Assess quality and quantity of kale and pasture in the wake of the 'freeze'
In June 2006, a year after my decision to leave the family dairy farm in England, I was working for Dexcel (now known as DairyNZ) in New Zealand as a consulting officer in Canterbury.
As the seasons are the reverse of ours, for the spring calving herd this was similar to December being the start of the dry period, so drying off, condition score and closing covers had been the topics of discussions with dairy farmers. However, on June 12 there was a snow storm, which today has gone down in history as a notable event, with a few of the older farmers in the area likening it to the snow event of 1945 and 1967.
Depths of snow across Canterbury were substantial, with the most of my region having received around 30cm. As snow does, this caused a big challenge, especially because there had been considerable damage to the electricity distribution system, with many farmers being without electricity for more than a week.
As a result, we at Dexcel worked furiously over the next few days to bring together information which would help farmers cope with the challenging conditions, and launched a series of Snow Response meetings.
It reminded me of a few points that may have relevance for Ireland when faced with this spell of cold weather or the possibility of snow.
Freezing cold weather in Ireland always brings visions of farmers running around with hot water trying to get running water into troughs. This often feels likely a thankless task but animals need access to ample, clean water whether out grazing crops, on a pad or housed. Animals can't supplement their water intake from snow -- 10ga of snow is only equal to 1ga of water -- and water is especially important when feeding concentrates, hay or straw.
For those grazing kale, there are issues to be aware of:
- Secure stock after a heavy snowfall;
- How to manage the crop after a heavy fall of snow;
- Avoiding the risk of nitrate poisoning.