As more herds are dried off, attention will be turning to the dosing regime for the winter. New regulations on the sale and supply of dosing products have been delayed, but farmers should still consider dosing to be on a ‘needs only’ basis.
Cows that are housed will not be exposed to fluke or worms, so if they don’t have these parasites now, they won’t pick them up over the winter.
However, after a wet September and October, cows could very well have been more exposed to both lungworm and fluke than in other years.
If left untreated, both could present major animal health problems over the coming months. The results of bulk tank milk testing should be used with caution.
For example, if the test was carried out five weeks ago and animals continued grazing for another three weeks, they could have picked up high levels of fluke larvae since the test was taken.
Faecal sampling cows after being housed for a few weeks will give a good indication whether or not fluke is present, as will factory liver reports from any cows slaughtered.
Faecal sampling is not a good indicator of the presence of lungworm, so check for other signs such as coughing, ill-thrift etc. Make sure that whatever doses are used are approved for dairy cows and comply with withdrawal periods. Many combination doses approved for dairy cows only treat adult liver fluke.
Despite all the rain I see there are still some herds out grazing, mostly by day only. Grass growth rates have been much higher than normal up to now. Soil temperatures are variable; slightly below normal at Cork Airport but over two degrees higher than normal in Carlow.
According to PastureBase, average farm cover is 698kg/ha and growth rate for the last week was 14kg/day. The prediction for the week ahead is that grass growth will be in or around 10kg/ha/day which is still very good.
Most farmers I speak to are concerned about the fact that there is too much grass on some paddocks. Too much grass at this time of year is anything above 1,200kg/ha. However, in many situations grazing these fields now risks doing too much damage.
In this case it is better to leave them and graze them during better weather in December or January, even if that means grazing them with dry cows. Poaching needs to be avoided now at all costs.
Carrying over some high covers is not as much of an issue on dry farms with a high demand for grass.
It’s a good idea to get some provisional financial accounts together and talk to the accountant or tax adviser about how to mitigate a massive tax bill next year. Those with a lot of milk fixed don’t have much to worry about.
Markets are uncertain, so who knows what type of a year 2023 will be. If capital investment is planned, spend the money in areas that will deliver a high return and/or make the farm more sustainable.
Calf housing and calving facilities continue to be a crunch point on many farms. There is big interest in computerised calf feeders, but be aware that if banding is likely to be an issue feeding whole milk will reduce average yield per cow.