Farmers selling weanlings in the coming weeks have been warned to take precautions against inadvertently selling heifers in calf.
With the biggest weanling sales of the year taking place next month, farmers are being urged to separate weanling bulls and heifers before they become sexually mature.
Mart managers and buyers of weanling heifers estimate that around 5-7pc of heifer weanlings sold in the autumn turn up in calf, subsequently causing massive disruption on finishers' farms.
One buyer of up to 800 weanling heifers per year maintained that the value of a weanling heifer plummeted by at least 50pc if she was found to be in calf.
"Instead of a heifer fit for the factory worth €1,250, I'm left with a calved young cow worth €600-650 at best," he said.
"That's not counting feed costs, vets fees for a caesarean and maybe a dead calf."
ICSA suckler chairman Dermot Kelleher warned farmers to separate weanling bulls and weanling heifers on time. "Where there is doubt, farmers should consider scanning but only after 35 days have elapsed since heifers were in contact with bulls," he advised.
"Scanning is more cost effective than injecting heifers, especially when it can be combined with scanning cows which is normal practice on many suckler farms."
IFA livestock chairman Henry Burns said that the growing trend of selling weanlings as bulls instead of bullocks had resulted in an increase in heifers going in calf.
"As well as that, some breeds can reach sexual maturity at an extremely young age," he warned.
Vet Peadar O Scannail warned that farmers should steer away from using prostaglandin injections as a blanket-style treatment for heifers before sale.
"Farmers should have their vet out to handle and/or scan heifers that may have been caught by a bull," he advised.
- Caitriona Murphy
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