Management Notes for October 2016

Date published: 04 October 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                                            

Variable weather conditions

While the east of the province has had a good grass growing year with ideal grazing conditions and bumper yields of silage, this has not been the case in the west.

Due to prolonged periods of wet weather many herds were housed at night and some have been housed full-time. As a result many farms will have insufficient silage for the winter. If you have not already done so now is the time to calculate your forage requirements.

How much forage do you have and need?

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 38m by 10m by 3m is 1140 cubic metres.

To convert the volume of silage to tonnes multiply the volume by the correct conversion factor (Table 1). For example, if the silage is 25% dry matter multiply 1140 by 0.68. This equals 775 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). For example, 80 in milk cows fed for seven months require 784 tonnes (80 x 7 x 1.4).

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

Livestock Silage (tonnes/month)
Dairy cow in milk 1.4
Dry cow 0.9
0-1year heifer 0.6
1-2 year heifer 0.9

Options to consider for a silage shortfall

The priority is to feed the best quality silage to early lactation/ high yielding cows. If there is a shortfall of silage consider:

  • Culling unproductive (barren, poor performing or problem) cows.
  • Sourcing suitable silage supplies for young/ dry stock.
  • Feeding young stock a straw/concentrate diet.  
  • Using alternative feeds, if available.

Do you know the quality of your silage?

Analysing your silage provides information on its potential feed value (M+). This allows you to make decisions on the level of concentrates needed in your situation.

Table 3 shows the difference in concentrate needed to feed a cow in early lactation with average and good quality silages.

Table 3: Feed requirement for 32 litres of milk

  Average silage Good silage
Silage ME 10.8 11.8
Silage dry matter (%) 28.1 28.1
Silage fresh weight (kg) 40 43
M+ (kg of milk daily) M+8 M+12
Daily concentrate required (kg) 11 9

October jobs checklist:

  • Prepare/repair housing before winter.
  • Identify cows to dry off in the next two months and assess body condition. To improve body condition feed additional concentrates to cows with a body condition score of less than 3.
  • Assess body condition of young stock, especially maiden heifers. Will they be in the right condition for service? Does the feed rate need to be increased?
  • Calibrate feeders to ensure accurate feeding.
  • Change time clocks at the end of the month when the hour changes.
  • Try to ensure slurry tanks are empty for the forth coming housed period. Remember the last day for spreading slurry is 15th October.
  • Keep a record of exports of organic manures as these must now be submitted annually to NIEA by 31st January for the previous calendar year.


Prepared by:  Darryl Boyd


telephone:      028 7138 4309

Closed spreading periods

At this stage the window for applications of chemical nitrogen and phosphate fertiliser on grassland is now closed. Organic manures, including slurry, poultry litter, digestate, sewage sludge, anaerobic digestate and abattoir waste, must not be applied to any land from midnight 15th October to midnight 31st January. Farmyard manure must not be applied to any land from midnight 31st October to midnight 31st January. Keep a record of exports of organic manures as these must now be submitted annually to NIEA by 31st January for the previous calendar year.



The change of diet, social group and overall environment associated with housing can trigger problems affecting the performance of your cattle. To minimise this risk consider the following:

  • Carry out shed alterations well in advance to minimise moisture, lower air speed (draughts) and provide fresh air. As a rule of thumb calves and adult cattle require 0.04 square metres and 0.1 square metres per individual of outlet respectively and at least double, if not four times, this amount as an inlet.
  • Provide clean housing if possible, ideally power hosed and disinfected. Using lime can also be advantageous if there was a previous disease problem.
  • As discussed last month, if possible have spring born calves weaned and eating creep before housing.
  • Clipping a strip down the back of animals to help prevent over-heating and therefore condensation in sheds. It can also reduce problems with lice.
  • Although difficult in this country try to house stock on a dry day and in batches. Housing cattle of different ages and stages on a wet day creates an ideal environment for disease transmission.
  • Cattle will not pick up any new liver fluke or worms once housed and therefore this is an ideal time to treat for these parasites. The length of time between housing and treatment depends entirely on the product used.
  • Ensure lungworm is not an issue at housing as damaged lungs will be more susceptible to pneumonia.
  • If vaccinating calves consult your vet on the correct treatment and products to use to give the best cover for your farm.


Ewe lamb breeding

If breeding ewe lambs, make sure those selected are above 60% of their expected mature weight. Lambs below this target at service will be under more pressure later in the year to meet requirements for the growing foetus/es and their own maintenance and growth. Mature weights differ depending on breed, but mid-way between the ewe and rams mature weight is a good estimate.


The use of teasers to tighten the mating period is becoming more common. This is known as ‘the ram effect’ and triggers ovulation in non-cycling ewes. For it to be successful a number of steps must be followed. It is important the ewes do not see or smell either entire or vasectomised rams for at least six weeks before introduction. Introduce teasers 17 days before mating with 24-48 hours exposure sufficient to stimulate ovulation, but generally teasers remain with a group longer. They should then be removed no later than day 14. After removal entire rams can be introduced. Peak activity is between days 18 and 23 after rams are initially introduced. If teasers are not available the same process using entire rams kept apart from ewes with a stock-proof fence but within sight and smell should have a similar effect. Good teasers are:

  • Vasectomised at least eight weeks before required.
  • Young and fit and can cover a group of between 100-150 ewes.
  • Crossbred rams as they have hybrid vigour and are often more active than purebred rams.


Prepared by:   Leigh McClean

e-mail :  

telephone:       028 9442 6928


Monitoring crops in store

Continue monitoring stored grain weekly until both grain moisture and temperature have stabilised. Store pests can multiply rapidly in heated grain making early detection the best way to prevent rising populations and grain spoilage. 

Slug monitoring

Baiting post harvest will have given an indication of slug numbers. The highest risk to emerging crops is in fields with high slug numbers and where seedbeds are cloddy, damp and seedling emergence is slow. Continue to monitor all winter crops until plants are beyond the vulnerable seedling stage. If using metaldehyde slug pellets follow the metaldehyde stewardship guidelines. More details of treatment options are available on the DAERA website following the links to crops and horticulture, combinable crops and slug control. 

Aphid monitoring and virus control

Controlling virus carrying aphids is crucial to eliminating the cereal virus risk. After emergence, crops are still at risk from winged migrations of aphids throughout the autumn. These migrations are monitored by AFBI and populations are posted weekly on the combinable crops section of the DAERA website, along with information on virus vector control through seed dressings and aphicide spray application. 

Weed control

Even if the window for using stale seedbeds has passed there is still the opportunity to apply pre or early post-emergence herbicides. Particularly in the case of troublesome grass weeds, herbicides with residual activity work best when applied before or soon after emergence when any grasses are still small or yet to emerge.  This is particularly important for winter barley as spring herbicide options are limited. 


Reducing damage

With potato harvest ongoing keep an eye on mechanical damage to tubers. Damage occurs at any drop from harvesters into boxes or trailers. Bruising is often caused by insufficient soil on the web or excess agitation. Exposed sharp edges or an incorrect share setup cause slicing and oversize tractor tyres running in the drill bottom or stacking overfilled boxes are the most common causes of crushing. Excessive damage often leads to increased problems in store and eventual down-grading of the produce. Early identification of damage is critical. To do this take a daily sample of the harvested crop, wash and inspect for damage. Hotboxing gives a quicker indication if damage, particularly bruising, has occurred. The entire harvesting team should be made aware of the importance of damage and bruise prevention, as they are often in the best position to identify any problem areas.    

Drying and curing

Drying potatoes quickly post harvesting prevents the development of skin blemish diseases and soft rots. Drying within 48 hours using positive ventilation systems significantly reduces the development of diseases such as silver scurf. The curing period immediately following harvest is one of the most important storage phases. Wound healing occurs most rapidly at high temperatures and high humidity. Maintaining the crop at 12 to 15oC and 85% relative humidity for a period of about two weeks, often referred to as ‘dry curing’, allows wound healing to take place, whilst minimising the risk of disease development. Ventilating the store on dry afternoons during the curing period normally provides adequate curing conditions.


Prepared by:   Stephen Graham


telephone:       028 9442 6745

Migrating birds

With autumn upon us and winter quickly approaching it is once again time for all poultry farmers to be extra vigilant, especially those with free-range systems as wild birds are starting the migratory cycle preparing for winter. Many of these migratory birds are water fowl and will rest throughout their long journey, with others flying straight in. With wild birds comes the risk of potentially harmful diseases, one of which is Avian Influenza. 

For free-range systems ensure the range is not a suitable habitat for these birds so they won’t want to land. Fill in any wet areas or puddles on the range as these are ideal for their needs. For indoors systems faeces from migratory birds passing over can be brought into the house on boots. Reduce this risk through vigilant hygiene and biosecurity.


Constantly review hygiene and biosecurity as this is the only defence you have to reduce the risk of disease. Limit visitors to the site with only essential ones gaining access. Try to minimise foot traffic between houses and keep house specific boots and overalls in each control room. Replenish foot dips twice weekly; foot dips that are not lidded and outdoors may require more frequent changing. Ensure all vehicles are clean before entry and that all wheels are sprayed. Check egg trolleys and trays are clean before allowing them into the egg store. Maintain a robust rodent control programme and keep outside areas maintained. Tall grass and weeds provide ideal coverage for rodents which carry salmonella. 

There are company specific biosecurity programmes set out for your benefit and great time and effort goes into this area to help protect your farm. Disease in a flock can have a huge financial impact on your business and can also spread to neighbouring farms.


Another autumn/winter issue is that of cooler air moving across the country leading to higher moisture content in the outside environment. Moving to winter settings allows you to monitor and regulate air entering buildings even more closely.

Lower winter temperatures cause air entering the house to fall to the floor very quickly due to the increased weight of moisture, instead of mixing with the warmer air in the house and falling more slowly. As this cold, damp air falls, bedding/litter can start to ‘go off’ even in the early stages. It is therefore crucial to adjust ventilation and heating on a daily, or even hourly basis, to combat this effect. With many farms now using hot water heating systems many of the problems associated with this have been minimised but attention must still be paid.


Correct brooding is especially important in winter. The first 24 to 48 hours are crucial in the bird’s life as this can affect health and performance throughout the whole production cycle. It is therefore extremely important to get the air and floor temperatures correct for newly placed chicks/poults as they don’t have the ability to regulate their own body temperature until they are 12-14 days old. While the brooding method does not change with regard to temperatures and relative humidity inside the house, the cost and time to achieve the same results may increase.

There are a wide variety of heating systems within Northern Ireland, from direct LPG heating to hot water heating and also some under floor systems. All are designed to provide the heating necessary to brood chicks although each varies in its operation. For example, while they all have the ability to achieve target temperatures they may require differences in lead times. Ensure floors below the litter are pre-heated to approximately 30oC. A much higher air temperature may be required to allow this heating process to happen.

You will know temperatures are acceptable if chicks are moving throughout the house and eating/drinking as soon as possible. 

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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