Breeding: Vets are reporting a big increase in progesterone device sales as part of fertility programmes.
These are usually used as part of a fixed-time AI protocol, requiring other hormones such as prostaglandin.
Using these programmes on otherwise healthy, cycling cows is dodgy territory.
Past experience is that overall pregnancy rate and six week in-calf rate is not significantly greater when these programmes are used on healthy cows, but the farmer still has to carry the cost and hassle. It’s different for use on heifers or problem cows.
Those using hormones to get problem cows back cycling should only inseminate these cows with a beef straw, so there is no chance of keeping dairy heifer calves from them.
While AI technicians are busy, some farmers are reporting slower than normal submission rates. The cold weather probably isn’t helping. Keep tail paint topped up and increase monitoring times as heat duration could be shorter than normal.
Reseeding: Normally, dairy farmers would have new grass seeds in the ground by now. While some have been able to carry out reseeding, most haven’t been able to take out paddocks for reseeding or silage yet. Is it too late to go reseeding when growing conditions improve? At this stage the best-case scenario is to be sowing grass seeds in late May.
While five or six weeks later than you would like, it’s still not too late. The biggest risk is that June will come very dry and the seeds won’t get established properly but that’s a risk confined mostly to very light soils in low rainfall areas.
Identify the paddocks for reseeding based on grass growth and quality. Make sure to address any other issues such as soil fertility or drainage before reseeding.
With the new rules on grazing milking cows on grass sprayed with glyphosate, some farmers are deciding to spray fields five to seven days after grazing. This is instead of spraying five to seven days before cutting for silage, which is awkward at light covers.
Neither approach is ideal. Spraying after grazing risks not getting enough contact with leaf surfaces of grass and weeds. It also risks there being too much thrash for minimum-tillage. All farmers should include clover in reseeds and use a clover-safe weed spray to keep it in the sward.
Calves: Weaned calves should be grazing the best-quality grass available. Most farmers will keep them on meal for another month or so, but if they are on good grass and thriving, a grass-only diet will suffice.
Worm doses should not be required until later in the season. Watch out for coccidiosis. Calves should be given a preventative treatment on farms with a history of coccidiosis.
The eggs can survive for over a year outdoors and dirty conditions increase the risk of calves picking them up.
Move meal troughs regularly and fix any leaking water troughs to reduce the risks of calves ingesting coccidiosis eggs.
It is possible to add medication to the feed but consult with your vet on the best course of action for your farm. The highest risk point is from three weeks to six months of age.