Ensure cows are conditioned to help make pregnancies easy
The implications of a superlevy on excess milk production above quota available have been highlighted in the past month. In contrast, a superlevy will not pertain in Northern Ireland.
This is now the main market for autumn-calving stock. While autumn calving is getting going in the North this aspect of dairying is in demise in the Republic. The costs of milk production and quota management are the primary reasons for this.
Many farmers will have their milk quota full by the end of this month, with no quota available for spring-calving in February/ March. Empty cows are being identified by scanning. These are the first cows to be removed from the system.
Cull cow prices are excellent for good feeder cows. However, there is poor demand for the small Jersey-cross cows. My recommendation here has been to recycle them as replacements next year if they have been scanned as reproductively sound. The empty Holstein Friesian cows are being dried off early this year. They will be sold as feeder cows.
Previously, these cows were milked through the winter and recycled for breeding. With excess breeding stock on most farms and quota management a major issue, this practice will not continue.
The superlevy scenario is being exacerbated by current milk prices. High milk solids for late lactation milk command a price up of to 44c/l. Some farmers are being advised to continue milking cows at this price and still make a profit with a penalty of 28c/l. Once-a-day milking with zero concentrates on a grass-based diet is being practised by these farmers.
However, this runs the risk of sacrificing body condition score (BCS) now which will have a detrimental effect on reproductive performance after calving next year. Cows need to achieve a BCS of 3.0 at drying off and to maintain the same level until they calve.
First lactation cows and those carrying twins are most vulnerable to poor BCS. It is advisable to dry these cows for 12 weeks if BCS is poor. Supplemental feeding of concentrates to cows to improve BCS will not increase calf size and associated calving difficulty until cows are greater than seven months pregnant. Now is the time to ensure your cows achieve the correct BCS.