Mineral supplementation at grass should be considered for both suckler cows and beef cattle, say CAFRE advisors.

Research shows that mineral deficiency is a widespread problem in soils across Northern Ireland, with selenium and iodine deficiency of particular concern, especially for suckler cow fertility.

Trace elements play a key role in ovulation, conception and embryo survival. Although mineral deficiency can limit fertility, if overall nutritional needs are not met, fertility will still be compromised.

Also, consider mineral supplementation for beef cattle receiving no concentrates at grass. Many essential trace elements are involved in energy metabolism and therefore feed conversion efficiency.

If mineral levels in grazed grass are less than animals’ requirements, cattle may not grow to their potential.

The ideal way to identify a deficiency is to analyse a pooled blood sample from a group of untreated animals. This is usually done through your veterinary practitioner.

If a deficiency is identified, there are various options available for supplementation, from boluses to slow-release tablets through the drinking water.

With input costs continuing to increase, this is not the year to carry any passengers by forgiving or forgetting even the slightest of problems.

Record as much information as possible at lambing and calving to help with future replacement and culling decisions.

Identify problem ewes/cows based on poor mothering ability or persistent health problems, and sell them at the earliest opportunity.

This year's extremely wet weather has been challenging for all farmers, with very few able to graze silage ground in the early months.

However, the aim should be to cut silage by around mid- to late-May to ensure silage quality, which will have the benefit of reducing feeding expensive concentrates next winter.

With spring calving well under way or perhaps about to start in some herds, keep a close eye on young calves for scours, pneumonia and joint ill, even at grass.

Vaccination of calves for clostridial diseases should ideally be done before turnout as the risk of disease increases as they grow and eat more grass.

Also, if your cows need any boosters – or in the case of replacement heifers, vaccinations programmes – plan these in now to be completed well before the start of the breeding season.

April usually coincides with the emergence of two parasites, nematodirus and coccidiosis, which affect young lambs that are starting to eat grass (at five to six weeks of age).

These infections can be confused with each other as they both cause scour, which will severely impact performance.

Treatment programmes however are very different, and it is important to identify the cause of the problem as soon as possible. This can be done by getting dung samples analysed.

Discussion with your veterinary surgeon is essential to ensure correct diagnosis and treatment.

Treatment for nematodirus is usually a white drench (benzimidazole type drench). For coccidiosis, use a coccidiostat oral drench or medicated feed for lambs that are being creep fed.

The medication for the creep feed can be fed at a preventive or control rate, but a prescription from your veterinary surgeon is required before your supplier adds it into the concentrate ration.

In all cases, consult your vet before purchasing and administering any treatments.