Summary from Community Group Day, 4 August 2010

Morning Workshop Topics - ‘Collecting more information from your farm'

Ewe Body-Condition Scoring (BCS) pdf Body condition scoring ewes (0.22MB) 

  • This is done by feeling the amount of muscle and fat cover over the short ribs and spine (between the ribs and the pelvis).
  • You need to push quite firmly with your fingers and feel under the short ribs to ascertain the amount of tissue cover.
  • There is a very good written description of the various scores and how they feel on pages 108 & 109 of ‘200 by 2000 - a guide to improved lambing percentage' available from B+LNZ. Ignore the diagrams though, they are misleading.
  • Score 1 = emaciated, Score 2 = thin (ends of short ribs feel sharp), Score 3 = rounded cover over short ribs but can still feel without very hard pressure, Score 4 = prime, Score 5 = overfat.
  • Target BCS 3+ at mating, knowing ewes will normally lose about 0.5 BCS over winter, to be in BCS 2.5 or better at lambing.

‘Quick & Dirty' Skinny Ewe Post Mortem

  • Key things to check: molar teeth problems, Johne's disease, parasitism, liver damage, pneumonia.
  • If you'd like a copy of a step-by-step guide to the 5-minute ewe post mortem, click here: pdf The farmer's 5-min ewe post mortem (0.39MB)  

Feed allocation to pregnant & lactating ewes

  • In the last 5 weeks of pregnancy, multiple bearing ewes should not be underfed.
  • This means not grazing paddocks lower than 1100kgDM whilst they are on rotation.
  • In winter/spring, 1100kg DM is about 2.5cm long.
  • A mixed-age ewe's lactation peaks at 7 to 14 days, so she must be well fed from the day she lambs; covers of 1400kgDM/ha (3.5cm) are ideal especially with earlier lambing dates but 1250kgDM/ha is OK if feed is growing well.

DIY soil testing - Jason Griffin, Ballance AgriNutrients pdf Soil testing (0.05MB) 

  • Taking your own soil samples can be useful; especially for individual paddocks that are due to go into crop/be regrassed. Also on many farms there is marked variation between paddocks/areas that may make targeted fertiliser application a smart option.
  • Up to 30 core samples per area is useful to get a truly representative fertility analysis.
  • The technical details of sampling are available in the document ‘Guide to DIY Soil Testing'.

Assessing soil condition - Malcolm Todd, Horizons Regional Council

  • To do a drop-shatter test, drop a 20 by 20 by 20cm block of soil, grass up, from waist height, onto a hard surface. Drop all the unbroken bits 3 times.  Then gently break apart the chunks that are still held together by roots. 
  • It is useful to compare soil from within the paddock to soil under the fenceline, which won't have been subject to the same pugging and compaction damage.

             Soil condition is assessed via the following indicators:

  • Aggregate size - aggregates should be small, round or crumb-like and 5-10mm across.
  • Worm count - 45+ worms is really good.
  • Aggregate colour - grey/orange indicates lack of oxygen in the soil.
  • Root mass - lots of roots are good, they build soil structure, resilience and feed the worms. Clover nodules are pink when they are fixing nitrogen.
  • The technical details of visual soild assessment (VSA) are available in the document ‘Visual soil assessment guidelines'. 

Afternoon seminar - ‘Getting the best from the beef herd'

Management of cows around calving pdf Managing calving cows - Trevor Cook (0.35MB) 

  • It's OK (in fact often beneficial) for beef cows to lose some condition in winter
  • But they must be fed to not lose condition in the 4 weeks before calving and the 4 weeks after calving. Easier when calving date matches feed supply with demand
  • Thin cows need to be preferentially fed to improve their condition - they are more likely to die, more likely to be empty if thin at calving
  • Aim for residuals of 1500kgDM/ha after calving to ensure cows not underfed
  • Make sure copper levels and worm challenge are not limiting performance

Mating management pdf Managing cows for mating (0.09MB) 

  • Reproductive efficiency of the beef herd has more than twice the impact on profitability as genetics for growth or carcass characteristics
  • So it's worth putting time into a plan to achieve high in-calf rates - covering:
    • Cow body condition
    • Bull soundness
    • Bull management
    • Animal health issues - Copper, Selenium, BVD

Bull Soundness pdf Bull presentation - smaller file (0.80MB) 

  • 13% of yearling bulls are sexually immature, sub-fertile or sterile.
  • 20% of adult bulls develop serious fertility problems between seasons.
  • A serviceability test, with semen collection into an AV (artificial vagina) is far easier than you think and will detect most bulls with fertility problems.
  • Test 30-60 days before planned start of mating.

Calving a cow pdf Calving tips (1.09MB) 

Labour:   the following are guides as to time, you may need to intervene if cow seems to be taking longer:

  • 1st stage (restlessness, tail up) 2-6 hours, longer (24h+ sometimes) in heifers
  • 2nd stage (lies down, pushes) average 70 minutes, shouldn't go longer than 2h from when water bag breaks
  • 3rd stage - passing of placenta, 30 mins-8 hours

When helping a cow:

    1. Be as clean as possible (bucket of water and disinfectant, clean arms and cow's back end.
    2. USE LOTS OF LUBE. Get a bottle to have on hand - it's not expensive and makes it WAAAY easier.
    3. If not making progress every 10 minutes, stop and reassess, probably best to call vet.


    1. Make sure there is a head & 2 front legs, or 2 back legs. If not, DON"T PULL, rearrange the calf first. Often need to push calf back first to get it presented right. USE LOTS OF LUBE.
    2. Learn how to put on a head rope/chain - makes life much easier.
    3. Tractors and farm bikes are not appropriate pullers - put on too much force .

Come along on the 10th November for a farm tour and a catch up on progress so far.