Monthly ‘must do’s’: September 2011

1) Evaluating grass covers

Now is the time to assess grass leys and prepare for next season, says DairyCo extension officer, Piers Badnell.

• Start to raise grass covers if now if you want to extend the grazing season into the autumn.

• Evaluate how individual paddocks have performed this year – those that have underperformed ask the question why – is ph wrong or P or K status incorrect?

• If you don’t know the status of your soil, get it tested – ideally soils should be 6-6.5 ph with indices 2 for P&K.

• If indices are fine then it could be soil structure – dig a hole and see whether there is compaction. If so, is it deep and made by tractor traffic or is it shallow and made by stock?

• When there is a problem, autumn is the time to sort it by shallow compaction slit aerate, deep then subsoil.

• When there are no soil structure problems and the soil chemistry is fine, the grass ley could be tired and reseed maybe necessary.

• When a reseed is needed, ensure seed is in before the end of September to get a good take.

• If reseeding this autumn or stitching in now or in the spring, what do you want the ley to do, just graze, just silage, graze and silage? To help with these decisions use the Recommended Grass and Clover List to get the correct species and mix for your requirements.

2) Biosecurity key to pig productivity

Charlotte West, BPEX knowledge transfer manager advises farmers to re-assess internal and external biosecurity measures.

“Challenge from diseases such as porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV), which currently affects more than 60% of UK pig herds, has a negative impact on productivity,” she says.

“Ways to reduce risk of introducing PRRSV to a herd include: isolating replacement gilts offsite for a period before introduction to the main herd, introducing only known negative replacements and only using replacements that have been raised on-farm.”

3) Is your housing ready for winter?

Now is the time to assess winter housing, says DairyCo extension officer, Karen Lancaster:

• Are your lights in order? Ensure that skylights are clear, as well as checking that lights are maintained, free of dust and dirt. Cows need an adequate amount of light to allow them to move confidently around the building and see their food. Good lighting is also important because it will allow you to observe the cows thoroughly so that you can look for signs of ill health and also spot cows that are in heat.

• Check that all floors have plenty of grip and if there are any slippery areas make sure these are grooved before the cows come in.

• How good is the ventilation in your buildings? The aim is to provide a continuous stream of fresh air to every animal at all times of the day and night by ensuring there is adequate provision for hot, stale air to leave – when this air exits it allows fresh air to be drawn in.

• Repair any broken cubicle dividers to ensure that all of your cubicles are usable.

• Give all water troughs a good clean and make sure there are no leaks that need fixing.

4) Planning weaning

Although weaning may be some way off for spring born suckled calves, it’s a good idea to put plans in place to reduce stress around that time, says EBLEX livestock specialist Mary Vickers.

“Effectively managing weaning can help minimise the risk of health problems. Providing creep feed helps acclimatise calves to their winter ration and minimise any growth check. It is also worth talking to your vet about using a pneumonia vaccine.”

For more information see pages 24 and 25 of the EBLEX BRP Beef Diseases Directory.

5) Clean feed bins to minimise mycotoxin risk

Make sure feed bins are clean and in good repair by checking for damage and leaks, says Lis Ravn, BPEX knowledge transfer manager.

“Bins should be treated with a mould inhibitor/fungicide at least once a year. Also check inlet pipes are free from damage.”

Download 2TS Action for Productivity factsheet no. 8 for more advice on feed and straw management to reduce mycotoxin risk.

6) Selecting ewe lambs

When breeding from ewe lambs, producers should aim for a target liveweight at mating of 60% of mature body weight, according to EBLEX’s Liz Genever.

“Ideally retain or buy in 25% more ewe lambs than required, as 20% may not become pregnant due to low ovulation rates and relatively high embryo mortality,” she says.

“Plus, you then have the opportunity to select based on other factors, such as lameness or dagginess.”

Download the EBLEX report on breeding from ewe lambs here.

7) Buy winter feed now

When forage stocks are low act now to secure sufficient winter feed, says EBLEX’s Mary Vickers.

“Measure the silage in the clamp; count the bales in store, and work out how much more you need,”

“A silage analysis will help define how much supplementation will be required. Extending the grazing season could reduce the feed requirement, but manage swards carefully to protect next year’s spring growth.”

For more information, download the EBLEX BRP manual – Making grass silage for better returns

8) Check how your pigs compare

The starting point for achieving more pigmeat a sow a year – the aim of the two-tonne sow campaign – is to check how your unit is currently performing, says Colin Stone, BPEX knowledge transfer manager.

“Regular record keeping is essential to pinpoint areas of performance to prioritise and to monitor progress. Producers can compare their business with the average, top third and top 10% of British producers on the BPEX website in the Key Performance Indicators section.”

Visit: www.bpex.org.uk/marketintelligence to find out more

MMD

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