1) Assess dairy grazing
If your cows aren’t out already, take a walk around your paddocks to assess how much grass you have – you may be surprised, says Piers Badnell, extension officer.
“I was on a farm at the end of February and there was a good bite there. The herd manager was able to turn the cows out the following day, which he hadn’t expected.”
Mr Badnell continues: “If cows are out, make sure the allocation is correct and that the cows have an edge to their appetite so they graze well and hit the correct residual of 1,500kg/ha DM, which is the key to achieving quality through the season.
“If cows achieve this then you should be able to achieve 12 ME right through the season and get the most out of your grazing and make money.”
2) Dealing with a lack of rain
Producers should be prepared if the recent dry weather continues, recommends EBLEX’s Liz Genever.
“Monitor sward heights every two weeks to understand if demand is out-stripping supply,” she says.
“Alternative forage crops, such as summer brassicas, chicory or red clover, may be more productive in drier periods – but still need moisture during establishment and growth.”
• Information sheets on drought awareness are available from the better returns section of the EBLEX website
3) Managing ewe mastitis
Lambs causing teat damage is a major cause of mastitis, according to EBLEX’s Katie Brian.
“Low body condition and/or poor feeding can reduce milk production. Lambs then damage the udder by constantly trying to suckle, which increases the disease risk,” she says.
“Acute mastitis, which can rapidly progress to death, affects 1-5% of ewes a year, while chronic mastitis affects up to 15% of ewes.”
• An information sheet on controlling mastitis is available from the better returns section of the EBLEX website
4) Check iron levels for outdoor piglets
In outdoor pig herds, it is often perceived that enough iron is obtained from the soil. However, it is still important for producers to consider injecting newborn piglets with iron, says Charlotte West, BPEX knowledge transfer manager.
“It is thought piglets need about 10mg of iron a day for maintenance and growth, whereas sows’ milk only provides 1mg/litre of iron,” Ms West explains. “Producers should do soil tests and discuss with a vet before providing additional iron to piglets.”
• Download BPEX’s iron injection factsheet
5) Bull MOT
Semen production takes 10 weeks, so MOT your bull now so he is ready to go when the breeding season starts, advises Mary Vickers of EBLEX.
“He should be fit not fat, with a body condition score of 3.5,” she says.
“His testicles should feel firm with no lumps, softness or swelling, and his penis and sheath should be free of sores, scars and abscesses.”
For a free poster, MOT your stock bull, email email@example.com or call 0870 241 8829.
6) Review pig growth performance
Producers should review growing and finishing pig performance to identify any areas of “lost potential” and ways to further improve growth, says Lis Ravn, BPEX knowledge transfer manager.
“Performance data records are really important for this and it is something the BPEX knowledge transfer (KT) team will be helping producers with as part of the 2TS Finisher Challenge.”
BPEX is calling both contract finisher and breeder finisher units to join the challenge – contact a KT manager to find out more.
7) Selecting dairy bulls
If you run a spring calving herd, now’s a good time to assess your herd for traits that need improving when selecting bulls for the upcoming breeding season, advises DairyCo extension officer, Andy Dodd.
• More information is available on DairyCo’s website – just click on ‘Breeding’ in the Farming Info Centre.
8) Plan staff recruitment
Tess Howe, BPEX skills development manager, says pig producers should develop a simple staff recruitment plan to attract the best people. There are also opportunities to recruit quality people from outside the pig industry who are currently unemployed.
“Recruitment planning includes understanding of the business, current staff abilities and recruitment needs, the specific work required, the labour market and where to find people. Good planning will reduce the need to replace unsuitable staff and help ensure sound investments staff development,” she says.