Weather: While the last week has seen excellent weather, it’s not going to last so make the most of it.
Western coastal regions are expected to get some rain over the weekend while more widespread rain is due by Tuesday.
Most farms are in a good position and land has dried out well. However, it won’t be long getting wet again if we get heavy rain.
A key action before the rain returns is to get nitrogen (N)spread on grazing ground. Fields that haven’t got any N or slurry to date should be getting around 30 units/acre now. On farms where N was spread in January or early February, the second round will be due now too.
Some farmers will spread a compound fertiliser in the second round of fertiliser in March, such as 18:6:12. The N element in these compounds is less stable in the soil compared to urea. I think they are better suited to the second round of grazing in April and to spread ordinary urea now, at a rate of around 30 units/acre. Reduce this on fields that got slurry.
All dry fields, even those with high covers, should get spread with N.
Grazing: Heavy farms will need to pick and choose dry spots for grazing, but there is more choice on dry farms. Where this choice exists, it’s a good idea to try and get wetter areas grazed off before the weather changes.
Where 30% to 40% of the farm has been grazed to date, it would be no harm to start going into some higher covers. Research shows these high covers (more than 1,800kg/ha) maintain good quality up to mid-March but start to deteriorate then.
Farms with a lot less grazed than target need to continue to work through the low covers for the next week or two and maximise the area grazed. They should use the high covers to slow down the rotation at the end of March while they wait for the first grazed paddocks to recover.
Animal health: March can be a month of many weathers, and many problems. With regard to calves, watch that sheds aren’t overcrowded and that calves have adequate ventilation. Try to avoid moving calves from pen to pen. Clean and sterilise feeding equipment after use.
With daytime temperatures hitting 12°C and 13°C, it’s hard to keep milk from going sour. As mentioned previously, making yoghurt will help preserve milk. Start off by adding natural yoghurt to a small quantity of fresh milk and leave it to culture before adding it to more milk.
Watch for cows that are off form and not eating. This could signify stomach problems, ketosis or a displaced abomasum.
The best place to spot a sick cow is in the parlour if she doesn’t eat her nuts or in the field immediately after turning out to grass. Healthy cows should graze vigorously after milking. There are reports of grass tetany in some herds so check that cows are getting enough magnesium.
A lot of the standard dairy nuts have magnesium included at a 4kg feed rate whereas most herds at grass full-time can get away with less meal. Alternative options include adding magnesium to water or paddock dusting to get full cover.