1. Order abortion vaccine
Sheep producers should talk to their vets about securing abortion vaccine supplies as soon as possible, says vet John MacFarlane, Alnorthumbria Vets.
“Abortion vaccine shortages have been a recurring problem over the last few years, so farmers should prepare in case the pattern continues.
“Farmers should be able to establish how much vaccine they will need by looking at the number of replacements they were unable to vaccinate last year. It is also worthwhile making a best guess of the number of replacements needed this year and getting their orders in now.”
According to Intervet Schering Plough’s Tim Zoch, Toxovax should become available by the middle of May and supply would meet demand. “Farmers should keep in contact with their vet,” he says. The company is still awaiting details as to the availability of Enzovax.
2. Slurry Storage assessment
At this time of the year most slurry stores are empty which provides an ideal time to assess the slurry storage for winter, says Ian Ohnstad, consultant for The Dairy Group.
“Is the store structurally sound, does it have adequate capacity for the projected herd size and is as much clean water as possible diverted away from the store?
“All too often roof water ends up in the slurry store which is taking up valuable capacity and costs £2 to £3/cu m to take out again.” Clean water should be diverted to clean drains or soakaways and gutters should be cleaned out.
3. Serve beef heifers early
Early calving heifers become early calving cows so mate heifers for just six weeks so only the most fertile join the herd. This will also keep the calving period compact, says EBLEX livestock scientist Mary Vickers.
“Replacement heifers should be served when they are 65% of their mature weight, so must grow between 0.8 and 1kg a day from birth. Heifers born early in the season are more likely to be at the target weight at service.”
4. Carry no passengers
Get pig breeding herds in top condition to keep costs down and efficiency up, says Angela Cliff, BPEX knowledge transfer manager.
“As we move into summer producers should grade their sows and carry no passengers. Make sure there are gilts coming in to replace culls. If producers have reduced their gilt order then they could consider breeding their own gilts using damline semen. They’ll be ready to enter the herd in 11-12 months’ time.”