Management notes for January 2021

Date published: 08 January 2021

Management Notes are prepared by staff from the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE). CAFRE is a College within the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

The cow needs to take at least three strides through the treatment bath filled to a depth of 10 cm to allow good chemical penetration.


Prepared by: Christopher Breen

Soil analysis

Now is an ideal time to carry out soil analysis. Soil samples should only be taken when no fertiliser, slurry, manure or lime has been applied for at least 12 weeks. If you are planning to apply slurry to grassland soon take soil samples first. A standard soil analysis gives an indication of pH, phosphorous, potassium and magnesium indices, allowing you to make informed decisions about applications of fertilisers and slurry. Applying the correct levels of nutrients will optimise yields and save money.

Soil sampling

A new system has been put in place this year due to COVID-19 restrictions. Soil augers are available for loan from DAERA Direct offices on an appointment basis only. Contact your local DAERA Direct office either by phone 0300 200 7840 or email to arrange a time for collection and return of augers. Email addresses for local offices can be found on the DAERA website.

Appointments are available on designated days each week, for example, Tuesday and Friday to allow the augers to be left untouched between users. Also contact your local DAERA Direct office to request soil sampling kits (sample bags/boxes, request forms and postal envelope). These can be collected or posted to you.

After taking the soil samples place them in the pre-paid postal envelope and take them to a post office for posting directly to NRM.  Augers should then be returned to the DAERA Direct office by appointment.

  • Always use a corer when taking samples. Never use a spade or lift a handful of soil from a ploughed field. A poor sample is worse than none at all.
  • Take cores down to 75 mm for grassland and 150 mm for arable.
  • Each sample should not represent more than four hectares. Divide large fields, noting and sampling each area separately. 
  • Take cores from the field by crossing it in a ‘W’ pattern.
  • Take 20 cores from the field, bulk them together, mix and put a sub-sample in a labelled sample bag/box.
  • Don’t sample near water troughs, gates, headlands, trees, dung or urine patches or areas where stock shelter.
  • Don’t put cores from different soil types together in a sample. Avoid small areas of a different soil type or take two samples, one from each area.

Tackling digital dermatitis

Is digital dermatitis a problem on your farm?  Routine foot bathing is the most practical method of control, but to be successful it must be carried out effectively. Without regular foot bathing the incidence of digital dermatitis will increase weekly during the winter.

Ideally provide a double foot bath; a bath to wash feet, followed by a treatment bath. The wash bath is needed to remove manure which reduces the effectiveness of the chemical in the treatment bath. Depending on the level of manure, cleanliness of cow’s feet and floor before entry, the pre-wash foot bath may need changed during milking. If using a pre-wash bath there should ideally be one cow length between the pre-wash and treatment baths, along with good drainage to remove excess water. If there is not enough space to fit in both baths, wash the cows feet with a hose before they leave the parlour on the way out to the foot bath. When carrying this out, adjust the parlour hose to a softer spray to reduce the risk of a mastitis flare up.

To allow time for good penetration of the chemical, the cow needs to take at least three strides through the treatment bath. The bath must therefore be at least three metres long. Fill the bath to a depth of 10 cm to ensure the foot is covered up to the top of the hoof. Accurately measure the amount of chemical required. This includes topping up. Dilute mixes are not as effective and more concentrated mixes may damage cows feet leading to more incidence of lameness.

The frequency of treatment depends on the incidence of infection. The minimum regime should be to foot bath after four consecutive milkings each week to minimise digital dermatitis in dry cows. It is also important to continue foot bathing throughout the dry period.

January jobs checklist

  • Check there is enough slurry storage available until the spreading period opens on 1 February.
  • Complete your nitrogen loading calculations for 2020 and keep a record.
  • Submit records of slurry exported during 2020 online to NIEA by 31 January. The exception is derogated farms where export records are submitted as part of the fertilisation account by 1 March.

Download information and guidance during the COVID-19 pandemic


Prepared by: Nigel Gould

Review of 2020

Now is a good time to review the performance of your farm business in 2020. What area of the farm could be improved? Going forward, what measurements are required to monitor physical or financial performance on farm and what are your desired targets? Determining baseline and achievable target figures are vital in assessing where performance is now and where you need it to be. Good record keeping allows a farm business to benchmark itself from one year to the next and facilitates informed decision making to drive improvement. There are of course factors outside the farm gate which will affect farm profitability, but focus should be placed on those which can be controlled on farm. Having defined systems on farm will also make it easier to compare performance each year and measure progress.

CAFRE offers a free benchmarking service to all Business Development Group members. Physical and financial data is collected and a benchmarking report issued. This report can be used to compare the performance of your farm (across a number of cost and production headings) with previous years and with other similar farm businesses.


Lice treatment of cattle

Monitor cattle for signs of lice. The most common sign is cattle licking themselves more than normal and showing signs of discomfort. Anything causing discomfort can have a negative effect on cattle performance. A pour-on product is often the treatment of choice, but note that not all products provide treatment for both sucking and biting lice. Ivermectin based injectable products are sometimes expected to control lice, however, this is really only the case for sucking lice. All animals in the shed need to be treated at the same time, otherwise lice from untreated animals will move to those already treated. Clipping the backs of cattle ensures the product makes contact with the skin as soon as possible.

Prepare for spring calving

Prepare well in advance of the main spring calving period. Check facilities and calving supplies to allow enough time to replenish supplies and make any adjustments. Important items include calving aids/ropes, iodine solution for navels, arm length gloves, calving lubricant, disinfectant, artificial/frozen colostrum, stomach tube and/or feeding bottle.

A general rule is to allow one calving pen for every ten cows, but more will be required where a very compact calving is anticipated. When entering a pen with a calving or freshly calved cow, have your escape route planned and never turn your back on the cow. Keep dogs out of sight as they can trigger a protective response. A good calving gate makes handling cows much safer and easier for the farmer, cow and calf alike.

Disinfect pens thoroughly between calvings and use plenty of straw. After the calf is born, treat navels with a strong iodine solution. Ensure an adequate quantity of colostrum is consumed by the calf as soon as possible after birth (10% of calf body weight within six hours). The ability of a newborn calf to absorb antibodies from colostrum deteriorates rapidly from birth. If thawing frozen colostrum, do so in good time. Freezing in bags or containers with larger surface areas will reduce thawing time. Overheating will destroy antibodies. Never use a microwave to defrost colostrum. Be mindful of the risk of bringing disease into your herd via colostrum from another herd.


Clostridial booster vaccine for sheep

Most manufacturers recommend annual administration of booster clostridial vaccines to ewes four to six weeks pre-lambing. Timing is important to ensure maximum passive transfer of immunity to lambs. If there is a wide spread in lambing dates, the vaccine may need to be administered to the flock in batches.


Prepared by: Martin Reel 

COVID-19 supports available to farm businesses

The ongoing disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted some businesses negatively. As a result, the UK Government has introduced support which farm businesses can avail of. Current support available to farm businesses is as follows:

Self-Employment Income Support Scheme

This is a grant to self-employed individuals or members of a partnership whose businesses have been impacted by COVID-19. The third grant is available from

1 November to 31 January 2021 and if eligible will pay 80% of profits up to £2,500 per month. Qualifying conditions are trading profits must be less than £50,000 and more than 50% of income must be from self-employment. Applicants must declare they intend to continue to trade and reasonably believe there will be a significant reduction in trading profits.

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme helps small and medium sized businesses access loans and finance up to £5 million and with up to six years to repay. The government guarantees 80% of the finance to the lender and pays interest and any fees for the first 12 months. Eligible businesses need to demonstrate they were adversely affected by coronavirus. This Scheme is open for applications until 31 January 2021.

Bounce Back Loan Scheme

The Bounce Back Loan Scheme helps small and medium sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and up to 25% of their turnover. The maximum loan available is £50,000. The Government guarantees 100% of the loan and there won’t be any fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months. After 12 months the interest rate will be 2.5% a year. The length of the loan is six years but early repayment is allowed, without early repayment fees. Lenders are not permitted to take personal guarantees or take recovery action over a borrower’s personal assets (such as their main home or personal vehicle). There is no fee to access the Scheme for either businesses or lenders.

If you already have a Bounce Back loan but borrowed less than you were entitled to, you can top up your existing loan to your maximum amount. You must request the top up by 31st January 2021 and this is the closing date for all applications. A business cannot apply if already claiming CBILS. It should be noted that both of these Schemes are additional debt that a business takes on and it must be repaid in the timescale agreed.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (Furlough)

This is available to farm businesses with employees. The current rules allow for staff to be placed on reduced hours, as well as being fully furloughed. It has been extended until 31 March 2021. Eligible employees receive 80% of their current salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. Eligibility criteria includes staff being on PAYE payroll and paid by 30 October 2020.

Brexit planning Voucher from InterTradeIreland

As EU Exit approaches there is another financial support scheme. Some farm businesses may engage in cross border trade and InterTradeIreland has a Brexit Voucher. This provides 100% financial support up to £2,000 (inclusive of VAT) towards professional advice to help businesses identify Brexit exposure and to plan. The Voucher can be used by the cross border trader to access support and training in areas such as dealing with additional customs requirements.

The supports listed have eligibility criteria and it is important to seek professional advice before applying in order to understand all of the conditions of the support available.


Prepared by: Kieran Lavelle

Biological controls for vine weevil

CAFRE are hosting a webinar ‘Biological Controls for Vine Weevil’ on the 13th January 2021 at 7.00pm. David Davidson, Koppert’s Technical Consultant for Ireland will discuss biological controls for vine weevil. Koppert have two nematode species that kill vine weevil larvae, Larvanem and Entonem. David will discuss these in detail, along with their use and inclusion in an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programme.

The importance of introducing and setting up an IPM programme is becoming more crucial for the future control of pests in nursery and fruit production. IPM is a sustainable approach to the management of pests that combines cultural, physical, biological and chemical practices to minimise economic, health, and environmental risks. The emphasis is on producing a healthy crop with minimal damage to the environment. In the future the horticulture industry will have to rely less on chemical controls as availability diminishes. There is greater consumer desire for a more sustainable and eco-friendly approach and this will also impact on control practices employed.

An example of the diminishing availability of chemical control is Exemptor, an effective product for the control of vine weevil larvae. This product will be withdrawn from use in early 2021. Vine weevil is a massive problem within the ornamental sector and can lead to huge loses if it is not controlled at an early stage. The larvae causes widespread damage on the root systems and even entire crops can fail. The adult vine weevil can also cause aesthetic damage to certain crops by cutting notches out of the leaves. The result of the withdrawal of this product means more limited options for growers in the control of this pest.

IPM is an effective and efficient way to control a wide range of ornamental pests. For further information on the webinar, contact our Horticulture Adviser (Ornamentals) Conor Gallinagh by email: or mobile: 07919695676.

Hydroponic food production

Anyone interested in food production is aware of the large number of articles available highlighting hydroponic food production. Hydroponic production is based on growing plants in nutrient rich water rather than directly in the soil, generally under some form of protection such as a polytunnel or greenhouse. Hydroponic production offers a number of advantages compared to growing crops in the soil, such as increased yield, higher quality and reduced disease pressure from soil borne diseases. It also offers a means of producing high value crops such as herbs in locations where the soil type, such as heavy clay or poor drainage, makes normal soil based growing extremely challenging.

However, it is a more technically demanding approach and requires a certain amount of scientific knowledge to get the most out of the system and understand where problems can occur. It also requires more capital investment than growing in the soil. Anyone interested in this area also need to be aware of the potential downsides of running a hydroponic production system. 

Trying to obtain technical information on the internet will generate a bewildering variety of opinions and approaches. To provide a basic introduction to hydroponic systems, common technical concepts and potential crops, CAFRE has written a short report on hydroponic production which is now available online. This gives an overview of hydroponic production of leafy salads and herbs, from the advantages and disadvantages of different hydroponic systems, to the timings and harvesting of different crops. Download the report from the CAFRE website.

Download information and guidance during the COVID-19 pandemic.


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