Management Notes for July 2017

Date published: 06 July 2017

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 recommendation for third cut silage is 250kg per hectare of a 22:0:10 type fertiliser and 16m3 of dairy cow slurry at soil index P 2 and K 1


Prepared by: Christopher Breen

Fertiliser application in July

Take the opportunity to produce extra grass this grazing season by applying between 35 and 50kg nitrogen (N) per hectare after each grazing round. Research at AFBI has shown Calcium Ammonium Nitrate (CAN) is the most effective source of fertiliser N during the summer months.

The CAFRE Crop Nutrient Recommendation for third cut silage at soil index phosphate 2 and potash 1 shows that 250kg of fertiliser product per hectare (two bags per acre) of a 22:0:10 type fertiliser and 16m3 per hectare of dairy cow slurry (1,400 gallons per acre) can meet third cut needs. A sulphur containing fertiliser should be used, with an application rate of up to 40kg per hectare.

Pre reseed drainage repair

Fields for reseeding may benefit from improvements to drainage or soil aeration.

Clean out sheughs that have become blocked over time with silt or grass. Examine outflows from existing shores to ensure they are still running. If new drains are needed it is important they are planned and designed as the most appropriate solution for the site.

Soil compaction

Compacted soil has been compressed into a solid layer restricting root growth and reducing grass response to nitrogen. Dig test holes at least 40cm deep with a spade to see the extent of the problem and the depth of any compacted layer. Visible signs of compaction include a structure that is hard to break up, shallow roots growing horizontally, few worms present, a bad smell and grey colour/brown mottling. The depth of the compacted layer determines the type of machine that should be used to rectify the problem.

Whole crop ready to harvest

Walk your whole crops and assess readiness for cutting by stripping the grain from a number of ears and squeezing it between your fingers. When the grain texture has passed the sticky ‘brie cheese’ stage and is like a drier ‘soft cheddar’ the crop is ready for cutting (approximately 40% dry matter). Standing crops are at various stages of maturity:

  • Crops that received a comprehensive spray programme remain green with the ears starting to turn yellow. On inspection the grain texture is not completely ‘soft cheddar’ but also produces some ‘soft brie’. The percentage dry matter of these crops is in the low 30s and they will require further inspection, but are probably not more than seven days from harvest.
  • Crops that showed some disease are now at the correct stage and increasing in dry matter. With potential ‘drying rates’ up to 2.5 units of dry matter daily, there is a limited harvest window. If dry matters exceed 45% harvest the crop with equipment that incorporates a mill unit.

Harvesting and silo management have an effect on the fermented silage. Direct cutting reduces grain loss. A long stubble gives a higher energy silage, a short stubble a higher fibre silage. Make sure the additive is applied at the correct rate for the crop dry matter and yield. Preferably chop to 25mm and fill a narrow pit that has side sheeting on the walls. Roll well during filling and cover the crop with a good layer of grass before covering with heavy gauge polythene and tyres.

July jobs checklist

  • To maintain sward quality top grazing swards containing old dead grass or seed heads.
  • Calibrate parlour and out of parlour feeders to ensure accurate feeding.
  • Where necessary, burn off swards towards the end of July to allow for reseeding during August. 
  • Assess heifer performance. Are they performing to meet desired targets?


Prepared by: Darryl Boyd



A number of factors help you decide when lambs should be weaned, with grass growth the main one. Beyond 60 days of age the energy intake of lambs from grass can be higher than that from milk. It is therefore vital to have sufficient young leafy grass to meet the demands of both ewes and lambs. If grass has been growing well, as it has, competition between ewe and lamb will be low. However as grass growth declines (as it typically does in July) they may start competing for grass. Grass measuring and budgets can help identify shortages and if lamb growth declines to less than 200g per day consider weaning lambs onto leafy pasture.

Ideally lambs should go on to clean pastures which have lower worm burdens, such as silage aftermaths or reseeds. If this isn’t possible, but you are currently rotationally grazing or using paddocks, it could be worthwhile setting up a leader/follower system. With this system weaned lambs enter a paddock first followed by a group of ewes from a different batch. This means lambs receive the very best of the sward with the lowest worm burden. The following ewes can graze down to the desired residual where there will be the greatest worm burden.

Weaning lambs gradually (staggering the removal of batches of ewes from a group) can reduce stress in lambs although it requires more labour and lambs and ewes remain on poorer swards. Abrupt weaning may result in higher stress levels in lambs but they can be moved onto better leafier swards which limit performance setbacks. Manage weaned ewes appropriately to reduce milk yields in the short term before grouping by body condition score to improve or maintain it.

Finishing off grass

Is a high lambing percentage, that is, over 175% vanity over sanity? Lambs finished off grass cost less to produce and the percentage of lambs finished this way is likely to decrease as the percentage of triplets increases.

Due to more milk and attention singles have the highest growth rates. Twins have the same genetic potential to grow but generally get less milk and therefore eat more grass with a higher worm burden. Due to intra-uterine growth restriction (reduced nutrient supply via the placenta) triplets grow much slower than singles or twins no matter how well they are fed. Select replacements from lambs who are twins from moderately prolific ewes with good rearing ability rather than lambs from extremely prolific ewes.


Continue to monitor service dates for spring calvers. Identify cows that are ‘slipping’ in calving dates and replace with in-calf heifers, as late calvers are often the least profitable. Ideally replace with heifers that will calve before the main calving period is due to start in spring.

Things to do in July!

  • Prepare for autumn calving. Do not try to reduce body condition score in the last six weeks of gestation as good nutrition is required during this time.
  • Continue to monitor and control worm burdens in sheep and cattle if necessary. Damp, warm conditions can increase burdens. Mixed grazing between cattle and sheep not only improves sward utilisation but also reduces their individual worm challenge. Dairy bred beef require particular attention. 
  • Is it worth taking faecal samples from first calving autumn heifers?  Depending on treatments in a previous grazing they may not have fully built up their immunity.
  • Should the opportunity arise through good weather alleviate soil compaction when swards are down at residual levels.
  • Monitor sheep for fly strike and if necessary apply an appropriate product before a period of challenge.


Prepared by: Liz Donnelly

Pig Competitiveness Scheme update

If you are one of the 135 producers who successfully applied to the Pig Competitiveness Scheme for worm medication you will now have received your Letter of Offer. The Letter of Offer states the maximum amount of funding you will receive for worm medication for sows and pigs. It also indicates how much you can spend on injectables. Enclosed with your Letter of Offer is a Letter of Acceptance which you must sign, date and return within 14 days of the date on the Letter of Offer. If you don’t return this to DAERA you will not get any money!

The Scheme allows for two blanket treatments of all sows and gilts six months apart and the individual treatment of sows and gilts seven to ten days before going into the farrowing house. It also covers the cost of worming all pigs three times six weeks apart at approximately 25, 60 and 95kg liveweight. Although this is the recommended treatment programme, discuss with your vet the most effective and practical programme for your herd, as in some cases it may not be necessary to carry out the full programme.

Although the Scheme runs from now to the end of March 2018 you must submit your claim form by 4pm on 1 September 2017. To allow you to do this you need to first of all work out how much wormer, based on the treatment programme for your herd, you will use between now and the end of March. Then forward buy this amount bearing in mind the amount of money on the Letter of Offer is the maximum you can spend through the Scheme. Once you have bought and paid for the wormer the advice is to submit your claim form, along with the original invoice/s and bank statement as soon as possible.

Other important points to note include:

  • You cannot claim for wormer purchased before the date on the Letter of Offer.
  • DAERA will not reimburse the cost of VAT.
  • You can purchase wormer from your vet, feed supplier or independent retailer, provided they are licensed.
  • Pour-ons are not licensed for pigs and are therefore not funded through the Scheme.
  • Record the purchase and use of wormer in your medicine book.
  • Check the withdrawal period of the product you are using for pigs and adhere to it to avoid residues.
  • Ask your supplier, if possible, to provide a separate invoice showing only the purchase of wormer.
  • During random inspections by DAERA the inspector will check delivery dockets, scripts, medicine records and may take a sample of feed to check for the inclusion of wormer.

Mobile ramp

There is no doubt the use of a ramp makes the loading of pigs much easier reducing the stress levels of both pigs and the people loading the pigs. However in some yards the position of a fixed ramp may make it difficult to load pigs from certain houses. It was for this reason a South Down producer got a local firm to design and make a mobile ramp which can be moved easily from one house to another using a forklift. In addition to easy movement the height and width of the ramp is adjustable meaning it fits most passage widths and trailers. Four treaded feet allow adjustment of the height and moveable gates at the funnel end of the ramp allows the width to be increased from 1.5m to 2.5m. It is important to note that for journeys over 50km the maximum ramp angle for pigs is 20 degrees.


Prepared by: Pamela Gardiner

Agricultural and Horticultural Census form available within online services

If you’ve received a 2017 Agricultural and Horticultural Census form in the post this year, did you know that you can alternatively make your return through DAERA online services?

Many of you will be new to online services this year and may not be aware that there are many other useful tools available in addition to the Single Application form. Since the end of May, the Agricultural and Horticultural Census form for 2017 has been available within online services. Simply login to online services and enter your government gateway details. The ‘Farm Census 2017’ link can be found on the left hand menu.

Completing your form online has many benefits such as:

  • Automatic error detection.
  • Auto calculations, for example totals.
  • Provides a summary table for printing/saving.
  • Immediate submission.
  • Efficient processing for faster results.

Farm Census Section would appreciate a quick response to the survey, either online or by using the paper form as this will save issuing further reminders. The Agricultural Census is a rich source of information for farmers, industry and policy makers with data collected from 1847. All data provided is treated as confidential and may only be used for specified purposes such as the preparation of statistics.

The Agricultural Census in Northern Ireland (NI) statistics are available free to download on the DAERA website.

The below table, which uses information from the Agricultural Census, illustrates how the enterprise mix of NI agriculture has changed over the years. In particular, this shows a move away from cropping to grazing livestock enterprises and growth in both pig and poultry enterprises.

Crop areas and livestock numbers in Northern Ireland, 1866 - 2016
  1866 1916 1966 2016
Crop Areas ('000 ha)        
Cereals 220 146 105 33
Potatoes 102 65 23 4
Flax 74 30 0 0
Hay and Pasture 676 756 694 801
Livestock Numbers ('000 head)        


724 804 1,189 1,665
of which Cows NA NA 370 587
Sheep 246 409 1,054 2,023
Horses 119 113 NA 10
Pigs 261 202 1,057 601
Poultry 2,165 6,619 10,863 21,784

Land use in NI at June 2016 was predominately grassland which reflects the focus on grazing livestock enterprises.

Further help

If you have any problems accessing the online form please email: or alternatively telephone 028 9442 6699.


Notes to editors: 

  1. Follow us on Twitter @daera_ni.
  2. All media enquiries to DAERA Press Office or tel: 028 9052 4619.

Share this page

Back to top