DAERA Issues Management Notes To Farmers

Management Notes for May 2020 From DAERA.


Management Notes for May 2020 From DAERA.

(by Richard Breen.)

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).


When should grass be cut for silage?

As a guide you should cut before 50% ear emergence in the sward. For swards based on early perennials cut around 10th May. Swards based on mid-season varieties will be ready to cut around 20th May. Cut late varieties in the first days of June. Walk your crops before these dates and check for ear emergence so that you can plan a cutting date. Each weeks delay after 50% ear emergence results in an extra 2.0 kg of concentrates to achieve the same milking performance.

Grass should be cut at the first spell of good weather. A bright day is ideal to increase the sugar content of the grass giving improved fermentation. Sunshine also promotes a more rapid wilt, reducing the amount of water ensiled. It is important, where possible, grass is mowed down dry. Wet grass needs a longer wilting time resulting in reduced nutrient value. Mowing grass later in the day is more preferable than starting early when dew may still be on the ground.

Cut dairying grass at the first signs of dry weather.

Wilting grass 

  • To speed up the wilting process spread the cut crop out over the entire field straight after mowing.
  • Aim for a target grass dry matter (DM) of 30% at harvesting.
  • A rapid wilt prevents excessive sugar and protein losses.
  • In ideal wilting weather a crop is ready to lift within eight hours if it has been spread out.


  • Ideal chop length promotes good consolidation in the clamp and provides enough fibre for the cow to ruminate.
  • Set chop length at 25 mm for grass with a DM of 30%.
  • When grass is wetter (less than 20% DM) consider a chop length of 50 mm.

Clamp management

The purpose of ensiling grass is to improve silage feeding value by preserving and minimising the loss of nutrients. Silage fermentation can be divided into two phases:

Phase 1 – elimination of oxygen by chopping grass to the correct length, ensiling at recommended dry matters, filling the silo quickly and distributing grass evenly in the silo.

Phase 2 – production of lactic acid by micro-organisms in the grass. Lactic acid is the primary acid responsible for lowering pH, producing silage and making it stable. Undesirable micro-organisms can dominate if the pH does not drop rapidly. Where weather allows, wilting grass to 25-30% DM before ensiling can eliminate this problem.

The key is to remove the air and make the clamp as air tight as possible. Ensure the ensiled grass is spread in shallow layers and rolled continuously. Always cover the silo at night. At the end of harvest apply a cover and weight the cover effectively paying particular attention at the shoulders of the pit.

If it has been possible to wilt the crop to 30% DM before ensiling effluent output from the clamp will be minimal. However, if dry matters are lower keep a close check on effluent output and tank holding capacity for up to six weeks following ensiling.

Use of an additive

Effective silage fermentation produces high levels of lactic acid reducing the crop pH. Silage additives can help this process. A variety of additives are available including bacterial inoculants, enzymes, non-protein nitrogen sources, acids and sugar sources. It is important to emphasise that none of these products are a substitute for good silage making techniques and management but they can assist in making a good situation better.

May jobs checklist

·       Graze swards down to 1,600 kg DM per hectare to maintain sward quality.

·       Check silos and carry out any maintenance in advance of silage making.

·       Check there is adequate storage in tanks to collect effluent.

·       Calibrate parlour and out of parlour feeders to ensure accurate feeding.

·       Spray docks/weeds if conditions are suitable and they are at the right stage for control. If spraying silage ground for docks, generally allow an interval of at least 21 days between spraying and harvest. As the interval depends on the product used always read the label.

For information and guidance during the Convid-19 pandemic please refer to:


Beware of the Nematodiris in in lambs.


(Prepared by: Nigel Gould)

Nematodiris threat.

Generally May is associated with Nematodiris in lambs. If not controlled this can result in high levels of mortality and stunted growth. Nematodiris has a different life cycle to other sheep worms.

The development of the infective larvae takes place within the egg and infection passes from one year’s lamb crop to the next. The risk is lowered by grazing areas which weren’t grazed by lambs the previous spring. The most dangerous time is when a period of cold weather, which delays hatching, is followed by a spell of warmer weather.

This can result in a mass hatch with a large level of infection taken in at once. Lambs over six weeks of age or younger lambs from ewes with poor milk yield are most at risk as grass intakes continue to increase. A white drench (Group 1 – Benzimidazole) is the most popular treatment for Nematodiris.

Talk to your vet about an appropriate parasite control plan for your farm. SCOPs, an industry led initiative, promotes best practice in the control of sheep parasites. It provides a live Nematodiris forecast which predicts hatch date based on temperature data from a range of locations across the UK.

This can be used along with your own farm experience to estimate the start of the risk period on your farm. This forecast can be accessed at: www.scops.org.uk

Breeding season in spring calving herds

The breeding season is due to start in many spring calving suckler herds in the coming weeks. To deliver high levels of fertility, with a calving index of 365 days, cows should be in a rising plane of nutrition with a body condition score of 2.5+.

Replacement heifers, particularly those targeted to calve at two years of age, should be bred two to three weeks before the main herd. This allows them extra time to recover after calving in advance of the subsequent breeding season.

Where a stock bull is being used, don’t assume he is fertile from seeing cows being served. A pre-breeding fertility test should be carried out to confirm the bull is fertile. Even where this is the case, periods of sub-fertility can occur later in the season.  Record all repeats to quickly identify any problems.

Where AI is being used, heat detection is often the main barrier to success, especially with a spring calving herd. Cows and heifers should be observed three times per day. Where this isn’t practical, a range of options are available to help maximise the heat detection rate. A vasectomised bull fitted with a chin ball harness containing a type of paint if often cited as the most successful.

The vasectomy needs to be carried out at least six weeks before the bull is required. An increasing range of higher tech options are available primarily based on movement data and electronic identification. These alert the farmer by text of individual cows being in heat. Again, a vasectomised bull may be required.

Tail paint and scratch card/ink well type products are another option, however success rates with these are variable. False alerts can sometimes be triggered where cows scratch themselves under trees or hedges, particularly in warm weather.

Where heat detection is still a problem and labour availability is low, speak to your vet about an appropriate synchronisation protocol using Fixed-Time AI (FTAI). Research by AFBI has shown FTAI is a viable option, however there can be a large variation in conception rates across herds. The key is to have cows in good body condition and to adhere strictly to the timing in the particular programme protocol.

Silage harvesting

Those of you aiming to produce high quality silage will be targeting a harvest date in May. Target silage dry matter content of 30% and D-value greater than 70.  Harvesting before much seed emergence occurs is key in avoiding the reduced D-values associated with later cutting.

There is sometimes a concern that nitrate will still be present in the grass. A rule of thumb is that 2.5 kg of nitrogen per hectare (2 units per acre) will be used up in the crop daily. This figure will be lower in periods of low grass growth and higher in periods when growth is good. Any nitrate present at harvesting will be less of an issue where a good wilt has been achieved.

For information and guidance during the Convid-19 pandemic please refer to:



Prepared by: Liz Donnelly

Quality assurance remote inspections

Due to the Covid-19 crisis Red Tractor suspended all on-farm inspections on 20th March. However, to allow auditing to continue, Red Tractor recently introduced a new way of inspecting farms. Known as a ‘remote assessment’ the audit takes place off site without the need for the assessor to visit the farm.

It involves a combination of uploading or emailing records/documents/photographs and live streaming. The live stream part of the assessment is carried out using technology such as Skype, Microsoft Teams, Zoom Meeting, GoTo Meetings or WhatsApp.

The remote farm assessment initially applies to new applicants and existing members due or overdue an inspection that are willing to take part. Your Certification Body will contact you if your farm is due for an inspection.

There are two parts to the remote farm assessment. The first involves the assessor checking that all the paperwork is up to date and the correct information is recorded. This is done by either emailing the paperwork, for example movement documents, medicine purchases and usage, emergency plan, staff training records, fallen stock receipts, scripts, veterinary health plan, farm map, meal mixing records, vermin control records to the assessor or uploading them to the Red Tractor portal.

The Red Tractor portal is an online filing cabinet and is a more secure and confidential way of providing the paperwork required. In some cases, only a sample of documents will be required, for example the assessor does not need to see every movement document or medicine record. Your assessor will talk through what is needed when they contact you to arrange the remote assessment.

After the assessor has checked all the paperwork, they will carry out a remote inspection of the farm. The remote inspection simply involves you walking around your farm filming each house and other relevant areas, for example meal plant.

The assessor will check everything they would normally check during an annual on-farm inspection for example, number of nipple drinkers, environmental enrichment, stocking rates, medicine store, dead skip, slats, hospital pens, cleanliness of pigs etc.

Pig farm security

In previous management notes I talked about the importance of biosecurity. Good biosecurity involves taking steps to secure your farm against the entry and spread of disease. This note focuses on another type of security that is equally as important – site security.

To improve site security:

·       Check the condition of all boundaries. Are there are any holes/gaps that need to be made secure?

·       Restrict the number of entry points to the farm. Hang a security gate at the main entry point/s.

·       Ensure all gates are securely hung and locked with heavy duty chains and padlocks.

·       Lock as many pig house doors as is possible. Use key alike padlocks where one key locks all the padlocks on the farm.

·       Put up clear signage indicating entry is not allowed and trespassers will be prosecuted.

·       Consider installing additional security such as movement activated lights, CCTV or infra-red/laser technology and position at vulnerable points.

Nesting material for sows

At a recent Pig Business Development Group meeting Dr Emma Baxter, a researcher form Scotland’s Rural College, discussed the benefits of providing sows with nesting material. Emma explained that sows need nesting material to meet their behavioural needs and start to nest build approximately 16-24 hours before farrowing. Sows that can nest build are less stressed and calmer.

They lie on their sides more which means the udder is better exposed allowing the piglets easier access to the teats. Research also shows that sows given nesting material produce better quality colostrum. The immunoglobin (antibody) levels which ‘kick start’ the pig’s immune system are higher.

As pigs are born with very few antibodies, they rely on their sow’s colostrum to obtain the antibodies to fight off bacteria and viruses. So, as Emma says, ‘giving sows nest building material is a win-win situation’!

For information and guidance during the Convid-19 pandemic please refer to:


Make the best of the dry Spring.


Prepared by: Leigh McClean


A dry spring was greatly needed to let ground dry and catch up with fieldwork following a wet winter. The swing from excessively wet to dry has put struggling winter cereals under pressure, widening the gap between good and marginal crops.  Keep a close eye on crop development making sure key timings of fertiliser and sprays are not missed.

You may be tempted to delay fungicide application or stretch spray windows due to the dry weather and little evidence of disease. However, it is important to maintain good timing as most fungicides act preventatively. This means the effect of a missed timing will only be seen weeks later by which time the fungicides curative activity will be less effective at controlling disease and maintaining the crops yield potential.

Winter barley disease control

Slow early development meant T1 sprays were only applied towards the end of April. Aim to apply the T2 fungicide within four weeks of T1, ideally when the flag leaf and the first few awns have emerged. 

Best performance comes with Prothioconazole or an SDHI in the mix and Chlorothalonil gives best control of Ramularia. Note all Chlorothalonil containing products must be used by 20th May 2020.

Winter wheat disease control

A well timed T2 fungicide gives a bigger yield response in wheat than any other spray timing. Apply at flag leaf emergence no later than four weeks after the T1 spray.

The new triazole mefentrifluconazole from BASF found in Revystar should give better disease control than existing top performing SDHI/triazole fungicides. They would therefore be worth the extra spend at T2 for high yield potential crops under high disease pressure. 

To maintain longevity and efficacy of both mefentrifluconazole and SDHI fungicides it is important to use these key actives responsibly as part of fungicide programmes. This will minimise the risk of resistant septoria strains developing.

Follow label advice, only use where necessary, never apply more than twice in a season, keep up dose rates of both SDHI and mefentrifluconazole in mixes and always use in combination with a multisite protectant.  As Chlorothalonil will be not available after 20th May, Folpet (Phoenix) is an alternative multisite which protects other active ingredients in the mix. 


As most spring cereals were sown by mid-April into good seedbeds they should be well established by now. Some received a pre or early post-emergence residual herbicide, however dry weather at application means this weed control strategy may not be as effective as desired and a top up may be needed.

If herbicide has not been applied yet, apply a mixture of at least two broad-spectrum herbicides when most of the weeds are at the two-four leaf stage. This ensures weed competition is removed early.

Earlier than normal sowing should mean good yield potential for spring cereals.  Tank mixing a low rate fungicide with the herbicide will prevent disease becoming established and protect yield potential. Apply nitrogen top dressing once tramlines are visible at the two-three leaf stage (GS 12 to 13). Later applications may green the crop but add little yield.


Plans should be in place for early weed control. If using pre-emergence herbicides check regularly to ensure they are applied on time to avoid crop damage. Following Diquat withdrawal, PPO inhibitors Spotlight and Gozai are alternative sprays for desiccation. They are effective on crops that are starting to senesce, but typically take one to two weeks longer to give the same effect as Diquat.

For later plantings take the shorter growing season into consideration. Reduce nitrogen (N) by 1.0 kg per hectare per day past the target planting date and apply remaining N pre crop emergence. Careful nitrogen management now will encourage earlier natural senescence and improve the probability of a successful burndown without Diquat.

Results from Euroblight 2019 show blight samples submitted from Northern Ireland were predominantly of the A37_2 strain which has reduced sensitivity to fluazinam (Shirlan). Given the widespread occurrence of this strain in Northern Ireland you can no longer rely on Shirlan for blight control.   

Greening and EFA requirements 

Recognising the difficulties growers would have complying with the three crop rule, DAERA Minister, Edwin Poots has announced his intention to bring forward a derogation from the Crop Diversification requirements for 2020 scheme year.

For information and guidance during the Convid-19 pandemic please refer to: