Management

March reminders

By Dairy News

Hay and silage stocks

■ Check your levels of hay and silage and do your sums on potential hay and silage use for the balance of the year. Allow for milking cows, dry cows and young stock.

■ It’s often a challenge to feed the best feed you can and make use of the feed you have on hand. Balancing the diet with all the right feeds is great, but using the feeds you have on hand and getting the diet balance in the zone might come with lower cash costs and still achieve target production.

■ Baled silage is a great example of a feed with a use-by date and when not fed for whatever reason it can turn out to be costly wasted feed.

Fertiliser

■ March is a good time to apply fertiliser to pasture in preparation for the autumn break.

■ Superphosphate and muriate of potash do not require rain to release into a soil; rainfall after an application increases the risk of nutrient loss.

■ Dairy effluent is a good alternative to traditional fertiliser on areas of the farm. When applying dairy effluent be careful not to have any run-off or to overload soils with nitrogen and potassium. This will also empty effluent ponds to maximise capacity for the wetter months of the year.

Pasture renovation and over-sowing

■ All soils that are sown should be soil tested to determine any limiting factors for plant growth and develop a plan to improve or maintain the soils and pastures on the farm.

■ When planting pasture always check for pest activity and control if required. This year red-legged earth mites and lucerne flea have been abundant in areas of Gippsland.

■ March is an ideal time for checking your paddocks for pasture density and making some decisions on what areas of the farm, if any, need renovation or over-sowing.

■ If pastures have root mats consider working the paddocks up and allowing some time for the root mat to rot before sowing the new pasture or plan a summer crop in this paddock for next year.

■ If pastures are just thin and have no root mat, over-sowing is a good option.

■ Consider the type and variety of seed to put in the ground. Where rye-grass is concerned it’s good to try to simplify the process using three categories for seed types:

• Perennial: Permanent pasture. Sow once you have dealt with any soil issues in the paddock such as drainage or root mat issues.

• Short rotation: Two- to three-year varieties that tend to establish with more vigour than perennials, after being well-sown, and can last two to three years when conditions and management allow. Great plants for developing paddocks that may need to be sprayed-out in the future while increasing productivity in the short term.

■ Annual: One-year varieties (May to November) that are very vigorous after sowing and strong winter performers, but they will not produce once they have gone to seed in spring. Great for a low-performing paddock that will be summer cropped the following year.

Stock

■ Be on the lookout for the effects of mycotoxins such as facial eczema (looks similar to photo-sensitisation) affecting exposed areas of pale skin. If facial eczema is suspected contact a veterinary practitioner for advice on prevention or treatment. Information is available on the Dairy Australia website at: www.dairyaustralia.com.au/Animal-management/Animal-health/Facial-Eczema-Monitoring.aspx

■ Plan your transition diet for autumn-calving cows. The aims are to prevent milk fever, ensure the cow’s energy requirements are met, and introduce grain to the diet if a high level of grain is being fed in the milking herd. A properly-formulated lead feed ration or the use of anionic salts in the water troughs should be considered. Even a low level of milk fever in the herd has many flow-on effects including calf losses during calving, downer cows and cow health issues in early lactation. Learn more at |
www.dairyaustralia.com.au in the feeding and nutrition section.

Young stock

■ Poorly fed young stock will impact your business when they calve down and become milking cows with low in-calf rates and higher mortality rates, and generally are likely to produce less milk.

■ Some good targets for young stock are 70 per cent in-calf three weeks after joining, with heifers due to calve two weeks before the cows in the herd. To join young stock this early they have to be well fed and have reached the target joining weights you can see in the Heifers on Target manual on the Dairy Australia website at: www.dairyaustralia.com.au/Animal-management/Fertility/Heifer-management.aspx

■ Monitor the replacement heifers’ growth. They will require high quality supplementary feeds as available pasture is reduced. They need feeds containing a minimum of 10 MJ/kg DM and 13 per cent crude protein to grow adequately. When feeding them consider silage, hay and grain as options.