Management Notes for November 2016

Date published: 01 November 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).



Prepared by: Trevor Alcorn


telephone:     028 8225 3421                                            

Check your time clocks

With the time change now is a good time to check all time clocks and controls on the farm. If a time clock is only one hour wrong on a 6 kW water heater it can cost an extra £170 per year at current electricity prices.

It is also important to check the meter belonging to your electricity supplier is operating correctly and giving the lower rate for the correct time period. Other savings in electricity costs can be made by:

  • Checking your tariff - the most effective way of lowering farm electricity costs is to make maximum use of the cheaper NightSaver tariff. Under this tariff electricity costs 7.29 pence per kWh (unit) between 1.00 am and 8.00 am in winter (2.00 am and 9.00 am in summer) compared to 13.51 pence per kWh during the day. Heat the water for washing the plant and tanks on the low cost overnight rate. 
  • Having a suitably sized plate cooler - cooling milk is generally the largest single energy cost in the parlour. A suitably sized plate cooler will save 60% of your milk cooling costs. 
  • Saving on water heating - water heating is the second largest user of electricity on the dairy farm. Insulating water heaters and associated pipe work is critical for energy savings. An uninsulated tank loses 50% of its heat in 17 hours, compared to just 5% with good insulation.  
  • Monitoring light usage - on some farms there is unnecessary lighting of parlours, sheds and yards. Make savings by installing high efficiency lights and using timers, sensors and proximity switches appropriately. LED bulbs and tubes offer a good payback if lights are on for several hours a day.

Managing colostrum

Now that calving is in full swing on many farms it is an opportune time to highlight the importance of colostrum for the new born calf. Remember the four Qs:

  • Quantity – ideally 10% of the calf’s weight or around 4 litres within the first six hours.
  • Quality – colostrum quality is poorer from first lactation animals, higher yielding Holstein cows and cows which have had a shorter dry period (less than three weeks). Good hygiene is critical at all times. Use a colostrometer or refractometer to test colostrum quality.
  • Quickly – ensure the calf receives colostrum as soon as possible after birth and within six hours at the latest. Antibody absorption rapidly declines after this.   
  • Quietly – avoid stressing the calf while feeding as absorption rates are lower with stressed animals.

In relation to storage good quality colostrum can be stored in the fridge for 24 hours.

Colostrum has a 12 month shelf life in the freezer, but thaw it out gradually, not in a microwave! Also avoid pooling colostrum as this increases the risk of disease transmission, for example Johne’s disease.

November jobs checklist

  • Identify cows to dry off in the next two months and assess body condition. For cows with a score of less than 3, now is the ideal time to feed additional concentrates to improve condition.
  • Assess body condition of young stock, especially maiden heifers. Will they be in the right condition for service? Do you need to increase the feed rate?
  • Are any vaccinations, for example BVD due well in advance of the breeding season?
  • Prepare for the forthcoming breeding season. How good are your heat detection rates? Can these be improved?
  • Have you selected suitable bulls to achieve your long term breeding goals?
  • Calibrate parlour and out of parlour feeders to ensure accurate feeding.

If you need information on any of these topics, contact your local CAFRE Dairying Development Adviser.


Prepared by:   Darryl Boyd


telephone:      028 7138 4309


The spell of good weather at the start of October was a welcome relief for many as it provided a last chance to get silage harvested. Nevertheless there could still be a shortage of fodder this winter with the quality variable. It is worthwhile calculating what you have now instead of later when supplies may no longer be available.

Use the tables to estimate the tonnage of silage available and compare this with your likely winter demand. The volume of silage is calculated by multiplying the length of the pit by the width by the height. For example the volume of silage in a pit measuring 40m by 10m by 3m is 1200 cubic metres.

To convert the volume of silage to tonnes multiply by the correct conversion factor (Table 1). For example, if the silage is 25% dry matter multiply 1200 by 0.68. This equals 816 tonnes of fresh silage.

Table 1: Conversion factors to convert silage volume to tonnes of silage

Silage DM % Tonnes of silage/cubic metre
20 Multiply by 0.77
25 Multiply by 0.68
30 Multiply by 0.60

To estimate the demand for silage, multiply the number of each class of stock by the number of months to be fed by the monthly feed requirement (Table 2).

Table 2: Estimated monthly feed requirement of stock eating 25% dry matter silage

Livestock Silage (tonnes/month)
Dry spring calving suckler cow 1
Autumn calving 1.2
350kg+ 1
250-350kg 0.8
200-250kg 0.7
Calves 0.3
Ewes 0.15

Do you know the quality of your silage?
Analysing your silage will allow more accurate feed decisions to be taken. You can also prioritise feeding by using the best silage for high priority groups such as growing cattle.

How best to analyse your silage is farm specific. Is one core from the centre of a pit accurate? How many different fields of grass at different stages went into the pit? Whatever the method ensure the sample is fresh and well sealed.


Do you know the ME level of the compound you are feeding? Energy is one of the most limiting factors which will affect performance, yet there is no requirement to record this on a feed label. Do not hesitate to ask your supplier what this figure is, especially for a finishing ration.

Ideally in a finisher mix the level should be about 13MJ/kg/DM, with a starch level of 40-50% which will help lay down good cover at this stage. If levels are above 50% there is a much greater risk of acidosis. When formulating a home mixed ration the inclusion of a fibre component such as sugar beet pulp, citrus pulp or soya hulls can improve the rumination of cattle on high feed levels. 


Mature ewes have a good resistance to stomach worms and some farmers only dose ewes for these worms once a year around lambing time. This is not the case with liver fluke and dosing ewes for fluke using a suitable product should be considered. Talk to your vet about an appropriate fluke prevention programme. Fluke treatment will be important this year due to the poor summer weather which has increased fluke numbers on many farms. You may have to fluke drench again before lambing.


In most parts of the country cattle have been housed for a number of weeks now. A common question is when should I dose for fluke? This is a matter for discussion with your vet and depends on product choice. The earliest flukicides can kill stages of liver fluke generally from two weeks onwards.

COWS (Control of Worm Sustainably), an industry stakeholder group aims to promote best practice in the control of cattle parasites. They promote the 5Rs approach:

  • The RIGHT product for the type of worm
  • The RIGHT animal
  • The RIGHT time
  • The RIGHT dose rate
  • Administered the RIGHT way

For more information on COWS, please visit the Cattle Parasites website.


Prepared by:   Liz Donnelly

e-mail :  

telephone:       028 9442 6767

Pig Regen health survey

The Pig Regen health survey is one of the most useful reports you will receive. The survey is carried out three times per year and provides a ’snapshot’ of the health status of your herd. It gives information on the level and severity of enzootic pneumonia and pleurisy, the percentage of pigs with pericarditis, mange and tail biting lesions and the percentage of livers with milk spot. An additional table in the report shows how the health status of your herd has changed over time. You can see, for example, if the level and/or severity of pneumonia or pleurisy has changed or if the percentage of livers with milk spot has increased or decreased.

In relation to milk spot, which is caused by Acarius suum the common roundworm, it is disappointing that the average level in Northern Ireland remains high with 13% of pigs having milk spot. However the average figure hides the fact that some herds have no milk spot and for other herds every time the survey is carried out the level is very high. Please check the level of milk spot in your herd. If it is over 10% it is costing you money. Pigs with milk spot have a poorer feed efficiency and higher feed usage. Although you may not be enthusiastic about spending money on wormers and improving management it will be money and time well spent as lower levels of milk spot means lower feed costs.

Pig biosecurity training course

Practicing good biosecuriy on pig farms is so important that a training course has been developed specifically for pig farmers. It is a very practical course providing information on steps you can take on your farm to reduce the risk of entry and spread of disease.

The training course is free of charge, last about two hours and is for everyone working with pigs including owners, family members and employees. If you haven’t been on a course yet can I strongly encourage you to go on one as I know you will find it both very useful and enjoyable. Many of those who have already been on the course have made changes to improve biosecurity, some of which have been very simple and cost nothing yet have the potential to save a lot of money. Simple changes made include not allowing the deadstock lorry into the yard, arranging for semen to be delivered to a point away from the unit, providing a range of boot sizes for visitors, wearing wellington boots instead of leather boots, providing tools and extension leads for maintenance workers, more regular changing of foot dips, not using a foot dip as a boot wash and making hospital pens smaller to allow for all in all out. 

If you are interested in attending a biosecurity course please register through the CAFRE website. Select Industry Support, Farm Family Key Skills and then register. You can also contact Mark Hawe (028 9442 6768) or myself (028 9442 6767) for more details.

Something of interest

Each time I write management notes I like to include something that I have seen that is new or of interest. This month I am including a photograph of a ‘shared or double trough’ for farrowing pens. When farrowing pens are positioned head to head the trough is shared by the two sows facing each other. Although still reasonably new experience suggests that when this type of trough is used feed intake is higher due to competition for feed between the two sows. Also it is easier to get sows into the crates. They walk straight in as there are no solid obstructions in front of them.


Prepared by:   Kieran Lavelle

e-mail :  

telephone:       028 3752 9060

Top fruit

By now, leaf fall on many deciduous trees and shrubs is already complete. However, there may still be enough foliage on your Bramley trees to justify a 'clean-up' fungicide programme before winter fully sets in. If you noticed pinhead lesions of apple scab (Venturia inaequalis) on fruit this autumn or if your orchard has a history of persistent apple canker (Neonectria ditissima) infection, it is worth considering one or more applications of tebuconazole through the sprayer as soon as possible. This fungicide (sold as various brand products including 'Orius') has an EAMU for fungal disease control on orchards in the post-harvest period. Best effect is obtained where there are enough leaves to absorb the chemical, but it is useful to apply it while leaf drop is underway, since it can act against the spore production of apple canker and dry up active lesions, thus reducing the potential spread of this problem next year. If weather and field conditions allow schedule two treatments, with at least ten days interval between them.

A further option at this late stage is to include 'Cerone' (a.i. ethephon) in the spray mix. This growth regulator moves systemically though the young stem tissue, with two main benefits. Firstly, it enhances terminal fruit bud initiation, which may be very desirable on vigorous young trees that have been shy to crop. Secondly, it acts within the tree sap as a plant defence chemical (similar to phoshonate) and this can help reduce the impact of diseases such as canker. A single full dose of 750 millilitres per hectare or two half rate applications of 375 millilitres per hectare are permitted under its EAMU. Please note there will be little benefit from 'Cerone' if leaf fall has progressed beyond around 50%.

Whatever you chose to do this month you can still apply copper oxychloride ('Cuprokylt') during fine conditions over the dormant period. Where apple canker and late scab have been a problem in 2016, you should do everything within reason to dispose of winter prunings and accumulated leaf litter to minimise 'carry-over' disease potential.

Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD)

An invasive fruit fly pest, Spotted Wing Drosophila has been making its way across Europe since it arrived from Asia in 2008. It was confirmed in the United Kingdom in September 2012 and Republic of Ireland in June 2015. Unlike other Drosophila species, SWD females lay their eggs in ripening fruit (as opposed to over-ripe fruit). This species poses a threat to a range of soft fruits and soft skinned stone fruits. A recent talk on SWD by Professor Matthew Grieshop of Michigan State University highlighted the following:

  • The pest has rapidly spread throughout the United States. It has been so problematic in some states that further expansion of the soft fruit industry has been stopped, for example blueberry industry.
  • To thrive it needs high humidity in cool temperatures of 130 to 290 C.
  • The phenology of the pest allows it to have many overlapping life cycles which makes it very difficult to control with crop protection products. It can overwinter as an adult or larvae.
  • All soft fruits are high risk. The longer the crop is cropping, for example everbearer strawberries the higher the risk.
  • One way of trying to control the pest is through netting but in most conditions this is not practical. If the pest finds just one opening in a polytunnel cover the net is useless.
  • They can fly at least 2 kilometers and easily move throughout the countryside. When a food source is depleted they quickly find a new one. They are very opportunist and very potent.

Effective management of SWD involves monitoring and detecting the pest. Using cultural controls of pruning, good sanitation, harvesting frequently and managing wild hosts reduces the incidence of SWD. Crop and site hygiene are more important than ever to reduce breeding and overwintering opportunities. The presence of this new ‘game changing’ pest will be monitored by members of the Soft Fruit Business Development Group in Northern Ireland facilitated by CAFRE.

Notes to editors: 

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

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