Pastures and grazing
- Aim to grow as much pasture as possible while keeping costs under control. The use of nitrogen and gibberellic acid can increase DM yield, and when combined with good grazing management can increase available pasture to cows. However, these inputs come at a cost and their effectiveness varies depending on seasonal conditions.
- If you have not sprayed your broad leaf weeds do so at the first opportunity to have denser, better producing pasture for the rest of the year.
- If you are highly stocked you will need a bigger wedge of pasture for calving cows. More cover will give you more management. Too much pasture in early spring may result in lower quality pastures with limited silage cutting options if it becomes too wet.
- Prevent nitrate poisoning when grazing rye-grass pastures containing capeweed or marshmallow by avoiding grazing within 21 days of nitrogen application and by including other low nitrate feeds such as silage or grain in the diet while grazing these pastures.
- Calf losses are very expensive. Having a good planned system for calf rearing is very important. To avoid the following may be useful:
- Prevent disease by ensuring that all calves receive good quality colostrum. Use a Brix refractometer to test colostrum quality — target a reading >22.
- Disinfect calf pens on a regular basis, including rails and bedding.
- Ensure calves have a good supply of good quality, clean water, fibre and pellets.
- Develop an easy to follow and affordable program that works for heifer rearing including dehorning, vaccinations, drenching and feeding for well developed, healthy heifers that will stay in the herd for a long time.
- Deaths of cows or losses in production are very costly and can be avoided. Normally freshly calved heifers and young cows are susceptible to acidosis, particularly where feeding high levels of starch-based grains. To successfully manage this, make sure the diet is well balanced for crude protein and NDF and that you have the grain well buffered and have offered enough effective fibre in the diet.
- Freshly calved cows are susceptible to milk fever which may show up sub clinically as retained foetal membrane or paralysis at calving. To manage this:
- Plan your transition feeding to minimise the risk of metabolic disorders in fresh or calving cows.
- Have a plan for action when cows present with difficult calvings or metabolic disorder.
- Ensure newly calved cows are getting enough calcium and magnesium in the diet. For more information go to www.dairyaustralia.com.au
- Make sure your calving area is clean enough for cows to calve without excessive contamination of teats, to avoid mastitis problems.
- If poor track surfaces are causing lameness and foot problems, consider adding sawdust, woodchips, even hay (for example, at the lead in/lead out from the dairy shed). The use of foot mats on the walk in to the dairy in conjunction with copper sulphate can be an effective solution to foot soreness in cows.
- If using staff, plan rosters to ensure you can get through the spring calving and harvest without them being too exhausted to pay attention to detail or to overwork people.
Dairy shed and machinery
- When the cows are dry or you have a reduced number of milkers, take the opportunity to carry out your annual shed maintenance tasks. For example, check milking machine function and replace rubberware.
- Carry out preventative maintenance on fixed and mobile plant.
- If you have not done it yet, do an annual budget to plan likely income and expenditure for the 2019–20 year.
- Understand your system and the physical things on the farm you need to do very well to get the best financial results.