Management Notes for September 2016

Date published: 30 August 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                                            


Many thanks to Michael Garvey for writing the Dairying Management Notes over the last two years. This responsibility has now passed to me, Trevor Alcorn. I am a CAFRE Dairying Development Adviser in the County Tyrone area.

Managing grazing in September

Concentrates account for two thirds of direct milk production costs, so making the most of grazing will reduce your current costs. With good conditions, quality swards and available after-grass your herd has the opportunity to graze good quality grass and the potential to produce 10-13 litres of milk in September.

In some regions of Northern Ireland grazing conditions were difficult over the summer months. If conditions allow, now may be the time to rectify any damage caused. If poor grazing conditions are ongoing use multiple entry/exit points to paddocks, back fencing and on/off grazing to best utilise available grass. Buffer feeding or housing at night may also reduce the pressure on the grazing platform. 

Building up covers for next spring is not an option for everyone, but if you are planning an early turnout, this will be the last round for many paddocks. Make sure they are well eaten down with little residual cover, so that there will be a good clean regrowth.

Preparing housing for winter

The next month provides the last opportunity to make any changes to housing before the winter. Assess all your farm buildings with a view to improving animal health/comfort, management and labour efficiency. Consider:

  • ventilation for both young and adult stock – can this be improved to help air circulation?
  • cubicles and mats/mattresses – replace/repair any broken/ loose cubicles or worn mattresses; is there a brisket pipe fitted?
  • slippery floors/slats – groove/replace worn concrete to help avoid downer cows
  • feed space/drinkers – is there sufficient feeding/ drinking space for cows? Can this be improved?

Other jobs for September

  • if ground conditions allow, autumn is the ideal time to apply lime. Aim for pH 6.3 to get the best results from fertiliser next year
  • assess condition of young stock, especially maiden heifers – will they be in the right condition for service?
  • are any vaccinations, for example BVD due well in advance of the breeding season?
  • if conditions permit, autumn is the best time to subsoil compacted areas leaving them time to rest over the winter period
  • analyse silage in preparation for planning the winter diet
  • calculate how much silage you have and how much you need. An Online Calculator is available
  • carry out any final reseeding as early in the month as possible to let new swards establish before winter
  • if conditions are suitable, September is the last chance for dock or other weed control

Fertiliser spreading closed period

Under the Nitrates Action Programme 2015-2018 and Phosphorus Regulations 15th September is the last day for sowing chemical nitrogen (N) and phosphorus fertiliser on grassland. Until then grow extra grass by applying 35-50 kg N per hectare after each field has been grazed.

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

Beef and sheep

Prepared by:  Darryl Boyd
telephone:      028 9034 0957


Bought in sheep

If buying in replacements minimise the chance of importing problems by having a good quarantine strategy in place with the aim of reducing the introduction of any new disease. On arrival house or yard sheep away from your own. As soon as possible drench them with 4-AD or 5-SI wormer and inject with moxidectin (1%) which also removes any sheep scab threat. After 24-48 hours turn them out onto pasture that has carried sheep in the current season and keep isolated for at least three weeks.

Ewe management pre-tupping

The target body score at tupping for lowland ewes is 3.0-3.5 and 2.5-3.0 for hill ewes. Assess body scores every three weeks. It takes three to five weeks on good grass (2300 kg dry matter per hectare cover or 7 cm high) to put on 0.5 body score or, in terms of live weight, one condition score equates to approximately 12% of the ewes live weight. Management of ewes by condition score should therefore be carried out by now! It is important to monitor this as different ewes within batches will gain/lose condition at different rates. Carry out all ewe preparations for tupping, including veterinary treatments, at least three weeks before mating.


In northern and western areas unless things have changed dramatically from the time of writing, many stock will be housed earlier than normal. If this is the case, silage analysis is a useful tool for accurate feeding, especially after a poor summer when cutting conditions were less than favorable for many, resulting in variable silage quality. Calculate how much silage you have and how much you need. An Online Calculator is available.


Autumn calving

On many farms autumn calving will now be well under way. Close observation is needed with these cows both pre and post calving. Large calf sizes are often associated with autumn calving and assistance may be required. Once calved, cows can go down with magnesium deficiency, especially if they are on silage aftermaths with changeable weather or other stress triggers which could very well be the case this year. On good aftermaths an abundance of milk and mastitis could also be a problem, especially with very young calves.

Weaning spring born calves

Producers are finding that leaving the calves in the field they have been in all summer and taking away their mothers helps reduce the weaning check. Removing a mother and changing the environment all at once is a big change.  Many farmers have their own methods which include the following: 

  • simply swapping the cows over between two groups and leaving the calves in their original field. This gives both the calves and cows ‘social’ company even if they aren’t mother and calf. Ensure the two fields are not within ‘sight’ or ‘hearing’ of each other. In addition leaner cows can benefit from the higher level of nutrition provided to the weaned calves
  • stagger pulling out cows; this allows those calves weaned to still have the presence of other cows
  • using nose flaps or other methods to prevent suckling while still having the social bond with their mothers for a period before separation

You may find these efforts over the top; however weaning is the second most stressful time of an animal’s life, when its immune system is compromised and it also coincides with the start of the pneumonia season.

‘SureCalf’ scheme

Due to the good response from sellers and buyers, suckled calves that have been vaccinated against three of the main respiratory pneumonia viruses will again be available for sale under the ‘SureCalf’ scheme at Ballymena and Enniskillen markets. Vaccinated calves will have distinctive blue tags and certificates will be available for buyers at the sale. If you wish to take part in the scheme, contact Patrick MacFarlane (07802 596 813) or Aurelie Moralis (07557 076 104).


Prepared by:   Liz Donnelly
e-mail :  
telephone:       028 9442 6767

Integra non-conformances

Farm audits and inspections are ‘part and parcel’ of modern day farming. For pig producers these include veterinary visits, cross compliance checks, Nitrates Action Programme inspections and both Red Tractor and Integra quality assurance audits. Integra carry out independent audits on behalf of Tesco and regularly inspect pig units to ensure they meet Tesco standards.

Each year Integra produce a list of the top ten non-conformances and year on year the standard that requires bore hole water to be tested is included in the list. The Tesco standard states ‘Bore hole water must be potable and tested every 12 months’. In other words, water from a bore hole must be safe to drink and a sample sent to a lab for bacterial analysis each year.

If your pigs are drinking water from a bore hole and you have not had a sample tested it is important to do this as soon as possible. If you have already had a sample tested check the date on the report; a year passes very quickly!

Other non-conformances in the top ten list relate to the following standards:

  • tail docking or teeth clipping/grinding – this can only be carried out ‘where the veterinary surgeon has confirmed in writing that the practices are necessary and acceptable. Veterinary approved tail docking and tooth clipping must only be carried out on piglets under 72 hours old. The necessity of these practices must be regularly reviewed and reported on in the quarterly veterinary visit report’
  • environmental enrichment – ‘all pigs must have permanent access to a sufficient quantity of material such as straw, hay, wood, sawdust, mushroom compost. Objects such as footballs and deformable-plastic pipe can satisfy some of the pigs' behavioural needs. Any object must be malleable/destructible’
  • ‘if fish or fishmeal are included as part of the diet these must be as far as possible from a sustainable source’

PiGIS texts

On average each week 120 PiGIS texts are sent out to pig producers in Northern Ireland. The text tells you the number of pigs, average weight and probe and number of overweight pigs sent for slaughter. I know you get this information from the factory for every load of pigs sent but you may have to wait up to ten days for this information, whereas you will receive the text at 5.00pm the day after the pigs are slaughtered.

If you are missing out on getting a text you can set PiGIS up to send a text by accessing PIGPAC on the Government Gateway. Select the ’Auto reporting’ option in PiGIS and then enter your mobile telephone number.

Something of interest!

In Northern Ireland ‘Solari’ type finishing houses are quite common. The main advantage of this type of housing is that every pen of pigs is separate from the next by a wall to the roof. This type of house is naturally ventilated with the air entering and leaving via a large flap which is manually or automatically adjusted. Depending on the site and location of the house in relation to the prevailing wind draughts, particularly in some pens, can be a problem. To reduce the risk of draughts a County Armagh producer installed a nylon curtain along the access passage which runs the length of the pens (see photo). A probe is located in the main access passage and as the temperature increases the curtain opens and as it drops the curtain closes. An additional advantage is that during wet weather the producer can check and work with the pigs without getting wet as the curtain keeps out the rain.

Plastic mesh is also fitted along the length of the house preventing birds getting into the pens. This is important from a biosecurity point of view as birds, as well as creating a mess, can spread diseases such as Salmonella.

The curtain is a cost effective way of reducing the risk of draughts on the pigs and at the same time makes the environment fresher and more comfortable for both pigs and those working with them.


Prepared by:   Leigh McClean
e-mail :  
telephone:       028 9442 6928


The period between harvest and drilling next season’s crop provides a great opportunity to get on top of weed, pest and disease problems. Careful planning now gives the next crop a clean sheet hopefully making management later in the growing season more straightforward. 

Slug monitoring

After another wet summer slug numbers are likely to be high this autumn. Assess slug numbers by trapping using a tea tray sized cover with suitable bait such as layers mash underneath. Don’t use slug pellets as the high concentration of pellets may poison wildlife or pets. Leave overnight and check traps for slugs the next day. This will give an indication of the risk level to the new crop and give time to plan the control strategy.

Details of thresholds at which potential slug damage is likely to occur in various crops and treatment options are available on the DAERA website. Follow links; crops and horticulture, combinable crops and select slug control. 

Aphid monitoring and virus control

AFBI cereal aphid monitoring has commenced. August results showed winged aphid numbers were significantly higher at the beginning of this year’s migration period than the 15 year average, an early signal there could be a high occurrence of Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus (BYDV) this autumn. Taking action now to control virus carrying aphids is crucial to reduce the cereal virus risk. In fields with weedy stubble or a large number of volunteer cereal plants, this ‘green bridge’ should be destroyed to reduce the chance of infection from non-winged aphids. Desiccate seven to ten days before ploughing and at least 14 days before sowing. 

Another option is insecticide seed treatment, for example Redigo Deter which protects emerging seedlings from BYDV in the weeks immediately after sowing. Seed treatment is a great insurance policy when weather hampers an aphicide application post emergence, protecting crops against both non-winged and winged aphids.

Aphid numbers, along with control measures, are posted weekly on the Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus control page on the combinable crops section of the DAERA website.  

Stale seedbeds for weed control

Difficult weather conditions during the past growing season meant many growers found herbicides alone struggled to give satisfactory grass weed control. Where weeds are getting out of control consider an integrated approach using stale seedbeds. For most grasses, including sterile and great brome, aim to lightly cultivate as soon as possible after harvest. This encourages a flush of weed seed to germinate which can be burnt off before ploughing and drilling. If meadow, rye or soft brome is the main problem best results are achieved if seeds are left to ripen for three to four weeks before cultivation for a stale seedbed. If this does not allow sufficient time to establish a winter crop consider a spring crop which allows a longer window to get on top of severe grass weed problems.   

Variety selection and seed treatment

With current margins tight the temptation to reduce input costs has to be carefully balanced against the potential loss in yield. As demonstrated by AFBI’s Dr Lisa Black at recent variety trials workshops, new varieties particularly in winter wheat offer a significant step up in disease control. Selecting the right variety now is a useful way to maintain yield without additional fungicide spend through next spring. Good varietal resistance to disease also offers insurance as disease resistance to fungicides becomes more prevalent. For further details on cereal seed and variety test results, see the AFBI Website.

Place seed orders early since choices will become fewer as the drilling season progresses. 

Potato Management

Desiccation timing

Regular trial digs indicate when tuber size has reached market specification, allowing desiccation to be timed accordingly. Maintain blight spray programmes until after haulm desiccation to avoid late blight developing. Check at regular intervals for full skin set before starting harvest.

Store and equipment preparation

Thorough store and equipment cleaning is one of the most effective ways to avoid carryover of disease from last year. Ideally vacuum stores out to prevent the spread of dust and disinfect once clean. For best results thoroughly wash and disinfect boxes, harvesters, trailers and grading equipment.  

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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