After a brief respite from the rain over Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, it looks like the weather is going to turn wet again from Tueaday night with wintery weather forecast for the rest of the week.

Farmers should avoid spreading fertiliser or slurry on Monday, even if ground conditions are suitable.

Ground conditions

It's grab and go when it comes to grazing this spring and many farmers haven’t been able to get out at all as ground conditions are just too wet.

Keeping cows in the shed is a good strategy if the alternative is unavoidable damage. It is next to impossible to avoid doing damage when it is raining, even on free draining soils.

However, every effort should be made to enable cows to get to grass and farmers should be walking paddocks regularly to assess options.

Where conditions are tricky, letting cows out for two or three hours at a time is good practice as it minimises damage.

When cows are indoors they should be fed the best-quality silage available, on most farms this is high-quality bale silage made from surplus grass during the year.

Alternative forages

If alternative forages are available such as beet or maize then this should be fed to the milking cows also, but note that these are low in protein and so the diet will need to be balanced.

In terms of meal, the costs of feed have increased significantly compared to two or three years ago, so it is in everyone’s interest to reduce feed costs by feeding less.

However, when cows are indoors on silage, meal should be used to try and balance the diet. It will never fully replace what grass has, because the protein and energy available in grass is very high.

In my book, feeding 4kg or 5kg of high energy dairy feed is probably sufficient for most farms when there is no grass in the diet. This level of meal feeding can be reduced when grass is on the menu.