Grazing: Most farmers are well behind on area grazed, as weather and ground conditions are just not good enough. Even those that have been pushing hard to get cows out are behind on target area, which is 30% of the farm to be grazed in February. All is not lost, as there is a lot less rain forecast for the next seven days.

Farmers should go hammer and tongs to get as much area grazed as possible when conditions allow. Start with the paddocks with the lowest covers. If these got slurry in mid-January with trailing shoe or dribble bar they should be OK to be grazed around now.

Let cows out day and night, and remove silage from the diet. If concerned about grazing very low covers, alternate day and night grazings between covers of 800kg and covers of 1,200kg DM/ha. The next weeks should present an opportunity to get nitrogen applied.

On paddocks that got no nitrogen or slurry to date, I would be inclined to go with 25 units/acre now and another 25 units/acre in mid-to-late March. Paddocks that have been grazed should get slurry after grazing, if they haven’t received any nutrients yet. See more on grassland management on pages 36-38.

Tags: Based on conversations I’ve had with farmers over the last 10 days, there is a lot of anger out there over delays at getting blue cards back where the farmers are participating in the genotyping programme. The frustration is real as calf sheds are filling up fast and farmers are under pressure to sell calves. To be fair to ICBF, it is a big job co-ordinating the samples and they say that in the main, the programme is running well with just 2% of samples received being in the lab for longer than seven days.

Even though the percentage is small, it still adds up to a lot of calves and a lot of affected farmers waiting longer than they should for blue cards. In a change to procedure, any sample staying in the lab longer than 10 days will automatically get a blue card issued, so hopefully this will address some of the issues some farmers have been getting.

The key point remains to post samples off at least twice a week. More farmers are having trouble with tags breaking or sending away empty samples unbeknownst to themselves.

This is a major problem for those affected, and many have been left waiting for up to an hour on the phone to re-order a tissue tag and then the blue card is delayed. There are some farmers with up to 10% of tags or vials breaking. It can’t all be down to operator error. There is suspicion about some defect with the tags or the tagger. The tag supplier needs to recognise this and rectify it if the product is found to be defective.

Milk fever: Milk fever appears to be a problem on many farms. Cows that are in good body condition score and that have been fed good quality silage are more at risk. Older and higher yielding cows are also at risk.

Prevention is based on giving more magnesium before calving or more calcium after calving. In terms of cost and simplicity, magnesium is easier to manage. Mag flakes or sweetened cal mag can be sprinkled on dry cow silage and it works well.