Feed autumn-calving suckler cows to hit target score


utumn-calving suckler herds are being urged to monitor cow condition

score closely this year as grass growth rate and quality declines during late summer.

“Calving beef cattle in the au- tumn invariably coincides with a period of decreasing grass availa- bility and quality – so this can be challenging for some herds,” says Jacob Lakin from Azelis Animal Nutrition.

The best approach is to aim for a cow body condition score of 2.5- 3 at calving and supplement for- age stocks as necessary, says Mr Lakin. It is also important to feed post-calving cows well – both to de- liver good milk yields for the calf and ensure optimum fertility later. Any supplementary silage should be provided ad lib with up to 5kg per head per day of concen- trates depending on forage quali- ty in front. The overall diet should contain about 11MJ of ME per kg of dry matter and 12% crude pro- tein – and key trace minerals. An adequate intake of copper and zinc is particularly important. “Supplementary copper is impor- tant for fertility, milk production and growth; while zinc is essen- tial for tissue formation and skin

Manage worms ahead of tupping

Sheep farmers are being encouraged to conduct fae- cal egg count tests in their ewes and rams to identify any worm problems ahead of tupping. Warm and wet weather has provided perfect breed- ing conditions for worms. Egg count data from the Zoetis Parasite Watch scheme sug- gests that medium and high egg counts could impact fer- tility and conception rates across the UK.

Susceptible Diets should be adequate at calving – and afterwards too

integrity. In addition, both miner- als help boost enzyme formation and immunity.”

Both copper and zinc can be

locked up in the diet due to vari- ous antagonisms with other min- erals, says Mr Lakin. This means use of high-quality chelated forms of these two minerals must be con- sidered to ensure optimum avail- ability to the cow. Feeding highly bioavailable

chelated forms of organic trace el- ements removes the need to feed high levels of inorganic minerals. “Consequently, any risk of toxic- ity to the animal or undesirable excretion into the environment is being minimised.” Autumn-calving suckler pro- ducers with particular concerns about maintaining target cow con- dition score should consult their nutritional adviser.

Rams are twice as suscepti- ble to worms as ewes as they often have less exposure to parasites. Failure to manage parasites prior to mating can lead to sub-optimal fertility, warns vet Dr Ami Sawran from Westpoint Farm Vets. “The sperm cycle takes 7-8

weeks, so you have got to be thinking about the health of that animal two months be- fore they are being mated. If you have a significant worm burden at any point in the sperm cycle you will end up with sub-optimal fertility.”

Cattle lameness and disease are top challenges

Lameness is the top animal health and welfare challenge faced by beef and dairy farmers.

More than one in three (36%) respondents to the poll of 240 veterinary surgeons and advis- ers specified lameness as the big- gest animal health challenge for producers. The next most common response was infectious disease, specified by 13% of respondents. When asked about the biggest

challenge related to farm profit- ability, 13% of respondents cited low market prices and high in- put costs. Competition caused by Brexit and trade issues were men-


tioned by 20% of respondents, with 19% citing infectious disease. Misrepresentation by pressure groups and the media were seen as the biggest challenge to the in- dustry’s reputation (15%). Envi- ronmental and sustainability is- sues were cited by 11% with 10% citing misguided public or expec- tations about how animals should be kept.

The online survey was carried out by the regulatory body Cat- tle Health Certification Standards (CHeCS). The organisation sets the standards for infectious dis- ease control and quality assures

cattle health schemes in the UK. CHeCS chairman and dairy

farmer Abi Reader said it was noticeable that the survey raised a range of challenges outside of farmers’ control. But she said it had also highlighted issues that producers could do something about. “We are largely unable to in- fluence Brexit or trade matters and have limited impact on sales price or input costs or even mis- representation, which can be in- credibly frustrating. However, lameness and infectious disease are problems we can – and must

– take the opportunity to address.” In the question about challeng- es to profitability, infectious dis- ease ranked third, said Ms Read- er. Most of the answers specified Bovine Viral Diarrhoea, Johne’s Disease or Neospora – which pro- ducers could either control or elim- inate completely. Some 85% of participants rated the effectiveness of cattle health schemes at reducing or eliminat- ing infectious disease as good or very good. A full 87% gave the same approval to the appropri- ateness of measures required un- der CHeCS.

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