Management Notes for September 2018

Date published: 06 September 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).


Prepared by: Christopher Breen

Managing grazing in September

Hopefully in most areas grass growth has recovered from the drought conditions in July and grass availability has improved. With good conditions and the availability of after-grass your herd will have the opportunity to graze good quality grass and potentially produce around 10 litres of milk from forage in September.

Planning for early grass next spring

As this is probably the last rotation before housing, actions you take now will affect grazing next spring. The timing of paddock closure and residual grazing heights determines the start date for grazing and grass quality next year.

  • Graze paddocks to 5 cm or less on a rotational basis and close for the winter.
  • Don’t graze paddocks again, even if there is good grass growth in October/November.  

Alternative bedding materials

As straw for bedding is likely to be scarce this winter think about using alternative materials. Choose the type of material carefully as some may affect animal health and compliance with farm assurance and other farming schemes.

Colostrum for calves

Colostrum management is the single most important factor determining calf survival and subsequent health. Calves are born without any immunity and rely on the protective effect of antibodies derived from colostrum. Protection is achieved by ensuring the new born calf receives 10% of its bodyweight or 3.5-5.0 litres of good quality colostrum within the first hours after birth. Stomach tube calves that don’t suck quickly.

Colostrum quality (immunoglobulin levels - IgG) can be measured easily on farm using a refractometer or colostrometer. Good quality colostrum should have IgG levels above 50 g per litre. Dry periods less than eight weeks, the number of calves a cow has had, vaccinations, calving season and how soon after calving the colostrum is suckled/milked can all have a significant effect on colostrum quality. A high level of bacteria in the colostrum, mainly caused by inadequate hygiene, management and storage reduces the absorption of IgG leading to failure of passive transfer of antibodies from the colostrum to the calf.

Once collected, it is recommended to keep colostrum in a refrigerated environment for up to 48 hours, if not being fed directly to the calf. If you are not sure if colostrum quality and its feeding and management are providing your calves with enough protective immunity, why not get ZST tests carried out on blood samples from a sample of healthy calves at two to six days old. These can be carried out by your vet.

September jobs checklist

  • Prepare or repair livestock housing before winter.
  • Correct soil pH where necessary. Aim for a pH of 6.3 to get optimum results from fertiliser applied next year.
  • Assess condition of young stock, especially maiden heifers. Will they be in the right condition for service?
  • Carry out vaccinations, for example BVD due well before the breeding season.
  • If conditions allow, subsoil compacted areas and let them rest over winter.
  • Analyse silage in preparation for planning the winter diet.
  • Calculate how much silage you have and how much you need.
  • 15 September is the last day for sowing chemical nitrogen and phosphorus fertiliser on grassland.


Prepared by: Nigel Gould

Alternative winter bedding

As straw is scarce and expensive this year consider alternative bedding materials. However some materials may be unsuitable and/or illegal to use.

Woodchip is a viable alternative but not woodchips from recycled or treated timber. If using woodchip, initially create a base layer of 10 cm and top-up as required, typically by 2.5 cm every week. Woodchip, used as a base layer under straw can improve drainage and reduce straw requirement. It can also be mixed with peat to increase bedding intervals. Leave used woodchip to compost for two to three years before spreading on land. Ideally it should be ploughed into ground.

Peat bedding is also an alternative at current straw prices. Peat bedding is highly absorbent, keeps animals clean, dry and warm with minimal labour input. Peat is acidic thus inhibiting the growth of pathogens. Typically the depth of peat bedding is 15 cm and it is replaced every six weeks. However the bedding interval will increase for lower stocked areas. Spent peat can be spread on land after use, without the need to compost.

Diet type affects the quantity of bedding required. Requirements are higher for animals on silage based diets compared to those on concentrate/straw based diets.

Creep feeding calves

Introducing creep feed to calves six weeks before weaning increases weaning weight and decrease stress associated with changing diets at weaning. It is particularly beneficial if calves are to be sold in the upcoming autumn sales.

Separate bull calves from heifers and feed accordingly. Offer approximately 2.0 kg per head per day to heifers and 3.0 kg per head per day to bulls. Plain heifer calves in particular can be prone to laying down fat deposits around the tail head which can deter purchasers. Heavily muscled bull calves can be fed more without laying down fat.

At a young age, 4.0-6.0 kg of concentrate will be converted to 1.0 kg of live weight, depending on conformation, sex and age of animal, with heavily muscled bull calves generally having the best feed efficiency. Creep feed will also help to ‘shine up’ calves in advance of the sales. Protein content in quality autumn grass is usually quite high therefore a quality concentrate with a crude protein content of 16% will be adequate.

Feed younger calves on a poorer quantity or quality of grass concentrate with a crude protein content up to 18%. It is important to assess your own individual situation. You don’t want to be simply replacing good quality grass with more expensive concentrates. Choose concentrates containing quality cereals such as barley, maize or wheat, and ideally with soya bean meal as the protein source.

Breeding ewes

If vaccinating against Enzootic abortion or Toxoplasmosis, it needs to be carried out at least four weeks before introducing the rams. Carry out all other veterinary treatments and administration of mineral boluses two to three weeks in advance of introducing the rams.

Ideal ewe body condition score at breeding is 3.0 to 3.5 for lowland ewes and 2.5 to 3.0 for hill ewes. Rams should have a body condition score of 4.0 before breeding.

Keep the raddle topped-up on rams, starting with a light colour and changing to darker colours as the breeding season progresses. This will help identify any fertility issues, as well as giving you an initial indication of the lambing spread and when ewes are due to lamb.

Scanning spring calving cows

Scanning spring calving cows now will identify empty cows which can be earmarked for culling. If winter fodder supplies are likely to be scarce, think about early weaning of these cows and/or introducing supplementary feed to allow them to be slaughtered or sold before the winter housing period.


Prepared by: Leigh McLean


The period between harvest and establishment of next season’s crop gives you a chance to get on top of weed, pest and disease problems. This period is even more critical following a difficult autumn such as 2017 when crops were not necessarily sown where planned and often in marginal conditions. For many, now is the first opportunity to inspect soils for damage, carry out remedial work and get the farm crop rotation back on track again.

Taking care of soils

At CAFRE’s recent sustainable soils events farmers were advised to get the spade out and check for signs of compaction or damage to the soil structure. Compaction in arable soils is most likely to occur at or just below cultivation depth. Signs include horizontal pans or a hard to penetrate layer through which roots cannot penetrate and dense blocky lumps, which when dug out do not crumble or break down easily.

Dry weather during early summer has cracked open soil and helped soil re-structure near the surface (see photo). However inspection is still worthwhile to see if the structure has recovered sufficiently at depth. If compaction is present, it may be necessary to remedy with a subsoiler. Only use the subsoiler where necessary and set up to work just below the compacted layer. Crucially after subsoiling soil should be left to settle, strengthen and restructure for as long as practical, in some circumstance this may mean several months.

Aphid monitoring and virus control

BYDV is transmitted into cereals by aphids, either those harboured in the field by cereal volunteers and grass weeds or from winged aphids flying from elsewhere, these being the most common route for BYDV infection in autumn cereals. To monitor this threat AFBI, using a suction trap, check cereal aphid migration which is updated weekly along with advice on control available from the AFBI website.

Aphid numbers in 2018 started low but cereal aphid activity is increasing once again. In previous years insecticide seed treatment, for example Redigo Deter has protected emerging seedlings from both non-winged and winged BYDV transmitting aphids in the weeks post crop emergence. However seed treatment availability is limited as it will be withdrawn completely in 2019. 

Variety selection

At recent AHDB funded variety trials workshops AFBI’s Dr Lisa Black demonstrated some of the best performing varieties in Northern Ireland. For further details on full AHDB recommended variety lists see the AFBI website. The advice is to place seed orders early as choices will become fewer as the drilling season progresses.

Cultural weed control

Inspect areas where there have been problems in the past and where necessary make use of stale seedbeds. Lightly cultivate immediately after harvest to encourage a flush of weeds seeds which can be burnt off before ploughing and drilling. 

Slug monitoring

Whilst slug numbers would be expected to be low after the hot dry start to summer, wet weather through August has provided the ideal conditions for numbers to increase. You are reminded to assess slug numbers by trapping to give an indication of the risk level to the new crop and give time to plan the control strategy.

Potato Management

Late season management

Routinely inspect crops for blight as the canopy begins to senesce, maintaining blight spray programmes until after haulm desiccation to avoid late blight developing. Regular trial digs indicate when tuber size has reached your market specification, allowing desiccation to be timed accordingly. Allow sufficient time for full skin set before harvesting the crop into the controlled environment of a store before soil conditions deteriorate. 

Store and equipment preparation

Spores of many storage diseases lie dormant in the dust and debris remaining in stores, boxes and equipment. Thorough cleaning is one of the most effective ways to avoid carryover of disease from previous years. Significant reductions in infection can be achieved by thoroughly power hosing or vacuuming stores before the new crop is harvested. Don’t forget to thoroughly wash and disinfect, boxes, harvesters, trailers and grading equipment for best results. 


Prepared by: Pamela Gardiner

APHIS Online – Maintain your herd register and notify your births/deaths and movements online

Over 8,000 farmers are currently using APHIS Online and almost 350,000 calves are registered online every year. Would you like to join this growing band of farmers choosing this convenient and easy to use service? If so, why not attend one of the APHIS Online training events which will be held between September and April. The training will take place over two evenings, with each session lasting two hours. You will get the opportunity to work through a number of exercises on our APHIS Online training system. You can practice registering animals, moving animals and view the various reports available. Everybody attending will be registered to use DAERA online services, so you can access your own data when you finish the training.

Only basic IT skills are required to use APHIS Online. If you can turn on your computer and open a web page, you have all the skills needed to register births, deaths and movements online. You are welcome to bring along a family member or friend to the training event.

Aphis Online training events scheduled for September are:


Evening 1
7.30 – 9.30pm

Evening 2
7.30 – 9.30pm

Loughry Campus, Cookstown

Monday 17 September

Monday 24 September

Greenmount Campus, Antrim

Tuesday 18 September

Tuesday 25 September

Enniskillen Campus, Enniskillen

Wednesday 19 September

Wednesday 26 September

Dates and locations for Aphis Online training from October 2018 onwards will be published via the DAERA website.

If you would like to apply for a place on our APHIS Online training, please call the DAERA Online Services team on 028 9442 6699. 

You can also access a wide range of APHIS Online help videos via the APHIS Online support page.

Interested in the Environmental Farming Scheme? Get online!

The second tranche of the Environmental Farming Scheme (EFS) Wider level opened for applications on 20 August 2018. Applications to the scheme must be made online. The closing date for applications is 21 September 2018.

The scheme is designed to address specific environmental needs, primarily relating to biodiversity and water quality. Farmers and landowners with a DAERA category 1 or 2 Business ID and three hectares of land that is eligible for Basic Payment can apply. With the range of options available there should be something to suit most farms, however businesses can only hold one EFS Wider agreement. Successful applicants will be offered agreements towards the end of 2018 with those agreements starting in January 2019.‎

Factors to consider before making an application

  • Explore what EFS has to offer.
  • Are you registered for DAERA Online services?  If not the advice is to get registered NOW, well before the EFS closing date. You can find out more about registering for DAERA Online Services or contact the DAERA Online Services team on 028 9442 6699, email: Alternatively, do you have someone you know who can help you? This can be a member of your family, a friend, or your agent. You will need to complete a form to nominate an authorised person or call the EFS Advisory Team on 0300 200 7848.
  • Only apply for what you can realistically complete within the period specified for each option. This is usually by the 1 June 2019.

Support available

DAERA is providing a range of help and assistance based on individual need:

  • Online through the DAERA website.
  • Online, email and telephone through the EFS Advisory Team. Use the ‘Contact us for assistance’ link within the application, email: or call 0300 200 7848
  • If you have difficulties with online, ‘one-to-one’ assistance by appointment only is available in certain circumstances.                               

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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