Weather: Heavy rain mid-week has hastened housing on many farms, but they may get back out again.
Grass growth is running about 30% to 40% higher than normal for the time of year and regrowth from earlier grazed paddocks is much higher than expected.
Those on heavier land will always be slow to carry over high covers through the winter, as its unlikely they’ll be able to get out to grass early in spring.
There is rain forecast in most places for the weekend and beyond, so it could be a matter of grabbing opportunities when you can.
If ground is tricky, the key thing is to make the most of grazing opportunities when they come, ie graze night and day when you can.
For those on drier land where grazing is determined by grass availability rather than ground conditions, it’s all about average farm cover. The main opportunity is in the spring, with a much greater return from early spring grazing compared to late autumn grazing, both in terms of workload and profit.
Depending on stocking rate, the farm should have a closing cover on 1 December of between 650kg and 900kg/ha. There’s no issue with housing cows for a day or so during the worst of the weather, if it avoids damaging fields.
Drying off: I was chatting to a farmer during the week who is targeting his high SCC cows with a very long dry period. These cows will be dried off in the next week or so, regardless of calving date. In his experience, this is the most effective way of curing a chronic infection.
While there is a cost in terms of lost milk sales, there is a cost to SCC also, particularly if the alternative is culling. The key thing to remember at drying off is hygiene, both in the drying off process and afterwards in terms of where the cows are lying both immediately after being dried off and for the remainder of the dry period. Sheds are not ideal, but they’re the best we have. Wet and damp conditions magnify the problem. As more people use selective dry cow therapy, cubicle hygiene is going to come into closer focus.
Bedding materials should help to reduce infection pressure by either raising or lowering the pH to a level that makes it hard for bacteria to live. The likes of sawdust or straw are more or less pH neutral, so there needs to be lime or other agent added to affect the pH of the bed. Keeping the bed clean is also important. Brisket boards have a big role to play here and are absent on many farms. The brisket board should have a rounded edge like a 4in or 5in pipe and be placed in such a way that the cow can lie comfortably on the cubicle bed, but not too far forward, so that any defecation ends up on the passage. Teagasc guidelines are 1.65m from the edge for a 540kg cow, 1.68m for a 580kg cow and 1.78m for a 650kg cow.
Slurry: Farmers who are availing of a nitrates derogation are reminded that they have until 31 October to submit a return for any slurry exported off the farm. This must be done online using www.agfood.ie and the farmer receiving the slurry must accept the movement online also.