With calving season well underway, spring is the busiest and sometimes most stressful time of the year on dairy farms. Getting your cows in good condition prior to calving and having systems in place to care for, and grow out, newborn calves, you will help give them the best possible start to set them up for long, productive lives as milking cows. This requires planning ahead and having the right systems in place though.
When calving begins it will be all hands-on deck, so preparing your staff will make everything so much easier when you can’t be everywhere at once. If you’re the one responsible for the farm, everyone will be looking to you for help and guidance, so be sure to sit down with everyone and discuss what’s going to happen and why. It might seem basic, but even a checklist of calf shed supplies and everyday spring supplies like detergents and Mastitis treatments will make it easy for staff to know what needs to be done. Making sure everyone is aware of who to contact is key, and if you’re able to delegate to other team members, take advantage of that. Not only will they relieve some stress from you, but they’ll gain valuable knowledge and experience and be better off in the long run for it.
Having everything in place to ensure calving goes smoothly is an important step to take in being ready when your cows give birth. Making sure calving kits are on-hand is essential, as they’re the last things you want to be fumbling for at 3am when it’s dark, cold and sometimes wet. Once your new calf is brought into the calving shed you must ensure these are sheltered, well-ventilated areas that will protect calves from the climatic extremes we can face at this time of year. Making sure they have access to clean drinking water at all times, adequate bedding materials and that sick calves can be separated and quarantined.
In the weeks leading up to the start of calving as well as the weeks that follow, it’s important to plan ahead and consider where your stock will be grazing as you will have more than one herd to consider: drys, springers, colostrums and milkers. With the added demand on pasture your rotation plan will need to accommodate the different requirements of each mob, and with the unpredictable weather many farmers experience around this time of year you’ll need to have a backup plan in place. Whether this includes supplementing feed or prioritising vulnerable stock is up to you, but the important thing is to be ready. Available on the Dairy NZ website is their Spring Rotation Planner, a formula that takes the guesswork out of grazing management by allocating feed to match target cover. It’s available here on their website by clicking the link to download the PDF. In some cases, you may be able to get more pasture growth by applying nitrogen, but this is only suitable when on unsaturated soil with a temperature above 7°C and rising.
Our range of Dairy Barn Systems allow farmers to manage stock off-pasture too, which can be invaluable as the weather can leave them vulnerable and because shelter is essential to a successful calving. With the variety in the weather we can expect from spring in New Zealand, a wintering shed can essentially be used year-round, but it’s at this time of year that using one to protect your herd from the elements can make managing your farm much easier. Get in touch if you have any questions around how one of our systems could add value to your operation.