Weather: While the heatwave of last week is gone, the dry weather remains and Met Éireann is warning that it may linger for a lot longer than anyone expected. This is not good news, but it is also too early to say that a prolonged drought is definite. However, having a plan in place for it is a good strategy.
The first task is to ring-fence winter feed. This is when silage or other feeds are normally fed between the start and end of winter. Do not feed this silage during a dry spell. Because this dry spell is later than normal and if it continues for longer than expected, the prospect of getting a big burst in grass growth rates after the dry spell ends gets less likely. It could be a tricky end to the season to manage feed intake and cow condition score and have enough grass for next spring.
I’m reminded of the New Zealand advice, which is to make sure that a grass problem in one season doesn’t cross over to the next season. On some farms, drying off low-yielding cows and putting them on a restricted diet will help to lower demand, as will selling culls and non-essential stock. We are not at that stage yet, but it’s an option to be thinking about. Horsing in feed and horsing out cash to pay for it won’t be much fun nor make much financial sense. Retaining what cash is in the bank by minimising spending might be a better option in the event of a long drought.
Data: If there are decisions to be made around keeping or selling stock over the next few months, having data to back up the decision-making will be important. The two key bits of info are milk recording and pregnancy results. It’s possible to combine both into one event, to use milk recording for pregnancy testing.
The milk pregnancy test is fairly good at detecting what animals are pregnant, but less accurate at detecting what animals are empty, so cows that show up empty on the milk pregnancy test should be scanned to double check, as there is a greater chance that some of these are in-calf than there is of the cows presumed pregnant to be empty.
SCC and mastitis often increase when a lot of supplement is being fed, because cows tend to lie down near the feeding area and there are more flies around in warm weather. Book in a milk recording over the coming weeks to have the results back by mid-September.
Liners: Liners in milking machines should be changed every 2,000 milkings or every six months, whichever comes first. For a 10-unit parlour milking 100 cows twice a day, that means the liners should be changed every 100 days. A 20-unit parlour with 150 cows needs a liner change every five months. Short pulse tubes should be changed at the same time and long milk and pulse tubes should be changed every 18 or 24 months. A handy trick when changing rubberware is to heat the clusters in a bucket of hot water before removing the old rubber and soak the new rubber in hot water before putting them on. The hot water will soften the rubber and make it much easier to work with.