With summer coming into its final weeks, many farmers out there will be looking forward to the cooler temperatures and some much needed rain. But as we edge closer to winter, it’s essential be ready when it strikes. The last thing you want to wake up to is seven days of rain with nothing in place to safeguard not only your stock, but your pastures too. Here’s a few things to mull over in the coming weeks.
One upside of winter is the rain that keeps our pastures regenerating. The downside to that, unfortunately, is that often when it starts after summer it won’t stop. When we have such hot summers (and in a number of regions, droughts) it can turn paddocks into pig pens if grazing stock are trudging around in knee deep mud looking for food.
Keeping one sharp eye on your paddocks and the other on the weather forecast heading into winter is key when it comes to feeding as well because you’ll need to adjust the amount of supplemental feed you’re giving your animals and consider where they will be fed. Think about whether you’ll be grazing them on your farm or somewhere else, and who will manage them in either situation.
Making sure you have a plan for your cows around now will only make calving and feeding easier in the coming months. Factors like feeding, drying off and milking once a day (OAD) will become more important as it gets closer to winter, but making sure you have all the right systems in place are considerations and conversations worth having well before it’s all hands on-deck.
Cows that are drying off or becoming empty will also need your attention as those with low somatic counts, low production and poor temperaments may need to be culled at the end of the season. While on the other hand, those with poor body condition scores (BCS) will need preferential treatment prior to winter temperatures setting. Whether that means OAD milking or a combination of OAD and extra feed is something that you can speak with your vet about if you’re unsure.
Communicating with your staff on what to keep an eye out for when they’re out with stock or across the farm and what they can expect, especially if they’re new, will ensure that productivity and production doesn’t dip lower than expected. If you’re experiencing or expecting turnover on your farm, try and get on top of who needs replacing before it’s too busy.
Applicable year-round, a properly designed dairy barn system can create a number of advantages for any farm. Especially at this time of year when it’s important to let the ground regenerate after drought, you can safely house your stock from the elements and feed them without running the risk of damaging paddocks.