Combine harvester harvesting winter barley

Technical Crop Update: Summer 2022

The growing season of 2021/2022 will live long in the memory of cereal growers. Coming off the back of the best harvest in a generation in 2021 where we had the magic mix of yield, price and weather, much needed faith was restored into our sector. All stakeholders were filled with a renewed sense of optimism and reassurance as to why it is we do what we do for a living and ultimately a way of life.

2022 started with a sense of trepidation as input prices began to soar with fertiliser increasing up to 300% on the back of record natural gas prices, a key input in Nitrogen fertiliser manufacturing. However much has happened over the course of the season. The outbreak of war in Ukraine has had a seismic effect on the global grain market, with one of the world’s largest producers and exporters effectively unable to trade. This massive hole in the global supply chain coupled with the subsequent sanctions on Russia has seen global grain markets soar to record levels. Despite the high input prices, we arrive on the cusp of the harvest in a situation where there has never been a greater demand for our grain. This can only be positive for the sector. We can only control what goes on inside our own farm gate and as a result, all we can do is try and produce as high yielding and high-quality crops as possible. Irish growers are some of the best in the world and as long as the weather plays ball with us, hopes are high for another good harvest off the back of last year.


Crop Update

On a local and national level, disease pressure, grass and resistant weed issues along with the growing threat of BYDV have created many challenges for our 2022 crops. It is always important to reflect on the current condition of crops and assess what worked and what didn’t work in 2022.


Winter Barley 

Winter barley will be the first crop to go under the knife and will probably come in a week or so earlier than normal. It has been a challenging season for winter barley crops. The mild winter of 2021 has increased the risk of BYDV infection in crops, along with increased pressure from earlier sowing slots. Crops that were sprayed up to 3 times with insecticide are still showing signs of viral infection, clearly displaying the reduced efficacy of our insecticide tool box. Later sowing dates, plant breeding through resistant varieties, encouragement of beneficial insects in the population and new interesting work being done on manipulation of nitrate levels in the leaf, will all prove important mitigation tools in future seasons.

Some crops are also compromised by rotation slot, with those sowed after heavy winter wheat crops in 2021 exhibiting some symptoms of Take-All. Winter barley after break crops looks significantly better.

Crops also suffered from the cold spring from late March into early April. This saw a lot of tiller death in winter barley as crops struggled for nutrients and had poor nitrogen uptake. Crops looked thin for a long time but as the weather improved, crops have bulked up a lot. They may not be as barn busting as last year, however they will still return decent yields and considering current grain prices, they will leave a decent margin.

The main varieties to look for in 2023:

  • Joyau(BYDV Tolerant).
  • KWS Tardis.
  • Valerie.
  • Belfry.

Winter Barley


Winter Oilseed Rape

Winter rape could be the crop of 2021. In contrast to winter barley, the weather has suited rape all the way along and crops look to have fantastic potential. The prolonged flowering period of upwards of 6 weeks have seen excellent pod set on rape crops with good seed fill in the pods themselves.

The main commercial variety is Ambassador and looks excellent. It is a hybrid variety suitable for later sowing, has Turnip Yellow virus resistance and has an anti-pod shatter gene. The market for rape is strong at the moment and even though it has slipped slightly from record levels a few weeks ago, it will easily surpass any previous harvest prices. It looks like an excellent break crop option for 2023 with the current market prices available and the continued conflict in Ukraine a key world producer of vegetable oils helping to underpin prices.

Rape also presents a good opportunity to get on top of difficult grass weeds such as wild oats, sterile brome and ryegrass. There is no known resistance to propyzamaide and anyone with grass weed issues should consider rape as a break crop in their rotation. Now is a good time for desiccation and crops should be sprayed off when 2/3 of the seeds in the pods on the main raceme have turned from green to brown.

Oilseed rape


Winter Wheat 

Winter wheat crops look to have great potential for the coming harvest. The two main varieties for 2022 are mainly Graham with some Costello in the mix too.

The loss of Chlorothalonil was seen as a possible death knell for winter wheat production in Ireland, however that doesn’t seem to be the case as of yet. The addition of two new chemicals, Revystar and Innotrek have seen Septoria control brought to a new level. So much so, that many crops have three to four clean leaves still at this stage of the growing season.

First wheats again are a must with the odd second wheat showing signs of Take-All in places. BYDV is evident in some crops but does not look to be significant. As always, the later sown mid-October crops look to have the greatest potential.

Winter wheat update


Spring Barley 

Spring barley, our flagship crop, looks to have great potential again this year. Crops sown early have good plant stands, have went through a mainly dry flowering period and look to be filling well. The main variety sown is Planet, with some Gangway, Geraldine and a new variety Mermaid in the mix. Cooney Furlong will again be assembling Planet and Gangway for food grade purposes. Crops were sowed in great conditions at the end of March and seemed to get just the right amount of moisture when it was needed most. As a result, crops are thick and very bulky with growth regulators having to be employed on most crops at the onset of stem extension. The harvest will probably be a week earlier than normal as crops were sowed early and are well developed.

Weed control seems to be better than last year with more favourable temperatures at spraying timings this year. The resistant wild oat issue remains but growers with problems are taking action to mitigate the problem such as switching to pre emergence herbicides and a more varied crop rotation.

Spring barley field


Winter and Spring Oats 

The two main varieties, Husky and Isabel dominate the landscape again with Husky probably proving the tougher variety for winter sowing. As both are spring varieties sown in the winter, hardiness is a key attribute required. Crops look good in general with good panicle size and grain numbers per panicle with a few blind grains. The addition of boron zinc and manganese to the crop nutrition programme seem to have enhanced grain quality and yield in the last few years.

Rust and mildew are the two key diseases affecting oats and both have surfaced this year, especially mildew in spring oat crops. The loss of Corbel and Opus from the chemical toolbox will make control of rust and mildew a key concern in the coming seasons. Crop nutrition will play a key role in helping to mitigate disease threat in future seasons.

Field of winter oats


Spring Beans and Spring Wheat 

Spring beans look to have great potential this year as they have received rainfall at regular intervals. Beans need plenty of moisture to reach their yield potential and have grown into very heavy crops with good pod set and hopefully good pod fill. The main commercial variety is Lynx.

Disease control has been more challenging this year with the loss of chlorothalonil for chocolate spot and Ridomil Gold for downy mildew. Again, the rotation is key to beans with crops doing best when sowed no more than one in six in the rotation.

Spring wheat has come back into vogue slightly this year with the tillage incentive scheme seeing some livestock farmers plough up leys in order to plant a cereal crop. The two main varieties are Talisker and Duncan and crops look to have decent potential.



The main crops look to have great potential this year and we look forward to a successful harvest again. Despite record input prices, grain prices have risen to record levels and the prospect of near-record crop margins is a high possibility.

From all the Cooney Furlong Grain team, we would like to thank our customers for the continued support throughout the year and we wish you all a successful and safe harvest.


Further Information

To view more articles from our Summer Newsletter, please click here.


Get In Touch

For the most up to date information on our products and services, please click here or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Tractor spraying weeds in grass field

Controlling Weeds In Grassland

Author: Philip Kennedy 


After second cut silage presents an ideal opportunity to control docks and chickweed in grassland. Weeds are soft and growthy after recent fertiliser applications and rain. An actively growing weed takes in chemicals a lot more efficiently, which will help achieve great weed control. Outlined below are various solutions to control these weeds.


Controlling Weeds 

Nettles, Thistles, Ragwort, Dandelions, Daisies and Rushes are some of the most problematic weeds to watch out for. When controlling these weeds it is important to spray in good growing conditions with a minimum of 8 degrees average temperature or more if possible. The growing stage of the weed is also important i.e. if the weed is flowering, it is more difficult to control so it needs to be sprayed before this point. When spraying docks, the leaves should be lush green and not much more than 3 to 4 centimeters wide. Docks also thrive when the soil is low in calcium and high in magnesium so this might be worth investigating if you have a particularly bad infestation.

The best time to control docks is in a new reseed with a product such as CLOVERMAX (2,4D + MCPA). It should be applied around 4-6 weeks post sowing at a rate of 7l per ha with at least 200l per ha water volume. When applying a herbicide on grass, it helps to apply some fertiliser close to spraying as this will decrease any negative effect on grass growth and encourage weeds to grow and take chemistry into the plant more effectively, thereby encouraging a better kill out.



Weed Control Solutions 

  • Eagle is an effective dock control solution if you also want to try and save clover. Most dock sprays will kill clover.
  • Pasture pack represents a new concept in grass weed control. The tank mix option for Thrust (2,4D + Dicamba) and Tandus (Fluroxypyr) allows farmers to reap the benefits of three different active ingredients, providing a cost-effective solution to Docks, Nettles, Dandelions, Daisies and Chickweed.
  • D50 (2,4D) provides excellent control on Ragwort which is poisonous to animals. This must be applied at the rosette stage in March or April and animals must be kept off the field until the weed has withered away.
  • Agritox (MCPA) is a good option for the control of Charlock, Thistle, Fat hen, Buttercup and Rushes. If you are using it for the control of Rushes, it is recommended to use a sticker such as Kantor due to the waxy nature of the rush. For best control, Rushes should be sprayed when young and ideally growing.
  • Minstrel (Fluroxypyr) is good on both docks and chickweed.

Some products can be used in conjunction with each other and our Cooney Furlong Farm Representatives are available to discuss your specific weed control options.


The full Corteva range is also available in the Cooney Furlong Grain Branches as follows.

Chart matching weeds to herbicide solutions



For a full list of details on each herbicide, click here.


Further Information

To view more articles from our Summer Newsletter, please click here.


Get In Touch

For the most up to date information on our products and services, please click here or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Claas combine harvester working

Grass weed control before and during harvest

Author: Jimmy Staples 


Unfortunately, there is no room for a holiday when it comes to controlling grass weeds as one slip-up can lead to large quantities of seed being introduced back into the seed bank and undoing a lot of the good work that has already been done during the growing season. There are a number of actions that can be taken now and during the harvest that can complement actions already taken and enhance the level of control achieved.


Grass Weeds

With the plant protection season drawing to a close, now is a great time to get back into crops and identify any potential issues. At this time of the year, grass weeds will have emerged above the crop canopy and when they have headed out, it is the easiest time to identify them. The main grass weeds that we need to be concerned about are as follows:



Diagram of grass weeds



Grass Weed Control: Before Harvest 

All of these grass weeds can multiply rapidly so a zero-tolerance approach should be taken especially where herbicide resistance has been identified. At this stage in the year, preventing seed return should be a priority. Walking your crops after the final sprays have been applied is a good habit to get into as it allows you to identify any troublesome patches within fields that may not have been controlled by herbicides.

It’s worthwhile taking samples from these weeds and sending them off to the Teagasc Enable Conservation Tillage Programme for resistance testing. We have confirmed resistance in populations of wild oats and ryegrass here in Wexford so it pays to be vigilant.

Where crops are clean and herbicides have done their job, pay attention to areas where the sprayer may have missed such as the ins and outs on headlands, field gaps/gates and areas on the headland where turning. These areas can provide useful information about what weeds are in the field and allow you to plan ahead if something new or unusual is found.

Practical options for preventing seed return will focus on rogueing which is your most cost-effective tool where populations are low. Where larger patches are identified, crop destruction or whole cropping may have to be considered depending on the current crop and your planned rotation.


Grass Weed Control: During Harvest 

Avoid harvesting areas where a significant population of grass weeds is present as you risk spreading weed seeds further across the field and potentially through your farm or where harvesting and baling are done on hire to another farm.

During harvest, machine hygiene has become increasingly important to help stop the spread of grass weeds and particularly where resistant weeds have been identified. Combines and balers are two of the biggest culprits when it comes to the spread of grass weeds, therefore it is important to clean down these machines when moving from field to field or farm to farm where grass weed issues have been identified.

Where possible, combines and balers should be blown down before moving to a new field or farm. Many newer combines will have a cleaning programme which can simplify the task and reduce the time involved. Having a compressor or a leaf blower at hand will greatly speed up the job. Nobody can be expected to fully clean down a combine or baler in the field but spending half an hour cleaning down a machine could prevent years of heartache and frustration.

Putting a strategy in place to help control and stop the spread of grass weeds can be relatively straightforward, it’s just a matter of finding the time to sit down and make a plan.

If any customers have an issue with grass weed, please contact Jimmy Staples directly.


Further Information

To view more articles from our Summer Newsletter, please click here.


Get In Touch

For the most up to date information on our products and services, please click here or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Grazing 2022: Maintaining milk production alongside grass issues

Author: Jack Scallan 


The last twelve months have seen many unprecedented changes in agriculture, both globally and domestically. The dairy industry did not escape these changes. There has been a major reduction in milk production globally due to mainly grain/feed and fertiliser prices which have increased exponentially over the last 18 months, while global demand has been maintained. This has led to the milk price increasing from about 30c/l base price to an unprecedented base price of about 52c/l over the same period.


Grass Quality and Quantity 

In Ireland, milk production is mainly based on grass, which is a very variable product both in quantity and quality. This has been seen throughout the spring and early summer where growth rates were very good in January and February but were poor in late March and April to improve again in mid-May. This may well be the pattern for the rest of the year depending on rainfall.

Also, during this time, grass quality was very variable and this changed from week to week. Grass protein over the grazing period has been poor in general. Normally it should be around 22 to 28%, however it hardly reached 18-19% throughout the spring. Protein in the diet will drive milk yield but grass is the main source of protein in the diet of a spring calving herd. If dietary protein is low, then milk yield will be reduced and peak milk is not reached. An indication of low dietary protein is milk urea, which fluctuated quite a lot this spring/summer.




Energy and Fibre

Energy and fibre have been variable throughout the grazing period also. Fibre (NDF), though low at times, has been steadily increasing to normal levels lately, which means that rumen function will become more normalised. Both fibre and energy are a major influence on milk fat yield and the general good health of the animal, while energy is a major contributor to milk protein yield. Energy has also varied quite a bit over the grazing period but not as much as protein. Like protein, grass is the main contributor to dietary energy. Indications of low dietary energy are low milk protein and fat yields and poor fertility (though other factors can also influence fertility). Grass dry matter was in general low this spring/summer (approximately 15-16%) and this had a substantial effect on intake which limited the amount of protein and energy that the cow could get from grass.



With grass being so variable in quality and quantity, it will not meet the modern high yielding cow’s dietary requirements. Therefore, it may be necessary to introduce baled silage, maize or even pit silage to enhance dry matter intake. It is essential to supplement the cows with a good quality concentrate/ration (a minimum of 0.96 ufl and 100 grm/kg PDI made from good quality ingredients). A cow giving 26 lt/day would normally need about 3 kg of dairy nuts per day at grass. As grass is so variable, it is probably advisable to feed her 4-5kg /day to ensure she gets her daily dietary requirements. This will incur an extra cost, which will be offset by more consistent milk yield and quality, a stronger immune system (less infections, e.g., mastitis), and less fertility issues.

Contact your Cooney Furlong Farm Representative or call to any of our branches if you have queries about any issues raised in this article.


Further Information

To view more articles from our Summer Newsletter, please click here.


Get In Touch

For the most up to date information on our products and services, please click here or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Winter crop technical update

Author: George Blackburn 


As we move into the second half of February and look towards the beginning of March, our attention must first focus on the winter crops in the ground from autumn 2021. Key management decisions regarding fertiliser and growth regulation in the early stages of spring can have a major bearing on a crops final yield potential especially winter barley.

There is a slight increase in the overall acreage of winter cereals as sowing conditions were good in the early part of autumn 2021, with many growers opting to drill a little earlier to get crops established. The sense of optimism amongst growers following last year’s exceptional harvest was a welcome boost to the sector and as a result, growers were eager to get crops planted. The earlier drilled crops have better establishment without question and did receive an autumn aphicide. Those that took the gamble of sowing earlier into better conditions seem to have been rewarded so far but time will tell on this. The winter has been a lot milder than normal so many early drilled crops are quite advanced in terms of growth stages. Growth regulation and delaying applications of fertiliser on these earlier crops will be wise this spring. The huge increase in fertiliser prices has tempered some of last year’s optimism, however, grain prices look very strong for the coming harvest and many growers have availed of attractive forward prices. When planning fertiliser strategies for the coming season regardless of price, the focus must be on growing a crop to its full potential. This has always proven to be the most profitable strategy. Soil sampling and correct liming are key steps required to produce optimum yielding crops for the coming season.


Winter Barley

Winter barley crops have established well, with good plant count levels. Most were sown in ideal sowing conditions and have come through a very dry winter. Some of the crops are a little bit forward, with some live disease in them and will require robust growth regulation programmes. Any crops that have not received any Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K) will need an application before the end of February as soon as conditions allow. Crops that received no autumn P and K will start to show up deficiencies especially for P when temperatures pick up and growth kicks in.
Check your soil samples and tailor NPK compounds accordingly. As a rule of thumb, winter barley crops need 30-35 units of P and 100 units of K. This will vary slightly between 2 row and 6 row varieties, with slightly higher potash requirements for the 6 rows. Aim to have 75% of Nitrogen (N) out on winter barley by March 20th. Disease levels are generally low, growth regulation and tillering will be the main focus of early chemical applications. Do not be tempted to drop back on P and K applications too much as we must remember that offtakes from fields were very high last harvest.


Winter Wheat

Winter wheat crops are generally good but there is some variation out in the fields. Crops sowed earlier that are well established are in good heart, with excellent plant stands. Crops sown later in difficult seedbeds, especially potatoes and fodder beet have suffered a bit with crow and slug damage. Chopped bean straw has also proven to be a suitable host for slugs and a few winter wheat crops after beans have needed to be treated with slug pellets. It is becoming increasingly more important to run a shallow disc over chopped bean or rape straw and is an important part of the Straw Incorporation Measure for slug control. Our methods of chemical control are no longer as potent as they used to be. Many crops after beans have a lot of volunteers coming through but these will be easily dealt with in the spring and are actually serving a useful drainage purpose at the moment by soaking up moisture from the soil.

While crops are generally good and winter wheat has an amazing ability to compensate for sub-optimal plant stands at harvest, I would be reluctant to tear up any crops bar they are very poor. Aim to have a balance of P and K out on wheat by mid-March. Apply according to soil sample requirements. Aim to have the first main split of nitrogen on by the first week of April and final split on the first week of May. It is important to remember that wheat should not have too big a canopy too early in the crop, as this presents problems for growth regulation and disease control, especially Septoria Tritici.


Winter wheat field

Winter Oats

Winter oat crops have established well in general and there is a nice amount of winter oats in the ground. The two varieties sown are Isabel and Husky, both spring varieties sowed in the autumn. Most crops are in good condition but some in the more coastal and milder areas are a touch forward. These crops will need careful attention in terms of growth regulation and rust control especially in south Wexford and other coastal areas. Crops will need to get their NPK requirements by the middle of March with a blend such as 10-5-25 plus S for winter oats at a rate of 4 bags/acre.


Winter oat field


Winter Oilseed Rape

The acreage of oilseed rape (OSR) has seen a drastic increase this year, owing to record prices available for the crop. Crops are in excellent condition and are more forward than ever after the mild winter. The Green Area Index (GAI) of each crop is worth measuring this year and there are a few useful apps available to measure this. Some crops have up to 3.5 GAI readings and are exceptionally forward. The key message for these crops would be to delay N applications for as long as possible and also to reduce overall N applied. Most crops are in the range of 2-2.5 GAI which is excellent coming out of the winter and there is an opportunity to reduce N applications by 50-60 units on these crops.

Pigeon damage doesn’t seem to be much of an issue at all this year. All crops received some P at planting and this has made a big difference to rooting and overall establishment. All crops have been treated with a fungicide for light leaf spot in the autumn and with Kerb (propyzamide) for grass weed control. Most crops received an autumn growth regulator which seems to have worked very well to even out crops for nice canopy management in the spring. As a result, crops have nice clean canopies for the onset of spring. Aim to get potash out on OSR by mid-March, 100-110 units is sufficient. Rape has a high requirement for Sulphur (S) so the first main split of N should include ASN (26% N + 14% S), with further applications of Sulcan. Aim to apply the last 40-50 units of N on rape at the latest possible time that the fertiliser spreader can physically travel through the crop.

Winter oilseed rape


Further Information:

To view more articles from our Spring Newsletter, please click here.


Get In Touch

For the most up to date information on our products and services, please click here or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Herbicide resistance in tillage farming

Author: Jimmy Staples


Over the last decade, it has become increasingly difficult to manage some of the pests that we were previously able to control comfortably with plant protection products.

This can be attributed to:

  • The loss of key active ingredients due to de-registration
  • A lack of new active ingredients coming onto the market
  • The development of resistance to the current active ingredients on the market


Loss of active ingredients

The loss of active ingredients is a worrying trend and according to the DAFM website, there were 17 active ingredients whose registration was revoked between December 31st 2018 and August 23rd 2020. The last date for use of many of these active ingredients has now passed with the loss of chlorothalonil (Bravo) and the neonicotinoid family of insecticides creating big challenges.


Resistance in the tillage field

This loss of key active ingredients is compounded further by the development of herbicide resistance. BYDV control can be challenging due to pyrethroid resistance within some species of aphids. Diseases like Septoria are constantly putting available chemistry to the test and resistance to herbicides is becoming increasingly common throughout the country.

We have both broad-leaved and grass weed resistance confirmed here in Ireland and it is suggested that this is under-reported. Here in Wexford, I have come across resistant populations of chickweed, corn marigold and wild oats and I am currently awaiting results from Teagasc in relation to populations of blackgrass and Italian ryegrass which may also be resistant.


Reported weed resistance to one or more herbicide - table


Cultural control: Integrated Pest Management 

The Enable Conservation Project has confirmed herbicide resistance in Italian ryegrass, blackgrass and wild oats. Blackgrass and Italian ryegrass populations have been found to be resistant to ALS herbicides (Alister Flex, Pacifica Plus, Broadway Star, Monolith), ACCase herbicides (Axial Pro, Falcon, Stratos Ultra) and in some instances, a combination of both. Where both ALS and ACCase resistance are present, it severely limits your crop herbicide options.

In these cases, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies need to be to the fore and there are many options available. These include but are not limited to:


  • Use of rotations
  • Cover crops
  • Companion cropping
  • Arable grass margins
  • Using competitive cultivars
  • Pushing back sowing dates
  • Increasing seeding rates
  • Stale seedbeds
  • Cultivation type and depth
  • Establishment system
  • Rogueing
  • Crop destruction
  • Remote sensing
  • Monitoring and evaluation

A successful IPM strategy will consist of a number of these measures chosen specifically to meet the challenges of an individual’s farm and should be used along with the targeted application of herbicides. These should be implemented in a structured fashion over the course of the whole rotation. Achieving effective control of many of these weeds will not be possible in one, two or even three years.


Herbicide resistance management strategy 

Prevention of course is better than a cure and there is simple, yet effective measures that we can take to try and ensure that herbicide resistance does not evolve on farm. Most of these measures will revolve around the use of and application of herbicides.

When spraying, consider the following as part of a herbicide resistance management strategy:

  1. Has the target weed(s) been identified correctly?
  2. What is the target growth stage and when is the weed going to be at this stage?
  3. What volume of water do I need to use to ensure sufficient coverage?
  4. Do I have issues with the pH in the water I am using?
  5. What rate of herbicide do I need to achieve control of the weed(s) at the target growth stage?
  6. Try to keep tank mixes as simple as possible, so as not to stress the crop and ensure that all components of the mix work effectively. 


Some things are outside of our control. The last two springs have been incredibly challenging with weather conditions either too wet or too cold and the variations in day and night-time temperatures meant spraying days were very limited. I came across a number of cases of wild oats and sterile brome which were not controlled by herbicides in both 2020 and 2021. Samples were sent for resistance testing and results have shown that they were not resistant to the products used. A number of factors contributed to the lack of control, namely, big variations in day and night-time temperatures, shading from the crop and the use of lower rates of herbicide than was required.

It is important to understand the weeds on your farm as this will help you to decide on management strategies. For instance, it can take from five to ten years for resistance to develop in a population of wild oats as opposed to a population of blackgrass where resistance can develop in just three generations.

If you do suspect herbicide resistance on your farm, please get in contact with your advisor as the earlier the problem is diagnosed and action is taken, the greater the chance of a positive outcome.


Further Information

To view more articles from our Spring Newsletter, please click here.



Get In Touch

For the most up to date information on our products and services, please click here or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Promoting early calf husbandry

Author: John Bass 


Calf husbandry and nutrition are very topical at this time of year with many dairy and beef farmers rearing calves by hand on whole milk or milk replacer. Getting calves off to a good start is critical for their development, their feed conversion efficiency and also their subsequent production. Getting dairy heifer calves off to the correct start in life will not only maximise output but will also increase their longevity within the herd.



It is important to follow these simple steps as soon as a calf is born to ensure calf health and thrive:

  • It is important to give a newborn calf 3 litres of colostrum within the first 2 hours of life.
  • Ensure the first feed is the first milk from the cow after calving.
  • Check colostrum quality using a refractometer as quality varies from cow to cow.
  • Ensure a calf receives an adequate quantity of quality colostrum as it will provide the required antibodies and immunoglobulins to help boost the calf immune system.
  • Bottle feeding is often the best way of ensuring the calf has received an adequate volume.
  • If you are storing colostrum in the fridge, ensure a temperature of 4°C. Store it for no longer than 2 days as the level of antibodies declines rapidly thereafter.
  • When freezing colostrum, do so in small packs for ease of defrosting. Defrost slowly on a low heat below 50°C so you don’t reduce the number of antibodies.


Newborn calves drinking milk replacer from milk bar


Milk Replacer Vs Whole Milk 

It is advantageous to feed milk replacer after day 2 or 3 as it minimises disease spread when compared to whole milk. Calves require approximately 13% of their bodyweight in feed intake in the first week of life, which should be split between 2-4 feeds per day. In week two, this requirement increases to 15% of their bodyweight equating to about 6 litres per day for a 40 kg calf. Calves at 2-3 weeks of age have the potential to achieve 750-950 grams of live-weight gain per day, with a minimum target of 500 grams. Feed conversion efficiency is almost at 1:1 so the quality of milk fed must be high enough to ensure the daily intake is providing enough energy to meet demand.

Milk powders can vary in quality; skim or whey are more favourable than those based on vegetable proteins as they are more easily digested by calves. Like with whole milk, milk replacers need to be mixed and fed at the correct temperatures (37-39°C) and the correct concentration to ensure adequate nutrient intake. Aim for powders with a minimum of 23% protein and 17% fat and below 0.1% fibre. Mix 125 grams powder with 850mls of water which provides 1 litre of milk replacer. Feed 6 litres of milk per calf per day, this volume can be increased to meet demand if necessary.



It is important to introduce a high-quality ration or nut from day 2-3. Ensure it has a high cereal grain content and is highly palatable with no dust. Initial intakes will be small so keep quantities low and fresh. Early intake of cereal-based feed will rapidly increase the rumen development of the calf and the growth of papillae on the rumen wall, which will increase nutrient uptake capacity of the calf throughout its life. Failing to feed concentrates at an early stage will have drawbacks later in life. Aim to have calves consuming 1kg of concentrates at weaning.

Keep feed fresh and easily accessible in order to increase intakes from an early age. A high-grade nut can be advantageous as it is cleaner with less dust than a coarse ration and less attractive to birds which can bring harmful bacteria and diseases into sheds.

Claves at the feed barrier with concentrates



A fresh straw bed is important for calf comfort and health and it will also encourage fibre intake which will aid rumen development. Ensure calves have adequate feeding and resting space and that pens are well drained and ventilated. Regular cleaning and liming is a must to reduce the risk of any scours or other illnesses. Ensure there is a constant supply of fresh clean drinking water and that feeders and drinkers are at an accessible height for calves also.

A bright well-ventilated shed with no draughts at calf level is essential to avoid calves getting cold. Good ventilation will also ensure enough airflow above calf level to minimise respiratory problems and keep the air fresh.

Calves housed indoors


Further Information

To view more articles from our Spring Newsletter, please click here.


Get In Touch

For the most up to date information on our products and services, please click here or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

NEW – Terra Range brochure available to download

Target Fertilisers are committed to the future of agriculture in Ireland through fertiliser and sustainable fertiliser usage. They are constantly looking at methods of maximising production through environmentally friendly and efficient uses of fertiliser. As a result, they have joined forces with Brandon Biosciences to develop a new range of sustainable fertiliser products, the Terra Range.

To learn more about the new Terra Range and how it can benefit your farm, download the new brochure here:


Terra Range brochure

Further Information

To view more articles from our Spring Newsletter, please click here.


Get In Touch

For the most up to date information on our products and services, please click here or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

SlurryBugs®: Treating slurry more important than ever

Author: Philip Kennedy


In recent years, farmers are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of treating slurry, however many have yet to make it a part of their nutrient management tool.

There are many slurry treatments on the market, however in this article, we will look at SlurryBugs® ; what it is, how does it work and what are the benefits of using it on farm?


What is SlurryBugs®?

SlurryBugs® is a bacterial slurry additive which breaks down the solid content producing a more homogenous and nutrient rich fertiliser.

It contains soil originating bacteria, enzymes and micro-nutrients which enhance the retention of nutrients within stored farm slurry. This can lead to significant savings on chemical fertilisers and enhance soil quality as well as reducing ammonia odour and losses.


How do SlurryBugs® work?

Slurrybug product packaging

  1. The bacteria retain nitrogen by capturing the ammonia within the urine. The nitrogen is fixed into a slow-release form of organic nitrogen which is readily available for plant uptake.
  2. The enzymes actively degrade the undigested fibre within the effluent which improves the consistency and reduces odour.
  3. The micro-nutrients provide a vital food source for the bacteria allowing more nutrients to be retained by the bacteria in an organic form.


CF - SlurryBugs Stats

Analytical results of SlurryBugs® part 2


What are the results?

A demonstration of the flow of organisms, nutrients and chemicals known as the BioCircle

  • Reduces odour

Most slurry odours are caused by ammonia being released into the atmosphere. When SlurryBugs® are used in conjunction with LESS (Low Emission Slurry Spreading) slurry application methods, there is almost no odour released from the slurry spread on the land. This is a result of fewer gases building up as the bugs increase nutrient retention.

  • Reduces fibrous crust

SlurryBugs® will reduce crust formation on top of the slurry, leaving it consistent. This will reduce agitation times and lead to less blockages, especially when spreading with LESS equipment.

  • Minimises need for stirring

After a few years of use, the bugs will build up in the tank and the need to agitate will reduce and slurry will stay homogenous for longer. This will mean a fuel saving up to 25%.

The continued use of the product will improve microbial activity in the slurry and the soil. The slurry pH will be raised to allow soil bugs to work at optimal. Microbial activity is greatly reduced in acidic untreated slurry.

  • Improves fertiliser value

Nitrogen availability and retention can increase up to 50% in treated slurry. This combined with LESS application methods can greatly decrease ammonia losses and therefore increase the amount of nitrogen used from slurry application. With all the above combined a typical 2,500 gals per acre application rate of slurry in spring should give you 25 to 33 units per acre of nitrogen. The nitrogen in this example is worth approximately €35 per acre.



How to apply SlurryBugs®?

  • Each 1 kg pot treats 100,000 gallons (450,000ltrs).
  • The product should be applied when slurry levels are low in tanks and at least 4-6 weeks before spreading to allow the bugs to work and multiply.
  • The slurry bugs can be mixed in a bucket of lukewarm water and then poured into lagoons, channels or directly into the tank.


Further Information

To view more articles from our Spring Newsletter, please click here.


Get In Touch

For the most up to date information on our products and services, please click here or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Dairy cows grazing grass

Dosing Advice: Combating Lungworm In Your Herd

Author: James O’Neill 


Lungworm infections in your herd can cause a severe and often fatal disease that is commonly called hoose. A lungworm infestation is caused by exposure of grazing animals to lungworm larvae on a pasture. The lifecycle of the lungworm is about four weeks long i.e., from the ingestion of larvae to the excretion of infective larvae by the affected animal. In the worst case, within four weeks of ingesting lungworm larvae, the cow or calf can be shedding millions of fresh larvae onto the pasture via their faeces and is most commonly seen from August to October.

Lungworm: Spotting The Early Signs

Early signs to look out for include coughing, initially after exercise and then at rest, with an increased respiratory rate. Left untreated, cattle will often lose weight, with noticeable deterioration taking place in their body condition. Dairy cattle may also experience a sudden and dramatic drop in milk yield.

Rain can disperse larvae in contaminated faeces, while warm, moist conditions keep infective larvae alive and encourage fungal growth. Larvae often make use of the fungal spore, Pilobolus (found on cattle dung), to disperse themselves on a pasture. Generally, conditions that favour the growth of pasture also favour the development of the infective larval stage L3, which is why outbreaks peak in late summer and early autumn. A dry season followed by a damp one has always encouraged outbreaks as this creates a natural immunity gap.


Treat infected cattle as early as possible because there may be varying degrees of infection in any one group. Levamisole (Levafas Dimond) and white drenches (Tramazole) will take out what parasites are there on the day of treatment and have no residual effect. Macrocyclic Lactones such as Ivermectin (Acomec Pour-On, Ivomec injection and Eprizero Pour-On) will give longer protection (28-120 days is typical). The product used will have a bearing on subsequent grazing management post-treatment. Calves that were heavily infected need to be closely observed for 1-2 days post-treatment.


Further Information: 

To view more articles from our Autumn/Winter Newsletter, please click here. 


Get In Touch

For the most up to date information on our products and services, please click here or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.