Experts from Scotland's Rural college are encouraging suckled calf producers to enhance the rations fed to their pregnant beef cows in the two to three weeks before they are due to calve.

SAC Consulting's beef specialist Gavin Hill says he has been increasingly asked about cows taking too long pushing the calf out.

"In some cases prolonged calvings can result in more calf deaths. The simple change to feeding we are recommending should help to overcome the problem at very little cost. The goal is to ensure that cows can effectively mobilise calcium from their body to allow the birth process to proceed," said Mr Hill.

SAC Consulting now recommend that higher levels of magnesium are fed 2-3 weeks before calving - for example by feeding an extra 30gms per day of high magnesium mineral (15% magnesium) along with the normal minerals.

This extra magnesium will help mobilise the cows' reserves of calcium, improving muscle tone in the womb.

Producers would need to know the expected cows' calving date and group them accordingly.

Predicted calving dates can only be determined by pregnancy diagnosis (unless AI has been used) and SAC Consulting strongly urges producers who have not already had their herd pregnancy diagnosed do so soon.

Pregnancy results so far suggest that the very cold late spring of 2013 has resulted in similar high numbers of barren cows as in the previous year. Identifying such animals early, to fatten them where necessary and cull them, will save tight supplies of winter feed and minimise the loss to the business.

Market reports

Harrison & Hetherington Ltd sold 130 store bullocks in Lockerbie on Tuesday to a top of 298.3p per kg and an average of 207.3p, while 93 store heifers peaked at 405.4p and levelled at 206.4p.

The Cumberland and Dumfriesshire Farmers Mart had 32 prime cattle forward at their weekly sale in Dumfries yesterday when heifers sold to 243.5p and averaged 217.8p, while bullocks peaked at 231.5p and levelled at 218.1p.

There were 86 OTM cattle presented in the rough ring when beef cows averaged 121.2p and dairy cow levelled at 90.6p.

The firm also sold 533 prime hoggs to a top of £90 per head and 206p per kg to average 172.3p. The 228 cast sheep forward saw heavy ewes sell to £75.50 for a Suffolk and average £52.24, while light ewes peaked at £43.50 for Lleyns and levelled at £41.23.