Disease? Not On My Farm! ambassadors explain how they have managed forage stocks over winter and their plans for spring.
After a year of weather extremes which resulted in reduced stocks of forage, combined with rising concentrate costs, dairy farmers across the UK are hoping for early turnout.
But this is not guaranteed to be the case. Planning ahead to manage existing feedstocks, making the most of early grass and putting vaccination and parasite control strategies in place can all help manage workloads and costs.
Cows are milking well and fertility is on a par with last year, according to William Westacott. He says: “Being autumn calving, we bring cows in as they calve, but we were able to keep dry cows out until mid-November. We hope to turn out about 10 days earlier than usual; about the second or third week in March.
“We have had a relatively kind winter so far and crops are looking well. We do get a lot of easterly winds here, but I am hoping they are not too severe this spring and do not impact on grass growth.
“Forage stocks are holding up well. We did not make any late grass silage, but should be able to eke out what we have with the help of about 35 tonnes of round bale silage and 15t of Lucerne, which is extra to what we normally produce and we have plenty of maize silage.
“We will incorporate 1.5kg/cow of freshweight hay into diets – the equivalent of 3-3.5kg of grass silage. This is made to sell as a cash crop, but given the circumstances, we are using it ourselves.”
As William runs a flying herd, there is no youngstock to manage. Older stock will be given their vaccinations as they are due.
For James Robinson, who runs 130 pedigree Dairy Shorthorn cows on an organic system, silage production was down about 15% last year.
As part of a contingency plan to extend forage as far as possible, he planted 3.2 hectares (eight acres) of brassicas, which cows were able to graze until mid-December when it became too wet.
However, when conditions improved in January, they were able to go out for a further 10 days to finish it off.
James says: “This has been really useful and has been good for the cows as well. In addition, early last year we secured 100 tonnes of organic fodder beet, which we have incorporated into the diet, helping stretch forage supplies.
“So far, winter has been fairly kind to us and we should be on track to turn out during the day in mid-April and at night by early May, or possibly a little earlier depending on weather.”
As part of forward-planning, vaccinations will be given before turnout.
James says: “The 2018-born calves, which will be approaching their first year of grazing, will be vaccinated against lungworm before they are turned out. Older stock will also be getting their booster vaccinations for BVD and leptospirosis.”
This article is part of a ‘Disease? Not On My Farm!’ series which showcases proactive beef and dairy farmers taking pride in their robust herd health and disease management approach.
This information was provided by MSD Animal Health, makers of Bovilis® BVD, Bovilis® IBR Marker Live, Bovilis® IBR Marker Inac, Leptavoid™ H, Rotavec® Corona, Halocur®, Bovilis® Bovipast RSP, Bovilis® Huskvac and Bovilis® Ringvac. Always use medicines responsibly. More information is available from Intervet UK Ltd trading as MSD Animal Health. Registered office Walton Manor, Walton, Milton Keynes MK7 7AJ, UK. Registered in England & Wales no. 946942. T: 01908 685 685 E: firstname.lastname@example.org W: www.msd-animal-health.co.uk.