As outlined on pages 40 and 41, most places have received over 1.5 times the normal amount of rain for the month of March. It has been extremely challenging to get grass into cows and as a result, milk protein per cent seems to have crashed on most farms.

It will recover as soon as grass intake increases again, but it just highlights the importance of grass in the diet of freshly calved cows.

The forecast is looking better and grass growth rates are expected to increase a lot over the coming week, so grass intake should get back to normal soon. At some point over the next week to 10 days, decisions will have to be made about when to start the second round.

For some it will be determined by when they finish the first round and for others it will mean having to skip over the rest of the first round to commence the second rotation.

It’s critically important that the farm is walked every six or seven days, as even if it’s not being measured the changes in growth rates will be obvious. Use the best available information to make decisions.

The worst thing to do now is to not make a decision in time and before you know it the cows are going into covers that are too high.


It’s concerning that most maiden heifers have had little or no grass in the diet this spring. The risk is that they will be under target weight for breeding.

The target weight for most stock is 330kg liveweight at breeding and given that they only do 0.4kg to 0.5kg daily liveweight gain in the shed on silage and meal, those that are weighing less than 310kg now could be under pressure to reach that target.

The other thing is you would like them to be settled at grass for three or four weeks before breeding starts.

There is a big increase in farmers using fixed time AI synchronisation programmes on maiden heifers. These do away with the need for heat detection, but are costly in terms of drugs and require a good few handlings in the run-up to AI.

Success is mixed, with 60% conception rate to first service fairly typical. Nonetheless, it’s a useful means of using sexed semen on the genetically best animals on the farm.

The now traditional approach to synchronisation of watching for seven days and then giving prostaglandin to those not served is still a good option.

In any case, it probably makes sense to start breeding the heifers a few days to a week earlier than the cows to give those that repeat a chance to go in-calf early and to give those that calve early a longer time to recover after calving before breeding in their first lactation.


The deadline for submitting what nitrates band the farm will fall into for 2023 is this Friday 31 March. Farmers who have not yet submitted their band should log on to the ICBF Herdplus website and submit it from there.

Those that don’t submit their band will be deemed to be in the high band, so it’s an important task. The deadline for nitrates derogations is fast approaching on 14 April.

It is likely that many more farmers will have to apply for a derogation this year because of banding.