I ATTENDED one of New Zealand consultant Mark Blackwells grassland meetings the other day and took along my home-made 20-year-old rising plate grass meter.
This is the posh way of describing an electric fencing stake with some grooves cut in it 1cm apart. It slides through a length of light-weight gate tubing braced to a square foot of tin at the bottom.
Mark was so amazed to see this compared with his own state-of-the-art model that he took a photograph of them together – the old and the new.
It gave me a chance to calibrate my tool against his and now I know how many kg/ha DM my set-stocked area is producing.
One of the problems with set stocking early in the season is getting the grass under control, especially if turnout is delayed because of wet conditions.
Mark suggested that with the amount of grass available the cows could eat their fill in about three hours, so why not bring them back into the yards and cubicles with no buffer feed. We did this on a couple of wet nights with no ill effect – but we made sure they had adequate magnesium.
Then the cold winds came and dried things out a bit and we were able to follow the dairy herd with a large group of dry cows and heifers to get each set-stocked field in turn down to 3-4cm. I hope when the weather warms up this will encourage tillering and improve summer grass quality.
I have been busy this month conducting a survey of farmers using Easy Calver dry cow rolls.
I sent out nearly 200 copies of a questionnaire which I hoped was straightforward enough to enable it to be completed as soon as it arrived rather than being in a pile to do tomorrow – and tomorrow never comes. I included a stamped addressed envelope and an offer of one free bag of rolls as incentive.
We received 40% replies within a few days, which I am told is an excellent response. But I did wonder how many of those who have not yet replied crossed out the address and used the stamped envelope for some other purpose.
The replies were encouraging. Nine out of 10 farms reported reduced or substantially reduced milk fever and seven out of 10 reported much easier calving producing healthy calves full of vitality.
Milk proteins were more difficult to assess. But most reported increases and 99% said milk proteins were similar or better.
Ninety-five percent said the cows got back in calf easily and, believe it or not, seven out of 10 farmers reported increased profit.
Fields for set-stocking with milking cows have been grazed down to 3-4cm with dry cows and heifers at Liberty Farm to encourage tillering.and improving summer grass quality.