Management Notes for July 2016

Date published: 05 July 2016

Management Notes are prepared by staff from the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE). Questions and comments are welcome to allow CAFRE to address the issues that are important to you. Please contact the author directly. CAFRE is a college within the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

The depth of the compacted soil layer determines the type of machine to use.


Prepared by: Michael Garvey


telephone:     028 3752 9054                                            

Pre-reseed soil aeration

Fields for reseeding may benefit from improved soil aeration, as compacted soil restricts root growth and reduces the response to applied nitrogen (N). Dig test holes at least 40 cm deep to determine the extent of any problem and the depth of the compacted layer. Visible signs of compacted soils include a structure that is hard to break up, shallow roots growing horizontally, absence of worms, foul smell, grey colour or brown mottling. The depth of the compacted layer determines the type of machine that should be used to rectify the problem. A range of machines are available from soil aerators to sub-soilers.

July grass

Achieving excellent performance from your grass is critical for your business. Good grazing conditions and available aftergrass means your herd has an opportunity to graze quality grass with the potential to produce maintenance +18 litres of milk.

In the Greenmount Future Herd the aim is to ensure both grass quality and quantity are optimised. Grass covers across the entire grazing area are visually assessed weekly so that cows are grazing high quality swards (2800-3000 kg dry matter per hectare). A combination of round baling areas where grass covers have exceeded the target pre-grazing cover, along with topping and the use of silage aftermaths maintains good grass quality. To maximise grass intakes, the grazing area (hectares per day) is calculated daily using pre- and post-grazing measurements, with a target grass intake of 15 kg dry matter per cow per day. Cows are fed to yield in the milking parlour, with a current setting of M+18 for cows and M+ 14 for heifers using 0.45 kg per litre above the M+ level for each cow.  

Continue to apply 35 kg N per hectare after each grazing round. Research at AFBI has shown calcium ammonium nitrate is the most effective source of fertilizer N during the summer months.

Calculate your forage requirements for the winter ahead now!

Have you enough first and second cut silage in your silos to meet winter requirements? If not there is still time to plan a third cut. Use the figures in tables 1 and 2 to estimate the supply and demand on your own farm.  

Firstly calculate the volume of silage in your silos by multiplying the length by the width by the height. Then convert the volume of silage to tonnes of silage by multiplying the volume by the conversion factor in table 1 at the appropriate dry matter.

Table 1: Conversion factors to convert silage volume to tonnes of silage
Silage dry matter (%) Tonnes of silage per cubic metre
20 Multiply by 0.77
25 Multiply by 0.68
30 Multiply by 0.60

Table 2 estimates the monthly silage requirements for different classes of housed livestock. 

Table 2: Estimated monthly feed requirement of stock eating 25 % dry matter silage
Livestock Silage (tonnes per month)
Dairy cow in milk 1.4
Dry cow 0.9
0-1year heifer 0.6
1-2 year heifer 0.9

To calculate the silage requirement on your farm this winter multiply these figures by the number of stock in each class and then multiply by the number of months you normally feed silage. This will give a total tonnage of silage required.

If you haven’t enough silage in stock, you can estimate how much land you need to close off by planning a third cut. A third cut will produce 10 tonnes of silage per hectare after seven weeks growth.


Prepared by:   Darryl Boyd


telephone:      028 9034 0957

Suckler cows - autumn calvers

On many farms autumn calvers will start to calve from August onwards. These cows should ideally be in condition score 3-3.5. They must be monitored to ensure they don’t become over conditioned as this will cause an increase in pelvic fat deposition and associated calving difficulties.

To control condition many farmers graze these cattle on poorer and older swards or use them to clean out fields or paddocks after young stock. Any attempt to reduce condition should be done earlier than six weeks before calving. The last six weeks of pregnancy is critical for successful calving and cows require good nutrition during this period.  


As discussed last month parasite control becomes more important as the season progresses. Lungworm can be a particular problem and is at its peak in July and August.  An early diagnosis is crucial, take time to monitor young stock for coughing after light exercise/running. In more extreme cases where neck extension and mouth breathing is seen damage is often irreversible. Although more common in young stock it can occur in cows and can result in death with an acute infection.            


The winter past was quite mild with very little frost. Nobody enjoys frozen pipes, but periods of freezing can be very beneficial to our soils for example improved drainage due to the cracks and fissures freezing produces. As this was not the case over the past few winters, mechanical intervention may be needed via sub-soiling or aerating. After grazing/cutting a period of dry weather is ideal for sub-soiling to create cracks and fissures along with alleviating other soil compaction issues. Success depends on soil dryness, the implement not being worked below its critical depth and the treated soils allowed to stabilise. These works should only ever be done if required; always dig several holes throughout the field to identify the extent of the problem.  

Grass covers should be starting to build on farms towards the end of July/early August. To allow for a decline in growth during autumn, aim to have about 25-30 grazing days ahead by mid-September. This will depend on conditions and growth but can be controlled in a number of ways including weaning lambs to allow dry ewes to be stocked tighter.


Blowfly strike

Blowfly strike in sheep can be prevented by applying a suitable product before a period of challenge. However it has become increasingly difficult to predict due to unusual summer weather patterns. Shearing has been completed on many farms and this will help, but won’t eradicate the problem entirely. Most strikes (over 70%) occur around the tail or breech due to faecal or urine soiling. The following good management practices will help:

  • Dag to reduce soiling and/or remove dirty wool around the breech
  • Reduce the incidence of soiling by avoiding nutritional upsets that cause scouring 
  • Have a good worm control strategy
  • Tail sheep
  • Avoid breeding from sheep that are habitually struck and/or tend to soil themselves due to their conformation
  • Dispose of carcasses quickly
  • Reduce the incidence of foot rot


Lameness can also raise its head on many farms especially when you are busy with other field work. Rectifying this problem quickly will minimise further escalation. Individual treatments may be adequate if the problem is confined through paring and antibacterial sprays. If a bigger problem exists group treatment using a footbath will be required. For best results allow sheep to stand in the solution for a short time rather than just running through it and stand them in a dry yard for the solution to dry. If using formalin, solutions above 5% can cause severe irritation, therefore avoid ‘topping up’ of footbaths. Mix accurately and avoid solutions over 3%.


Prepared by:   Liz Donnelly

e-mail :  

telephone:       028 9442 6767

Soya and home mixers

Since writing my last pig management notes the price of soya has rocketed, increasing by £100 per tonne over the last few months. For home mixers buying soya spot this means a £20 per tonne or £6 per pig increase in feed costs. The increase is due to several factors including poor weather conditions in Argentina, speculators and China importing 16% more this season compared to the same period last year.

Alternative protein sources that home mixers can use include rapeseed, peas, beans and distillers grains. Although their use in Northern Ireland is limited due to availability and possible presence of anti-nutritional factors it is worth speaking to your pig nutritionist about the possibility of including them in some rations. With the area of field beans grown in the Republic of Ireland increasing some southern pig producers are now including them in finishing rations. Also get your pig nutritionist to check the formulation of rations to see if it is possible to reduce soya levels. I know of one producer who was able to reduce the amount of soya in a finishing ration by 30 kg per tonne! There are also commercially available feed products containing concentrated protein which can be used to replace soya and depending on the price of soya could save £4.00-5.00 per tonne.

As a final comment the coarseness of soya varies with some loads, depending on source, coarser than others. Grist or particle size affects feed efficiency with fine grist size preferable for growing and finishing pigs. If you are one of the one third of home mixers, who do not grind soya, this is something worth considering.


As I write this management note on 20 June, which is Summer Solstice or the longest day of the year in terms of daylight, it seems strange to write about artificial light for pigs. Although I hate to say it the days will start to get shorter and you will need to ensure pigs have adequate light, both in terms of duration and intensity.

The benefits of light are well documented and include gilts reaching puberty earlier, piglets suckling more leading to increased weaning weights, reduced weaning to service interval in sows and sows on heat longer. The recommendation for sows is to provide 16 hours light per day. The use of a timer is an excellent way to achieve this and cuts out the daily job of turning lights on and off!

Light intensity, that is, the brightness of light is also important and the recommendation is to provide at least 300 lux. Various factors affect light intensity including poor lighting, fly faeces and dust on lights, high walls surrounding the pigs and automatic feeders in front of sows creating shadows. If you cannot read these management notes in your sow house then it is not bright enough!

As a point of interest, in newly built or refurbished pig houses, the light fittings are not attached directly to the ceiling. They are usually clipped onto stainless steel wire which is fixed at either end of the room/building below the level of the ceiling (see photograph). As well as creating less of a fire risk it is also easier to wash the lights.

Reminder to complete pig inventory

At the end of May you received a pig inventory to complete. The inventory requires you to record the number of dry, lactating and other sows, boars, weaners/growers and finishers on your unit on 1st June 2016. If you have not completed the inventory yet, please do so and return to Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) as soon as possible in the pre-paid envelope.

Information technology

Prepared by:   Ronan Coll

e-mail :  

telephone:       028 9442 6865

Reduce your paperwork – maintain your herd register on APHIS

DAERA now offers cattle farmers the option of maintaining their herd register on APHIS instead of using an on-farm electronic or paper herd register. APHIS is a safe and secure DAERA online service with 24/7 access which is quick, user friendly and helps reduce errors.

To take advantage of this new facility you must comply with certain conditions. The main conditions for maintaining your herd register on APHIS are:

  • Access — you need to have access to APHIS online
  • Accuracy — you must take responsibility for the accuracy of your herd information
  • Electronically — you must record all of your births, deaths and movements electronically rather than sending notification documents to DAERA
  • Timing — you must record births within 23 days, your intention to move animals off your farm on the day of movement and all other events within three days of each event

Detailed guidance and a list of commonly asked questions are available on the DAERA website. To avoid financial penalties, please read the guidance carefully before you start maintaining your herd register on APHIS.  Please pay particular attention to the conditions with which you must comply.

Although keeping a herd register (paper, electronic or APHIS online) and retaining a record for ten years are legal requirements, choosing to maintain your herd register on APHIS is entirely voluntary. You can use APHIS online to access your herd information and notify births, deaths and movements and at the same time continue to use an on-farm electronic or paper herd register.

Herd register checks are included as part of cross compliance inspections and will be examined if your business is selected for inspection. At the beginning of the inspection you will be asked whether you are maintaining your herd register on APHIS. If you are, you will be asked to confirm the start date. The inspector may also examine your previous on-farm paper/electronic herd register for the period before you started using APHIS.

APHIS online herd list – what information is available?

If you are using APHIS online as your herd register, it is important to become familiar with the online herd list and the available information. Use this list to check that all your registrations and notifications are up to date and correct. Each animal in your herd will be listed with its tag number and description (colour/breed/sex) as well as date of birth and age. Although not required for the herd register, APHIS online also gives you information about your animals registrations status codes, FQAS status, export eligibility, TB/Br status and date of last calving.

If this is not enough, you can also see information about movements and calving history by clicking on any tag number listed in your herd.

The information can be downloaded or printed and is always updated each time you complete an online registration using APHIS online.

Further help

If you wish to register to access APHIS online or other DAERA online services, please contact the DAERA Online Services Helpdesk on 028 9442 6699 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm) or email:

We have published a range of videos on the DAERA website about registering for and using APHIS online which includes the use of APHIS as a herd register.   

Notes to editors: 

  1. All media enquiries to DAERA Press Office, or tel: 028 9052 4619.

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