By Paul Field, Putaruru
Late summer and winter are often the most challenging times for youngstock, especially those away grazing. They are the future of your herd, and will be your income in the next 2 – 8 years or more.
Remember, the target is 90% of mature cow weight at 22 months, being fully grown at 24 months.
With this in mind, now is a good time to set an afternoon aside and review your youngstock, ideally going and visiting them.
A good place to start is how well did they get in calf? If you had more than 5% empty, then something hasn’t worked. This is most commonly lack of bull power (1 per 15 – 20 is recommended), not being sufficiently well grown to cycle by the start of mating, or BVD/Neospora infections. We also see trace mineral deficiencies and other weird/wonderful things.
Do they have enough feed to ensure the target growth rates can be met? If it’s dry and you’re short of feed on-farm, then your youngstock may also be short at grazing. Having a plan and talking to your grazier about feed requirements, and working out if bringing in extra feed is needed, is useful. It’s no good making target most of the year, only to drop behind when feed gets short.
How big are your mobs? Mob sizes of 80 or less are ideal to minimise competition, particularly for any tail-end calves that are trying to catch up.
Are they getting a new paddock/break each day? Your dairy herd needs a new paddock each day to keep their intakes up, and youngstock are the same. OK, so you’re allowed a weekend off and set up a 2-day break, but could you work it so they get fresh feed or a new break each day the rest of the time to keep them eating?
Animal health wise, are all the boxes ticked, and have you measured to check things are working? Autumn is classically the highest parasite-burden on pasture, with warm, wet conditions leading to high numbers of worm larvae in pasture. Cooperia and Ostertagia are the main two we worry about in growing cattle, with the first being sensitive to Levamisole, and the second being sensitive to the ‘mectins. Autumn drenching should therefore contain both ingredients (Eclipse-E injection).
Has there been any Cobalt/B12 or Selenium supplementation through the water, fertiliser or regular injections? Do you know what their Copper levels are? A liver biopsy in your yearlings, particularly if in a new grazing location, is the best measure.
Lastly, when do they need their first winter booster of Lepto/BVD/Salmonella to line them up with the herd and ensure coverage through their first mating?