Dairy: Steady grazing strategy will avoid a sharp reduction in diet quality
Published 23/03/2016 | 02:30
The weather has been gloriously good and cows have gone to grass. It's as if karma has been restored because housed cows created an increased workload on man and increased disease pressures on beast, with SCC being harder to control especially where there were issues with overcrowding.
Please remember that where grazing was limited or even zero in February and early March, you have forgone grass growth that would have occurred on grazed paddocks.
Therefore the objective is not to race through the grass you have but to strategically ration it out until there has been enough regrowth on the first grazed paddocks to sufficiently start the second grazing rotation.
Going too quick and running short of pasture in April must be avoided as reducing the diet quality through silage as the cows come closer to peak yield and the start of mating will have a detrimental effect on the cow.
The quality of the cow's diet must improve every day from here on. Now there is also a risk of being too cautious resulting in early surpluses of grass which can reduce grass quality so the weekly grass walk is an essential part of March and April management decisions.
The change in the weather has also been beneficial for calf rearing. Where calves are inside, good weather reduces the occurrence of damp beds and the repeated need for bedding. For calves outside, dry weather provides the perfect dry lie and the opportunity for daily liveweight gain to take off.
Having calves outside in bad weather has a number of challenges and once a calf is setback, it seems to take a number of weeks of preferential care to bring them back to target.
Having talked to a number of farmers in recent weeks, there have been plenty of problems and in particular calves with scour this year. If scour has been giving you a headache this spring, obviously knowing what you are dealing with by testing a number of stool samples is a good start. Knowing this information may make you change parts of your system or your strategy for calf rearing in subsequent years.