COMMENT: As we go into November, spring calving herds are now beginning to dry off cows and days at grass are now numbered.

Ground conditions are becoming more and more difficult and there seems to be a huge shortage in fencing reels as back fencing daily is required to minimise soil damage!! If cows are grazing by day only then ensure they are going out to paddock with an appetite as intakes are increased and they can be brought indoors again after three to four hours (if ground condition/rainfall dictates so).

It is imperative that we monitor body condition carefully and dry off cows below target condition (3.0) three months prior to calving date. If there is a huge range in body condition score among dry animals, they may have to be split into two batches.

Overfat animals need a maintenance diet, circa 10kgsDM/day, whereas under conditioned cows and first lactation heifers will need a diet with more energy as they need to gain weight. If silage quality is poor, a few kgs of concentrates, for example barley may be needed – get silage analysed and find out what energy it contains and workout what/if supplementing with concentrates is necessary for weight gain.

As mentioned previously, closing cover target must be met – irrespective of what the date is! This grass is more valuable in spring! This year, owing to a carryover of fluke on some farms from 2012, dosing for fluke is a necessity on the majority of farms – send off several dung samples and discuss with your vet.

If there is a fluke burden, it will have a negative effect on body condition. The life cycle of liver fluke is five to seven weeks, therefore the animals must be housed for five to seven weeks before the fluke reaches the mature stage and dosing can be carried out with a product licensed for dairy animals such as fasinex 240 or zanil.

By Cathal Mc Aleer, consultant with Grasstec Dairy Solutions who provide a dairy consultancy, farm infrastructure design and livestock sourcing service in Ireland and UK