Slurry: With ground conditions continually deteriorating in parts of the country, some farmers have been caught with slurry tanks not empty.

The weather turned at the end of August last year, which led to problems getting slurry out on some farms. It’s important to make sure that all tanks have been emptied well in advance of the closed period.

Where ground conditions are an issue, umbilical systems are a good option to avoid damaging or rutting ground.

Remember, if ground conditions are very wet or if heavy rain is forecast, slurry spreading is prohibited.

Good weather is forecast for next week and this should be used as an opportunity to get any remaining slurry out.

Tetany: Speaking to a few vets around the country, the recent wet weather seems to have brought a spike in tetany cases in the last few days. More wet weather is forecast for the weekend, so make sure to have preventative measures in place ahead of any difficult weather conditions. Cows suckling early spring-born calves will be particularly at risk.

Suckler cows have a poor ability to store magnesium (Mg) in their bodies and need a daily supply to prevent deficiency. It is common with suckler cows when they are grazing very bare or lush pastures. This grass is frequently low in Mg due to quick growth and heavy slurry spreading, which is high in potassium and can have a negative effect on Mg uptake. It can be associated with stresses like transport, wet weather, cows in heat or changes in diet or pasture. Weaning is always a high risk period, so avoid stressing out animals too much at weaning time.

Ways of controlling or preventing grass tetany include:

  • Feeding high Mg concentrates.
  • The addition of Mg to the drinking water (this can be questionable in periods of wet weather).
  • Buffer feeding with hay or straw.
  • Giving free access to high Mg minerals, either by way of powder mineral or mineral licks.
  • The use of magnesium bullets — at least two bullets/boluses should be used per cow, which will release Mg at a controlled rate each day for four to six weeks.
  • Cattle handling and safety: We had a huge response to the Irish Farmers Journal farm safety competition over the last few weeks.

    The winner will be announced in next week’s paper. A lot of the entries focused around cattle handling and loading. With cattle being handled a lot over the next two months for dosing, weighing and weaning, take care around the yard area, especially where children are present.

    Make sure facilities are up to standard and that you have an escape route planned out of the yard and crush area if anything happens.

    Try to cull any repeat offenders. One wild animal can make a herd very nervous. It’s always best to try and walk through cattle a few times a week. People often herd on quads or jeeps and when it comes to putting animals into yards for handling, cattle aren’t familiar with the presence of people and can get spooked easily.