http://www.bpex.org.uk/Publications/WorkInstructions.aspx
8) Displaced abomasums
Ketosis and left and right displacement of abomasum are very common this time of year due to the low fibre content of grass, warns Sotirios Karvountzis of the Shepton Veterinary Group, part of XL Vets.
“Freshly-calved cows and heifers are more prone, particularly with a history of retained membranes, twins and dystocia. Also, look for the animals on the milk recording that have low milk protein. Discuss prevention and treatment with your nutritionist and vet.”
9) Heat stress can cause boar fertility issues
Heat stress can affect working boars’ fertility rates and render them less fertile for a period as long as eight weeks, explains Angela Cliff, BPEX knowledge transfer manager.
“Measures producers can take to reduce the effects of hot weather include: providing shade, wallows, plenty of water and enough space to allow boars to lie prone and isolated.”
There is more advice in 2TS Action for Productivity no.39: Heat stress in boars.