One of the main reasons that we all love agriculture is that no two days, seasons or farms are the same. At a time where we are seeing an unseasonably warm, dry spell, what can we hope to achieve by ‘controlling the controllables’?
Although the weather is a key influencing factor on grass availability, crop establishment/growth and farmer moods, there is absolutely nothing that any of us can do about it! There are, however, some simple things that we can do for our cows to ensure that they remain as healthy, happy and productive as possible.
With milk supply tightening due to lower-than-forecasted milk yields and talk of milk prices increasing, we need to give our cows the correct nutrition now to ensure that they continue to deliver the litres (at the desired milk quality) to capitalise on stronger milk prices.
Some important factors to consider:
Are you being realistic about the quantity of fresh grass available to your cows?
Grass growth rate has declined considerably (you don’t need us to tell you that!), making the situation extremely challenging. Very high soil moisture deficits will mean that grass growth will be slower to recover along with nitrogen demand and uptake.
Are you ensuring the cows are receiving enough high-quality feed to support the desired level of milk production?
We appreciate that you all look forward to cows going out in the summer months to ease the burden on yard routines and free up time for that all-important harvesting, but we do need to be mindful of available feed management factors where access to fresh grass is limited/non-existent;
- Consider feeding out twice a day to prevent feed heating.
- Think about access and space at troughs/feed fence.
- Clean troughs out more frequently to avoid heating and/or mouldy feed contaminating fresh feed.
- Consider the amount of time spent in collecting yards.
- Try splitting cows into groups to ensure your early lactation/high yielders get the goodies they need.
- Consider early drying off if/where possible.
- Think about clamp management – are you able to move across the face quicker to prevent heating?
- Think about moisture content, especially if providing buffer outside.
Do the cows have enough access to fresh, clean water?
Sarah highlighted the need for clean, fresh water in our June newsletter; a 40-litre cow can drink up to 200 litres of water a day. Do you have enough troughs, with good enough water pressure, which are clean and fresh and able to withstand the demand of your herd?
How are your forage stocks holding up?
Off the back of a long winter, there isn’t an abundance of 2017 forages left. If you have had to open clamps, please ask for our help to make the best use of available forages. Having the conversation now still gives us time to devise the best possible feed plan for your herd.
Remember the young ones!
When times get tough and grazing is lacking, there is a temptation to keep youngstock tight. Please be mindful that these are the future profit generators of your farming business. We need to ensure that they receive the correct nutrient supply for their age and stage to support growth, development and fertility so that they can get (and hold) in calf and seamlessly enter the herd in the future.
Think about dry and transition cows!
Although the nutrient demands of our heavily pregnant girls are nothing like that of our early lactation ladies, we need to provide them with the right amount of all of the nutrients they need to ensure a stress-free calving (for you and the cow) and successful transition into milk, reaching the required peak yield for your herd.
What are the cows telling us?
- Dry matter intakes/ difficulties in estimating just how much fresh grass they are eating?
- Rumen fill (guide to what cows have eaten in last 4 – 6 hours)
- Body Condition Score (are you measuring this? If not, we can help!)
- Manure consistency
- Milk in bulk tank
Who knows what the weather has in store for us in the coming weeks and months but please do consider supplementing grass to enable you to optimise milk contracts and maximise herd health, fertility and productivity. We are on hand to help with forage stock management, rationing advice, locomotion scoring, body condition scoring and much more so please just ask!