Pasture Cover (APC) and growth rates are falling. Typically, we get a 6-week “dry” period most
years. 6 weeks is okay, 12 weeks
isn’t. In the following, I will cover
off some fundamentals you should be thinking about and adapting to your own
growth rates of 15 kgs DM/ha per day means you can afford to have 1 cow per ha
without any supplements. So the other 2
cows you have on your farm are being supported by all supplements. The margin on feeding empty cows is not great
at 35-40 cents per kg of DM fed. Best to
drop the empties now. Then start working
down through the in-calf culls you have identified.
supplements you need to get through winter safely. Ring-fence this feed and don’t be tempted to
feed it now. Do a feed budget to work
out what supplements can be fed this autumn.
Remember that pasture will dissolve away once we do get the big rain
event, potentially leading to under-fed cows and pastures over-grazed. Plan for this happening.
Protect the future - BCS
We now have
an eye on next season. A key part to
this is hitting body condition score (BCS) targets at calving.
To try and
bridge as many cows through this dry period, milking one herd or all cows on
OAD can be an effective way to keep more cows milking for longer, on the hope
it rains in March and you get the rewards in April and May.
we do not manage this well, then the herd average
BCS may not be bad, but the range of
cows can be 3.0 to 6.0 by late autumn. BCS targets are 5.0 for mixed age (MA)
cows and 5.5 BCS for first and second calvers to maximise production and
The best way to manage your herd through March to May
is to start with body condition scoring your herd. This will help you get a
realistic understanding of condition as opposed to just thinking they are okay
‘apart from the odd light one’.
and second calvers still need extra feed to grow out their frame. If these cows are dried off with the older
mixed age animals, the older cows will gain weight a lot faster than the
younger animals as they compete better for any supplements fed, and the younger
animals are usually starting from a lower BCS.
NZ’s booklet ‘Body Condition Scoring Made Easy’ will help to guide you in
you have worked out what percentage of your herd are in the 4.0 BCS or lower
category, then you can decide what management changes you can make to achieve
days in milk and hit BCS targets by June.
table below outlines that number of days a cow requires to be dried off prior
to calving to have any chance in gaining the level of BCS needed to meet the
5.0 and 5.5 BCS targets at calving.
the start of calving is 20 July, then the dry-off dates are as follows: