Dairy: Don't under-estimate the toll stress can take on herd performance
Dairy farmers have accepted the fact that reduced milk prices will be a feature of the business for the foreseeable future. The current milk price has dampened any thought of future expansion.
Many farmers have accepted that any expansion completed to date has placed an extra stress on both the owner and livestock.
As herd size increases in grass-based milk production systems, cows are walking further to graze grass. This has led to the construction of more road underpasses and farm roadways to access grass.
Zero grazing has been introduced on some farms to reduce the amount of walking required and where farm fragmentation is a limiting factor. One client informed me that milk production dropped by three litres per day in peak season when cows had to walk in excess of a mile to graze grass.
Farmers are now actively considering both the financial costs of expansion and also the ability to recruit skilled labour for dairy herd management.
Any sort of stress will reduce immunity against disease. Farm roadways become an issue in terms of lameness as bad weather increases the risk of foot injuries. Montellaro inter-digital dermatitis and consequent loss in body condition score (BCS) are all too frequent on many dairy farms.
Farm visits at this time of year are primarily associated with assessing reproductive performance. Accurate ageing of pregnancies, cows carrying twins, and the fertility status of empty cows are of primary concern.
With the super-levy disincentive gone, some farmers are planning to milk later into the season, including milking late calvers through the Christmas period. Accurate ageing of pregnancies will be essential if you plan to focus on an eight week dry cow periods. It is also essential to focus on the BCS of the cows.