‘No room for passengers
on beef farms this winter’

The problem for livestock farmers, especially beef cattle producers, is not just the current atrocious weather. It is, according to Scottish Agricultural College beef guru Dr Basil Lowman, leading in to a difficult winter.

“There won’t be room for passengers this winter,” he said. “With spring calvers, I suggest farmers use a competent scanner to check heifers and cows are pregnant five weeks after the end of mating. Any barren cows should be weaned immediately before fattening them indoors and selling them as soon as possible.

“Unless conditions improve, I would keep first-calved heifers and other lean cows indoors. When the fitter ones have dried off they can be turned to dry fields or fed on sacrifice areas. In small herds, if bulls are just going out, consider trough-feeding cows.”

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For autumn-calving stock, Lowman stressed the importance of checking they are pregnant as soon as possible so that proper business decisions could be taken about barren cows.

He added: “If the wet conditions continue, keep them indoors to calving and keep them in. Don’t foster on calves. Cull any cows that lose a calf. You can leave bulling heifers outside, providing they are not doing too much damage to the field, but they must be housed at least three weeks prior to the start of bulling.”

The approach taken by the SAC expert was equally tough for growing and finishing cattle, with a recommendation that the most forward animals were housed and put onto intensive rations so they reached slaughter weight as soon as possible.