Setting a Super Summer

We have the incentive of a strong payout in front of us, so we naturally want to maximise milk production.

Darren Sutton smallBy Darren Sutton, FarmWise Consultant.

However, this must not come at the expense of forgetting about basic management decisions.

Now is the time to turn our attention to how the summer will be managed.  Hopefully the rain will keep arriving like last December’s did.  Long-term weather predictions can be inaccurate, so individual farm plans need to be robust and flexible enough to cover all scenarios.

Here are some key things to consider when planning for this summer.

Round length

This is fundamental to get right.  The reason we adjust round length out is to build Average Pasture Cover (APC) and match rotation with the slowing leaf appearance rate.  We are looking for three leaves – having three leaves appearing every 10 days makes for a 27-30 day round length.

With the use of supplements this lengthening is able to be done very easily and quickly.  Without adding in supplements you need to be already lifting target pre-graze covers instead of cutting silage, and reducing areas allocated per day.  One way to help get cows to eat covers that sit higher than 3,000 is to pre-mow in December, but stop in January.

Milking frequency

Changing to a less frequent milking frequency like 3 in 2 or OAD won’t reduce animal demand for about 6 weeks.  But this will protect body condition score through the months that young cows usually lose more weight than the matured aged cows.

Nitrogen

This November there have been very noticeable differences on how more vegetative pastures have stayed where Nitrogen (N) has been applied compared to no N being applied.

December and early January is a good time to look to push some feed ahead of you into January.  Nitrogen is the most cost-effective supplement you can create when the weather conditions allow.  Boosting growth and lifting pasture cover with N can help achieve the longer round length.

30kg of N per hectare in the form of Sustain or N-Protect is what you are looking for now.  This is also an opportunity to add in some maintenance Potassium (K) input with the N, which clover will also respond to.

Stocking rate

The other tool is to reduce demand by starting to cull cows that are empty or genuine culls.  From the middle of December any repeat offenders for mastitis, or lame cows that are older with low PW and LW figures may be worth more culled.  This has the effect of lowering demand and feeding remaining cows better.

Once you get into January/February and you have some pregnancy tests, then you have information you can make culling based decisions on.

Mating plans

If you are doing all AI then keep the heat detection aids in good order.

The use of SGL for the last 10-14 days of AI will help lower your empty rate, but still maintain a tighter calving spread.

Make sure you have a pregnancy test plan in place now as scanners get booked up quickly.  Doing an early pregnancy test at 12 weeks can help aid culling decisions earlier.

Business review

Have you revised your financial budget yet?  I went over this topic in more detail last month.

There may be some ability to spend some money on necessities like repairing races or fertiliser.  Are there effluent upgrades that need to be planned, booked and accounted for?  Prioritise what is most important to attack this summer.

Finally, make sure you arrange some time off farm at some stage this summer.  This can help clear your mind and look at your business in a fresh way.  Spending time with family is a priority that we can sometimes fail to value highly enough. 

Have a safe and happy Christmas!