Grazing: The big bounce in grass growth post the dry spell has largely failed to materialise.
While growth rates are good, they are not much higher than what you would expect at this time of year.
Current growth rates are lower than last year, but on a par with 2019. Farmers that were a bit blasé about hitting autumn cover targets because they were expecting a big bounce in growth may need to reconsider their plans.
Effectively, there are about five weeks of decent grass growth left in the grazing year. Once September is out, growth rates will crash.
Every farmer needs to do a grass budget over the next few weeks to know where they are relative to target and what action, if any, needs to be taken.
Budgeting: The easiest way to do a grass budget is to use PastureBase, Agrinet or other grass software programmes. You need to fill in cow numbers, area available, how much grass you plan to feed and what you expect grass growth rates to be, and it will tell you what the average farm cover will be for each week. The key figures are to hit an average farm cover of 900kg to 1,200kg/ha by late September and a closing cover of 500kg to 900kg/ha by 1 December. The grass budget removes the guesswork and gives peace of mind, but you must be measuring grass to get the most out of it.
Mastitis: After years of decline, national somatic cell count (SCC) levels are rising again and many farmers are having problems with SCC this year. If high SCC is caused by clinical mastitis, you will have cows in the herd with clots. Strip all cows and identify and treat the infected cows and quarters.
That’s the first port of call, even if there are no obvious clots in the milk sock. Failing that, there will be cows with a sub-clinical infection causing the bulk tank SCC to rise. These cows are infected, but don’t have clots. Milk recording will identify cows with a high SCC and these can then be quarter sampled or tested with a CMT paddle to identify the quarter for treatment.
Before treating any cow, a sample should be collected and either stored in the freezer or sent away for analysis, depending on how severe the outbreak is. If the sample is frozen, it and other samples from different cows can be sent away in early autumn for analysis, the results of which will help to decide what type of antibiotic dry cow tube is best suited to the herd.
Teat spray: Older cows with chronic infections and cows with staph aureus are almost impossible to cure.The best treatment is probably to slaughter them. If staph aureus is present, preventing infection spreading to other cows will be a critical step. Teat spraying is an important control measure for the prevention of mastitis. You often see teats half sprayed on farms, but to do it right the whole surface area of the teat needs to be covered. If SCC is rising, use the next few weeks to get on top of it, before the autumn and the winter housing period when SCC will rise anyway.