If dry conditions persist, cows will need increased levels of supplementation as grass growth declines.
Although hard on feed bills, and hard to swallow with cows having already been fed greater than 500kg per cow by a large number of farmers, meal or concentrates will be the first option.
Meal alone can be fed up to 5kg and potentially 7kg before forage is introduced.
Your financial position in terms of income after expenses, cash flow and merchant credit, will need to be considered to gauge how much meal you can feed during a dry summer.
But consider all your other options to reduce feed demand before relying solely on purchased feed to fill the gap, especially if you are under pressure for winter feed. The use of winter feed reserves should be a last resort.
For example, remove all culls from the farm as soon as possible.
There's also the option of milking once a day where quota is a possible concern.
Only consider full herd once-a-day milking where your bulk SCC is less than 200,000, as this will definitely double in the first three-four days.
If dry conditions are prolonged and continue throughout July and August, scanning to determine what cows are in-calf, culling empties and drying off cows with high SCCs, low body conditions and first and second lactation cows are all worthwhile options.
Remember in a dry summer situation that the biggest response to supplement and fertiliser is after the rain comes.
This is because there is pasture decay and it takes a while for pastures to recover and grass growth to increase.
Water intakes and water systems must also be given a bit of thought in dry conditions, especially where you are feeding high levels of concentrate.
If your system is under pressure, then provide water in the yards after milking to reduce the demand on the troughs in the paddock.
For those farms that have yet to feel the pinch of the dry conditions on grass growth, applying nitrogen, in CAN form rather than urea, will help promote vegetative tiller growth.
It does this by switching the perennial ryegrass plant from producing seed heads to high quality leaf, but it needs to happen before the soil moisture becomes limiting.
It's also a wise move to extend the rotation length to 26-30 days.
While some paddocks may be unsightly with seed heads and stemmy pasture, resist the urge in this rotation to top or pre-mow prior to grazing as this will hinder grass growth and recovery until rain has fallen.
For those farms that are dry and showing signs of moisture stress, don't apply nitrogen (N) until a decent amount of rain has been received. Apply 30-40 units of N per acre in this situation.
Finally, while the prolonged dry conditions may be hard to bear due to their impact on feed supply, they are working wonders on soil structure.
Wet holes have finally dried up and cracks are signs that Mother Nature is helping the soil do its own drainage work.
However, it's now a good time to help it along by implementing a deep or shallow drainage system where required.
Mary Kinston is a discussion group facilitator and consultant, and farms with her husband in Co Kerry. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org