- Pasture intake per cow depends on having high quality pasture and enough pasture available per hectare. This is a very challenging balance in most spring conditions but is possible to achieve.
- You need to set the rotation to offer the highest amount of milker-quality pasture. Stop counting leaves and set the rotation based on quality— aim to graze pastures before 25 per cent of the paddock has reached canopy closure.
- Allocate the right area of pasture each day to maintain pasture pressure. If the rotation is right and you have removed as much supplement as you are prepared to from the diet then consider banking paddocks to maintain grazing pressure.
- Consider the use of nitrogen to boost pasture production and potentially minimise the use of supplements. Pasture responses of 10 to 20kg DM/ha for every kg of nitrogen/ha are common in spring and represent very good value for money if you need the additional feed grown.
- Purchase concentrates at an affordable cost and an appropriate quality. Diet balance is a major consideration when purchasing concentrates; when cows are eating two thirds or more of their diet as high quality pasture, high protein concentrates are not normally required. Basic additives such as macro minerals and buffer are normally required.
- Silage reminders:
• A true surplus conserved is relatively cheap.
• Cut pastures early, at the
two- to three-leaf stage or before canopy closure.
• Cut pasture for silage as close to grazing height as possible (4cm to 6cm).
• Wilt the silage as fast as possible (use a tedder if needed). Aim for 45 per cent DM for bales and 33 per cent DM for stacks or pits.
• Seal quickly and well to exclude air.
• Repair holes immediately using specific silage tape.
Summer feed gap
- Estimate the feed required to feed your cows well over anticipated feed gap.
- Focus on quality and quantity of feed as well as cost.
- Investigate all options for filling the feed gap and act early to secure the feed at the best possible price. Common options are grain, silage, purchased hay and spring-planted summer crops.
- Milk production is strongly influenced by quality of the diet. Poor quality silage will limit milk production. Large quantities of low quality silage will result in bigger silage cost and lower milk production.
- Aim for leafy pastures with short shut-up time (three to five weeks). Pasture ready to be grazed by milkers makes the best silage and regrows the fastest.
- Profitable milk production is critical for all cows. Cow health issues, including best possible feeding, need to be a focus as milk produced now sets up the spring-calving cow’s production for the year and forms the basis of the farm’s cash flow.
- Have a good heat detection system in place and consider starting heat detection a month before the start of mating. Any cows not seen cycling in this time can be vet-checked and treated if necessary prior to the joining start date.
- Consider the use of a proven joining program to tighten the calving pattern.
- More information on joining can be found at: www.dairyaustralia.com.au/Animal-management/Fertility/About-InCalf.aspx
Calves and heifers
- Have a plan for rearing calves and young stock with targets that are beneficial to your management.
- Monitor growth rates of calves to measure your success. Plan dehorning, vaccination and drenching.
- Aim for calves to be eating at least 1kg of concentrates/day prior to weaning.