Pasture intake per cow depends on having high quality pasture and enough pasture available/ha. This is very challenging to balance in most spring conditions but it is possible to achieve.
Set the grazing rotation to offer the highest amount of quality pasture. Stop counting leaves and set the rotation based on quality and canopy closure. Allocate the right area of pasture each day to maintain pasture pressure.
If done for the right reasons and done well, fodder co¬¬nservation is a profitable and practical part of managing a dairy. A true surplus conserved is relatively cheap.
If you have conserved what the cows could have eaten you have added cost by conserving and another cost by purchasing something else or by under-feeding.
Silage key actions:
Cut pasture for silage as close to grazing height as possible (4 cm to 6 cm).
Wilt the silage as fast as possible (use a tedder if needed).
Bale with the correct moisture level to exclude air from bales or stacks (45 per cent DM for bales and 33 per cent DM for stacks or pits).
Store bales in areas with high traffic levels to avoid attack from birds.
Seal any air leaks as soon as possible (bales or stacks).
If pasture becomes limited in late November and soil moisture is still adequate, consider an application of nitrogen and/or a blend if required, to maintain or build pasture cover coming into summer. This pasture will be highly beneficial as feed from pasture is essential to profitably maintain milk production.
If you have paddocks with low soil nutrients that can be irrigated with effluent it is coming up to the best time of year to apply the effluent, getting some pasture growth and having a low risk of run-off.
Apply irrigation water to maximise pasture growth rates if possible.
Have a plan of how much area you can water through the summer to ensure your water lasts for the irrigation season.
Mix the dairy effluent into the irrigation water — summer pastures are very responsive to the additional nutrients.
Target paddocks that need to be renovated to improve the pasture base on the farm and reduce the pasture that is not grown in late spring by cropping.
Have a plan regarding crop type, seed bed preparation, nutrient and pest management and planned grazing dates.
Application of dairy effluent onto summer fodder crops is a very effective use of this nutrient resource to boost crop yield. Yield responses will be greater on crops than non-irrigated pasture.
Don’t forget the risks of cropping, such as dry hot conditions and pest attack, that may mean that crops planted do not guarantee available feed from these paddocks in the summer months.
Do a feed budget to ensure you have enough fodder to get through the summer and autumn. This will also estimate the grain usage and give an idea of the purchased feed bill for the summer and autumn. Feeding cows off peak production can be planned and focused on profit if it’s planned early.
If you are nearing the end of the joining period it may pay to assess the number of cows not in calf. Knowing the numbers of cows not in calf allows for early decisions to be made on what you will do with the empty cows.
Calves and heifers
Ensure your young stock received a second 7-in-1 vaccine. This builds immunity against clostridial diseases and leptospirosis.
Talk to your vet about vaccinating your young stock for pink eye.
Calves require a high protein and high energy diet to keep growing. A feed budget can be done to ensure calves and other young stock have enough pasture, silage, grain and hay to gain weight and grow to planned joining and calving weights.
Business and budgets
Review your last quarter of GST to get an indication of cash flow if you have not done it.
If you need additional fodder or irrigation water now is a good time to source it as it is traditionally at its cheapest.
Plan expenditure and identify any possible cash surpluses; if or when the cash becomes available use it in a planned way to ensure it’s effective.