Dairy Update: Jill Bastable 1/4/05

JUST AS I had begun to think what to write this month, a chorus of bawling cows started from the yard as one group of milkers had managed to let themselves out and were performing laps around the paddock. So this has prompted me to comment on turnout.

With the recent snow we have experienced, and conditions cows left the paddock in after escaping, early turnout is out of the question here without causing severe damage to swards.

The regular reminders we get in early spring of extended grazing for optimum grass usage is fine if you farm in New Zealand or areas of similar soil type, but has little benefit to high yielding cows and soils which are heavy clay.

Timing of first nitrogen application to the grazing area here is important to try and minimise a surplus of early grass growth that we cannot make use of when ground conditions are unsatisfactory.

 However, I do believe it is important to get tight control of the grass early in the season to ensure a good quality, dense sward for the rest of the year. We aim to cover the whole area initially before setting into a paddock-based grazing system and then, if necessary, shutting off any grass for cutting that is growing away from the cows.

 Our high yielding group will stay in at night throughout the summer to enable us to supplement energy and dry matter intakes sufficiently, while later lactation cows will be challenged more to make better use of the cheapest forage.

I”m fortunate to have the opportunity to go on a study tour to Western Ontario, Canada, next week looking at managing large herds. The agenda looks really interesting, the only downside being a temperature of -15C. However, the exciting itinerary will no doubt compensate for this. I look forward to reporting back next month.

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