Costs: With rising costs of fertiliser and meal, along with most other inputs, 2022 is looking like an expensive year to farm.
The saving grace is that output prices should remain relatively high, but Teagasc is predicting dairy farm incomes will fall by as much as 22% in 2022.
It’s a wake-up call for those in high-input systems, whether those inputs are fertiliser, meal or both.
To know the impact of rising costs on your farm, you need to study your financial performance.
Many discussion groups will be organising costs meetings through profit monitor or other tools over the coming weeks.
Part of the exercise should be to look ahead to next year and do a budget based on much higher input costs.
Some farmers have options to mitigate these costs, such as surplus silage, fertiliser already purchased, have good soil fertility and will delay buying compounds to the autumn, or already have a high proportion of the farm with good clover content, meaning they can reduce their nitrogen use.
Others might decide to sell surplus stock to reduce demand for grass and other feeds and run a lower-cost farm for the year.
Lameness: Cows being housed doesn’t mean lameness isn’t a concern. With no long walks, it’s sometimes harder to detect lame cows especially when they are dry.
While most lameness in Irish herds is caused by injury to the sole and usually occurs while walking to and from the paddock, other types of lameness can be common when housed.
Digital dermatitis or mortellaro is a serious and highly contagious disease.
Most herds don’t have it, and should try to keep it that way.
Other bacterial diseases such as foul of the foot are also common during the housed period and in some other cases injuries picked up while grazing may only present themselves now.
Early identification and treatment of lame cows during the dry period is critical.
It’s good practice to run dry cows through a footbath weekly to clean and disinfect hooves and identify any slow-moving cows that need attention.
Keeping sheds and yards clean is also important because a lot of the causes of infectious lameness are due to dirty conditions.
Scrapers should run as often as necessary to keep passages clean.
Any other area where cows congregate should also be kept clean, such as crossover points and around water troughs/feed face.
Minerals: At this stage, dry cows due to calve in February and March should be on pre-calver minerals. With a myriad of options, it’s sometimes hard to decide which one to pick. The main ingredients affecting price are phosphorus and magnesium and also inclusion rate of copper and vitamins A, D3 and E. Iodine is an important element, however its inclusion rate in minerals has decreased in line with recommendations.
An increasing number of herds are experiencing iodine deficiency, most commonly expressed as a high rate of stillbirths, particularly in first-calving heifers. Feeding rates are 120g per cow per day, so compare different specs to this.
Some farmers will feed additional magnesium to cows as they get closer to calving, particularly where there is a history of milk fever in the herd.