9 things dairy farmers can do now to save time next spring

FarmIreland Team

Teagasc is warning farmers not to wait until after Christmas to start planning for the calving workload.

It will be too late. Now is the time for planning and preparing, it says.

Teagasc says it takes time to change your practices/habits, so use the month of December to set yourself up for the busiest time on your farm. Otherwise, you will end up doing the same as last year, it says.

Here are Teagasc’s top tips for saving time next spring:

1. Plan your winter dry off and feeding so that cows calve in correct body condition score (BCS). Put an appropriate dry cow mineral feeding programme in place.

2. Plan to get cows to grass after calving. Do you need additional cow tracks or paddock openings?

3. Calves that get off to a good start are less work. How will calves be fed colostrum?

4. Order and have available all necessary veterinary supplies.

5. Assess your calving and calf-rearing facilities. Have you adequate space for all expected calves? A calf in the first weeks of life needs a floor space of 1.7m2. It’s too late to build a new facility, so you must plan with existing ones. Can you modify existing houses? Does the floor need resurfacing and drainage? Alternatively, quick housing (hutches) could be the solution.

6. Moving cows/calves around some yards can be very laborious. Get someone else to check animal flow around your yard. Some simple changes may make this movement easier, e.g., gates, new entrances to sheds.

7. You must also prepare yourself for calving. Take a break in January from milking and the farm.

8. If you have decided that additional help is needed in spring, start looking now. Talk to neighbours and other farmers. Perhaps using a contractor, e.g., slurry, fertiliser and for some milkings will be a solution. Make arrangements now. Consider once a day milking of cows during February.

9. Use a discussion group meeting in November/ December to discuss options for reducing workload in February/March. If you are not in a group, get another farmer to look at how you propose to manage next spring. Many farmers have been forced to change their calving, calf-rearing and work procedures during February and March as their herd sizes increased. But it is always preferable to plan the changes in advance rather than having them forced on you at the peak of calving.

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