Management Notes for October 2018

Date published: 03 October 2018

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).

Check regularly to minimise harvest damage to tubers.


Prepared by: Christopher Breen

Winter feeding

The weather throughout the 2018 grass growing year was very variable. Due to a late spring, first cut was delayed or yields reduced. However short spells of good weather in May generally provided ideal conditions for silage making. Throughout late June/July low rainfall levels affected grass growth, reducing yields in many second cut silages. Indeed many second cuts had to be grazed and silage fed in some cases. Grazing cows, especially in the east of Northern Ireland, was difficult because of poor growth rates. Due to prolonged periods of dry weather, poor growth rates and low first and second cut yields, many farmers in the east may not have enough silage for winter feeding.

Silage supplies and requirements

If you have not already done so calculate forage requirements now. Use Tables 1 and 2 to estimate the tonnage of silage available and compare this with likely winter demand. For example, the volume of silage in the pictured pit is calculated by multiplying the length (38 m) by the width (10 m) by the height (3 m) – 38 m x 10 m x 3 m = 1140 cubic metres.  

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

Assuming the dry matter of silage in our example is 25%, multiply the volume by 0.68. 1140 cubic metres x 0.68 = 775 tonnes of fresh silage.

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


Silage (tonnes/month)

Dairy cow in milk 1.4
Dry cow 0.9
0-1 year heifer 0.6
1-2 year heifer 0.9

To estimate the demand for silage, multiply the number of each class of stock by the number of months to be fed. For example, 80 cows in milk fed for seven months require 784 tonnes (80 X 7 x 1.4).

What are the options if you don’t have enough silage?

The priority is to feed the best quality silage to early lactation/high yielding cows, then consider the following options:

  • Cull barren, poor performing or problem cows.
  • Source suitable silage supplies for young/dry stock.
  • Feed young stock a straw/concentrate diet.   
  • Use alternative feeds, if available.

Silage quality on farm

Due to variable weather conditions and cutting dates throughout the 2018 grass growing season, there will be a variation in silage quality. It is therefore more important than ever to get your silage analysed to know its potential feed value (M+). This will allow you to make informed decisions on the level of concentrate feeding needed on your farm at each stage of production.

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

Table 3 Feed requirement for 32 litres of milk


Average silage

Good silage

Silage ME



Silage dry matter %



Silage fresh weight (kg)



M+ (kg of milk daily)



Daily concentrate required (kg)



October jobs checklist:

  • Prepare/repair housing before winter.
  • Identify cows to dry off in the next two months and assess body condition. Now is a good time to improve body condition by feeding additional concentrates to cows with a body condition score less than three.
  • Carry out vaccinations, for example BVD due well in advance of the breeding season.
  • Analyse silage in preparation for planning the winter diet.
  • Change time clocks at the end of the month when the hour changes.
  • The last day for spreading slurry is 15 October. Try to ensure tanks are empty for the forthcoming housed period.


Prepared by: Nigel Gould


Ensure ewes are kept on a good plane of nutrition during the tupping season and for four weeks after ram removal. Deteriorating body condition in ewes during this period can lead to higher rates of embryo loss and reabsorption. If ewes are in poorer body condition or grass supplies are low, it may be beneficial to feed 0.25 kg concentrate per head per day. Minimise stress during tupping by carrying out all handling and treatments of ewes at least two to three weeks before the start of mating. Also minimise disturbance of the flock during the first five weeks in particular. Using a raddle on rams allows tupping activity to be monitored and helps identify sub-fertile rams. Change the raddle colour every 14 days, starting with lighter colours first. Rotating rams will reduce the impact of a sub-fertile ram.

Housing cattle

Changes in diet, social group and environment, all associated with housing, can be stressful on cattle, particularly younger stock. This can lead to an increase in pneumonia and other health issues. Reduce the risks associated with housing by:

  •  Providing a good flow of fresh air into the shed and adequate outlet area for the removal of stale air. As a rule of thumb calves and adult cattle require 0.04 square metres and 0.10 square metres outlet respectively per head and at least double this area as inlet. Check ventilation in existing sheds by carrying out a smoke test. This shows how air is moving in the shed and the ‘stack effect’. Do the smoke test when cattle are present as it is the cattle that creates the effect. Smoke pellets can be purchased from hardware stores.
  • Having calves weaned and eating concentrates before housing.
  • Having if possible, all housing power-washed and disinfected.
  • Clipping a 15 cm strip down the back of animals to prevent over-heating and reduce the incidence of lice. This is particularly beneficial for cattle on an ad-lib concentrate diet.
  • Housing stock on a relatively dry day and in batches. Housing cattle of different ages on a wet day creates an ideal environment for pathogens to thrive.
  •  Vaccinating and dosing young stock before housing. Calves with a lungworm burden are more susceptible to pneumonia.

When dosing against fluke and worms post-housing follow product instructions carefully. The length of time between housing and dosing depends on the active ingredient used. For example, using a product targeted at mature liver fluke within the first few weeks after housing will not eliminate immature flukes. A fluke burden will therefore still exist.

Silage analysis

Silage analysis is vital for making informed decisions when it comes to feeding cattle and sheep this winter. Quantities of supplementary feed can be adjusted according to silage quality, type of stock and live weight targets. Silage quality also determines if dry suckler cows can be fed a restricted silage diet, which will help reduce the demand on fodder supplies.

Closed spreading periods

The application of chemical nitrogen and phosphate fertiliser on grassland is not allowed. 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 records of exports of organic manures as these have be submitted annually to NIEA by 31st January for the previous calendar year.


Prepared by: Leigh McLean


Slug monitoring

Slug baiting post-harvest will have given an indication of the potential for slug damage. 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 sowings until plants are past the vulnerable seedling stage. When using metaldehyde slug pellets adhere to metaldehyde stewardship guidelines. No pellets are allowed to fall within a minimum of 10 m of any field boundary or watercourse. This is to protect birds and small mammals which feed and breed in hedges and to protect watercourses. Where metaldehyde cannot be used ferric phosphate pellets provide an alternative. Evidence of success is less visible as slugs often die underground. Look for reduced feeding damage in the crop after spreading ferric phosphate pellets to gauge effectiveness of this treatment. For further details on metaldehyde stewardship go to the ‘Get Pelletwise’ website.

Aphid monitoring and virus control

Controlling virus carrying aphids is key to minimising the cereal virus risk. Crops are still at risk post emergence from migration of winged aphids throughout the autumn. These migrations are monitored by AFBI and populations are posted weekly on the AFBI website, along with a risk forecast and advice on threshold aphid numbers above which an aphicide application can be justified. 

Weed control

To achieve good weed control this autumn apply residual herbicides to a reasonably fine, clod free seedbed before, or soon after crop emergence, when any grasses or broad leaved weeds are still small or yet to emerge. Prioritise winter oats and barley as active ingredients effective on grass weeds are limited to a few products and spring herbicide options are more limited than in winter wheat. 

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 of increases in temperature the best way to prevent rising pest populations and grain spoilage. 


Reducing damage

With potato harvest ongoing, check for mechanical damage to tubers. Damage most frequently occurs at any drop from harvesters into boxes or trailers.  Bruising is often the result of insufficient soil on the web or excess agitation. Exposed sharp edges or an incorrect share setup cause slicing and bruising. Oversize tractor tyres running in the drill bottom or stacking overfilled boxes are two of the most common causes of crushing. Excessive damage often leads to increased problems in store and eventual down grading of produce. Early identification of damage is critical to minimise losses. To do this take a sample of the harvested crop either daily or when entering a new field, wash and inspect for damage. Hot boxing gives a quicker indication if damage has occurred. Make everyone involved in harvesting aware of the importance of damage and bruise prevention. Often they are in the best position to identify problems and do something about reducing damage.

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 15 degrees centigrade and 85 percent 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 will normally provide adequate curing conditions.


Prepared by: Pamela Gardiner

Nowadays most of us rely on the internet to one degree or another to communicate, manage our farm business, including finances and obtain products and services.  This month we look at some simple steps you can follow to help protect you, your family and your farm business when using services such as online banking and shopping, social media and email.

Protect your devices

Make sure your devices are kept up to date with respect to operating system software and anti-virus software.  Use the ‘automatically update’ option where available. Ensure all installed apps are up to date.  Delete any old apps you aren’t using, as many apps will track your location and collect data on you. Replace devices that are no longer supported by manufacturers with up to date alternatives.

Protect your data

Devices should have PIN/password protection/fingerprint recognition activated.  Passwords should be strong and secure as they are the first line of defence to protect your data if your device is lost or stolen. Even better enable both password/PIN and fingerprint recognition, where available, for additional protection.

Password tips:

  • Make sure your device requires a password when it is switched on. Switch on password/PIN protection or fingerprint recognition for mobile devices.
  • Don’t use personal or predicable information as a password such as family and pet names, easily recognisable numbers like your address, phone number or birthday.
  • Don’t use real words. By combining uppercase letters with lower case letters, numbers and special characters you increase the complexity of your password and substantially decrease the chances of someone hacking it. For example ‘tractors’ could be ‘Tr@ct0r5’.
  • Two factor authentication is important for websites like banking and email, if you are given the option, use it.
  • Consider using password management software, such as LastPass or Apple’s iCloud, but only for your less important websites and accounts.

Beware of public Wi-Fi hotspots. Wi-Fi is much less secure than using your mobile data. When sending sensitive data don’t connect to public Wi-Fi hotspots. Hackers can intercept communications stealing passwords, credit card information and other personal information from you.

Take regular backups of your important data to keep it safe and secure and reduce the inconvenience of data loss. Identify what needs to be backed up and consider the most appropriate back up option for you and your business, for example external device stored at a separate location, cloud storage.

Configure devices so that if they are lost or stolen you can locate them or remotely wipe the device of data so that your information can’t be accessed.

Email and texts

Keep your personal information safe and never give out any sensitive details over any chat channel, by email or the phone. Do not open texts or email attachments or click links from unknown or untrusted sources as you could end up downloading a virus (malware). Be suspicious of any ‘out of the ordinary’ attachments. Even an email that seems to come from a friend could have been sent by a virus on their device. If in doubt ask the person you believe sent it before opening anything.

Don’t respond to unsolicited emails and texts.

Banking and shopping

Don’t bank or buy online when using unsecured Wi-Fi such as hotspots in a café or hotel. Use your data connection instead or wait until you get home to your secure Wi-Fi.

A genuine bank or organisation will never contact you out of the blue to ask for your login details or to move money to another account.

When paying for goods check the payment page is secure. There should be a padlock symbol in the browser window which appears when you attempt to login or register and the address of the page should start with ‘https://’ the ‘s’ stands for ‘secure’. Always log onto a website directly rather than clicking on links provided in an email which could be directing you to a bogus website.

To learn more about protecting yourself and your devices visit the nidirect website or the Get Safe Online website.

Notes to editors: 

  1. The department may take photographs and videos at announcements and events to publicise its work. Photographs, interviews, videos or other recordings may be issued to media organisations for publicity purposes or used in promotional material, including in publications, newspapers, magazines, other print media, on television, radio and electronic media (including social media and the internet). Photographs and videos will also be stored on the department’s internal records management system. The department will keep the photographs and recordings for no longer than is necessary for the purposes for which they have been obtained. The department’s Privacy Policy is available on our website.
  2. Follow DAERA on Twitter and Facebook.
  3. All media enquiries to DAERA Press Office, or tel: 028 9052 4619.

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