My leisurely farm life crashed to a halt last week as calving got under way. It began a week ahead of schedule and early arrivals seem to be the order of the day in the calving shed. The closest to the due date so far has been five days early. It began with a pair of heifers calving the weekend before last, and with the two earliest calvers out of the way, I was expecting a calm and easy week. I was wrong. On Thursday, a cow calved over two weeks early and another threw a calf over a month ahead of time.
Those events were sandwiched in between a pair of heifers that calved with the opposite extremes that can happen when heifers calf.
The morning began with what I thought was a heifer straining as if she was pushing out the water bag. On closer inspection, I found her calf had wandered off a bit so all ended well there. Another heifer was off form that afternoon and while I was around the yard, I left her progress as much as she could herself.
With no progress, I handled her to discover something wasn’t right. She had a twisted womb and resulted in a C-section. In terms of temperament, they were also totally different, so I was lucky it was the quieter one that required the assistance.
I left them in the calving area for the week and in an effort to win over the flightier one, they are getting a handful of ration twice a day when I’m passing. Treats like that are a useful tool to have.
There’s a trio of heifers left to calve over the next 10 days and another pair of late ones in April. They are the ones that you would be that little bit more concerned about. It’s only occasionally that the cows need intervention, especially those on their third calf or older.
Hopefully once the wind and rain ease off and ground conditions improve, they’ll go out to grass. If there’s a positive to getting all this bad weather now, it’s that it’s still early in the year and there’s no harm getting it out of the way. We might get a run of better weather in March.
Our solution to the proposed rise in fertiliser prices will be to try and further reduce our use of it. The soil sample results look pretty good, so slurry should take care of most of the P and K requirements.
Slurry has been our go-to fertiliser in the first half of the year and bagged fertiliser is aimed more at silage production.
Over the last three years, we have held off spreading urea until the end of March or early April. Weather conditions have either been too cold or too wet to go out any earlier, and to-date that system has worked out.
If a dry spell does come, priority will be given to getting the maiden heifers out to grass and getting them trained in. I’ll leave them stand out in the yard the first day or so if damp conditions prevail and give them a handful of ration back in the shed. It makes life easier in the long run.