Management notes for September 2019

Date published: 06 September 2019

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).

Autumn is a great time to apply lime.


Prepared by: Christopher Breen

Managing grazing in September

Concentrates account for about two thirds of variable costs. Making the most from grazing will reduce your current costs. If conditions are good, quality swards and the availability of after-grass should mean your herd has the potential to produce around 10 litres of milk from forage in September.

Planning for early grass next spring

Building up covers for next spring is not an option for everyone. For those of you planning an early turnout, this will be the last round for many paddocks. Actions you take now will have an effect on any early grazing next spring. The timing of paddock closure and residual grazing heights determines the start date for grazing and grass quality next year.

To allow for early grazing:

  • 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.

Colostrum for calves

Colostrum management is the single most important factor in determining calf survival and subsequent health. Calves are born without any immunity and rely on the protective effect of antibodies derived from their mother's 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 do not suck quickly to ensure adequate protection. Colostrum quality (immunoglobulin levels - IgG) can be measured easily on farm using a refractometer or colostrometer. Good quality colostrum should have IgG levels above 50g per litre. Dry periods of 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 quality. A high level of bacteria in the colostrum reduces the absorption of IgG and the passive transfer of antibodies from the colostrum to the calf. Following collection, it is recommended the colostrum is kept 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 immunity get your vet to carry out ZST tests on blood samples from healthy calves at two to six days old.

September jobs checklist

  • Correct soil pH where necessary. If ground conditions allow, the autumn is a great time to apply lime. Aim for a pH of 6.3 to get optimum results from fertiliser next year.
  • Assess condition of young stock, especially maiden heifers. Will they be in the right condition for service?
  • Carry out vaccinations due well in advance of the breeding season.
  • If conditions allow, subsoil compacted areas and let them rest over the winter period.
  • Get silage analysed 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


Preparing ewes for breeding

If vaccinating ewes for Enzootic abortion or Toxoplasmosis this needs to be done at least four weeks before introducing the rams. Complete all other veterinary treatments and administration of mineral boluses two to three weeks before introducing the rams. Ewes should be disturbed as little as possible during the breeding period.

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 prior to breeding.

Using a raddle on rams allows you to monitor the progress of breeding and helps identify infertile rams early. Keep the raddle topped up, starting with a light colour and changing to darker colours as the breeding season progresses. This will help provide an initial indication of the lambing spread and when ewes are due to lamb.

Purchased sheep

If buying in replacements try to minimise the chance of importing problems. Have a good quarantine strategy in place, particularly in relation to removing any resistant worms and scab. On arrival quarantine the sheep away from the rest of the flock. Contact your vet for suitable wormer and scab control methods. Ideally house them for 24-48 hours and keep them separate from the existing flock for at least three weeks after arrival.


Scanning spring calvers

Scanning spring calving cows and heifers now will help identify empty animals which can be culled early. Early scanning, from 35 days after bull removal, gives a more accurate timing of pregnancy, which will be useful during the busy calving period next spring. Consider early weaning and/or introducing supplementary feed to allow these cows to be slaughtered or sold before the winter housing period.

Weaning spring born calves

Weaning will be starting in spring calving herds. Consideration should be given to choice of weaning strategy, with the aim of keeping stress and disease levels to a minimum. Creep grazing and/or creep feeding calves before weaning will have reduced the dependency of the calf on the cow and should reduce stress levels at weaning. A number of different weaning strategies are employed by farmers which include:

  • Cows and calves are housed and weaned indoors. It is recommended to leave time between housing and weaning to allow calves to adjust to their new environment and diet. If housing and weaning are carried out on the same day stress levels and the risk of pneumonia will be higher.
  • Weaning is split between two dates, where half of the cows are taken away from the field while their calves remain with the rest of the herd. This will not suit everyone as fencing needs to be excellent and labour requirement is higher.
  • Using nose flaps or other methods to prevent the calf from suckling while maintaining a social bond with the mother for a period of time before weaning.

Autumn calving cows

On many farms autumn calving will now be well under way and close observation is needed both pre and post-calving. Large calf size is sometimes associated with autumn calving, particularly where grass has been plentiful and assistance may be required. Grass tetany can be a problem in autumn calving herds, particularly where there are stress triggers such as changeable weather or prolonged wet periods.  


Managing swards

Nitrogen fertiliser can be applied up to 15 September if weather and ground conditions allow. Apply 40 kg nitrogen per hectare (30 units per acre) to younger swards and drier areas to provide extended grazing for young cattle and sheep. At the start of September there should ideally be 30 grazing days ahead of grass. If ground conditions deteriorate on heavier soils, avoid poaching by housing cows and forward store cattle. Move stock quickly over the grazing blocks, ideally every one to three days, to avoid poaching in wet times and allow swards to recover.


Prepared by: Pamela Gardiner

Broadband internet access

Broadband internet access is an essential tool for any agricultural business to operate successfully. Internet access speed is measured in megabits per second (Mbps) and a broadband internet connection should have a speed of at least 10Mbps. This note will help you select an Internet Service Provider (ISP), which can provide your business with broadband internet access. Most users access the internet by connecting their devices to an internet enabled modem/router, either wirelessly using Wi-Fi or cabled using an Ethernet cable.

Fixed line broadband

An ISP can connect your business to the internet using your existing telephone line. The speed of the internet access will depend on your local infrastructure. If you are in an area where your premises is connected to a fibre enabled ‘green box’, (Fibre to the Cabinet - FTTC) or if a fibre line is available directly to your premises, (Fibre to the home - FTTH) you may be able to avail of internet speeds in excess of 30Mbps.

If your current infrastructure does not allow you to access acceptable broadband internet speeds over your telephone line, there are other options you should investigate.

Mobile broadband

An ISP can offer an internet connection using the mobile phone network. The speed and quality of the connection depends on the mobile signal strength and the type of mobile signal available. If available, a 4G mobile network can offer internet speeds of up to 60Mbps.

A 4G mobile network can be accessed by using a smartphone or mobile data enabled tablet. These handheld devices can be configured to function like a Wi-Fi router (tethering), which allows you to connect other Wi-Fi devices such as a laptop to the internet, using your mobile devices internet connection.

Another option to share a mobile internet connection would be to use a 4G mobile dongle. This small rechargeable device contains a sim card to access to the mobile network and a Wi-Fi router to allow Wi-Fi enabled devices to connect and share the mobile internet access. These can be particularly useful if you wish to ‘carry’ your internet access with you.

If you are looking for a more robust solution to utilise mobile internet access at your business, many ISPs can provide a 4G home hub or router which will function just like a fixed line router. The only difference is that the 4G router contains a sim card and does not need to be connected to your telephone line.

Fixed wireless broadband

Some ISPs have a network of wireless transmitters operating in specific areas of Northern Ireland. These ISPs can connect your business to their network and offer broadband speeds up to 1000Mbps. To avail of this services your business must be located in the catchment area of a wireless transmitter.

Satellite broadband

ISPs which offer broadband internet connection using a satellite network will be able to connect any premises which has a clear view of the southern sky. Satellite ISPs can offer speeds in excess of 30Mbps. Due to the great distances the data must travel, latency issues can cause problems with some types of online services such as gaming. Browsing the internet, video streaming or using DAERA online services are unaffected.

Broadband costs vary depending on delivery method, installation costs, speed and data allowance required. It is therefore important to know your data requirement (how many Gigabits of data you need to download every month) and understand what value broadband internet access adds to your business. A good ISP will advise you on choosing an appropriate internet package to suit your needs and will support your business if issues arise. Two current broadband initiatives that can assist with set up costs are the:


Prepared by: Leigh McLean


Aphid monitoring and virus control

The withdrawal of Redigo Deter seed treatment and pyrethroid resistance in aphid populations mean planning and cultural controls are essential to reduce the risk from BYDV transmitting aphids. Control weedy stubbles and volunteers by destroying the ‘green bridge’ for wingless aphids by desiccating seven to ten days before ploughing or allowing 14 days between ploughing and sowing. 

Infection by winged aphids flying from elsewhere is the most common route for BYDV infection in autumn cereals. To assess this threat AFBI, using a suction trap, monitor cereal aphid migration. This is updated weekly, along with advice on control, and is available from the AFBI website.

Historical monitoring data shows, as the season progresses aphid migration and consequent BYDV infection pressure diminishes. This means early drilled autumn crops are at greater risk and growers have to balance this risk against later sowing, slower emergence and potentially poorer establishment. Concerns around pyrethroid resistance mean pyrethroid sprays should only be applied when colonies are present on leaves, not individual aphids. 

Interestingly new winter barley varieties Rafaela and Amistar show tolerance to BYDV. This doesn’t mean they are fully resistant to the virus but can be infected without displaying symptoms. Consequently they suffer less of a yield penalty in severe outbreaks than non-tolerant varieties. Small quantities of tolerant seed are available this autumn so place orders early.    

Seed testing and variety selection

During recent AHDB funded variety trials workshops AFBI’s Dr Lisa Black and AHDB’s Sean Burns demonstrated some of the best performing varieties in Northern Ireland. The advice is to consider varieties with good disease resistance and agronomic profiles as part of an integrated pest management strategy.

Due to a slight increase in the occurrence of loose smut and suspected resistance developing to some seed treatments growers are advised to use certified seed or test home saved seed and not rely on seed treatments alone. Download further details on full AHDB recommended variety lists and seed testing.

Cultural weed control

Inspect areas where there have been weed problems in the past and if 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

Previous wet spells have provided ideal conditions for slugs. Assess numbers when the soil surface is damp by using a dry bait under a tea tray sized cover. Leave overnight and check traps for slugs the next day. Good seedbed preparation is the first step in controlling slugs. Removing weeds and green cover reduces their habitat and feed source. Aim for a clod free, firm seedbed which enables seed to germinate and establish quickly. It also restricts slug movement making it difficult for them to find seed and seedlings. If slug numbers exceed four per trap in cereals or one per trap in oilseed rape consider applying slug pellets if emerging crops are still at risk.

DEFRA’s decision to withdraw Metaldehyde has been recently overturned by judicial review and the product is once again available for purchase and use. DEFRA may revisit this decision so only purchase enough stock for the current season and follow Metaldehyde Stewardship Group guidelines.  


Late season management

Routinely inspect crops for blight as the canopy begins to senesce and maintain blight spray programmes until after haulm desiccation to avoid late blight developing.  Increasing incidence of blight strains insensitive to Fluazinam mean this active ingredient should no longer be relied on for tuber blight control. The EuroBlight late blight fungicide table provides details of alternatives to Fluazinam, which have high tuber blight ratings and good antisporulant activity.

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. You are reminded Diquat products have already been withdrawn from market and the use-up period is 4 February 2020.

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. Thoroughly wash and disinfect, boxes, harvesters, trailers and grading equipment for best results. 

Notes to editors: 

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