Dairy Management: HOUSING THE DAIRY HERD

Article excerpt

FRESH calvers should be housed. These cows need to reach maximum intake as soon as possible (3-5 weeks) after calving to prevent excessive loss of condition.

Variable intakes of grass due to poor weather conditions can make this difficult to achieve. At Greenmount College, a uniform diet of silage and concentrates is provided to the fresh calvers from early November.

With good grass growth during October, many herds still have 2-3 weeks daytime grazing ahead of them. Plan to keep late lactation cows at grass to the end of November to utilise this grass and maintain production. These cows could be restricted to 2-3 hours grazing/day to delay full- time housing and prevent sward damage.

Grazing management

Swards targeted for March 2002 grazing should have been closed up in early to mid October. Covers on these areas may now have built up above the normal targets of 2200-2400kg dry matter (DM)/ha.

Provided this grass was cleanly and evenly grazed out at the last grazing, it should maintain its high quality throughout the winter and can be carried over to provide excellent spring grazing.

However, if the sward is "clumpy" and showing a lot of decay and senescense at its base then it would be better to graze this off cleanly as soon as possible. This will delay turnout in the spring but provide a better quality grazing sward.

Over the rest of the grazing area covers should be reduced to 1800-2000kg DM/ha before stock are housed. If cows are currently grazing heavy covers, that is, over 4500kg DM/ha, they should not be forced to graze off too tightly. Use dry stock to clear off the poorer quality grass at the base of the sward and around dung-pats.

Preventing pollution

Late autumn application of nitrogen and winter application of phosphate are two ideas that have been promoted in certain circles to increase the availability of early spring grass.

There is no evidence to substantiate these claims. However, there is undoubted proof that such practices cause significant pollution of groundwater. These practices should not be considered under any circumstances.

Equally spreading slurry when the ground is water logged using low ground pressure systemwill also cause pollution. Farmers should adhere to the guidance provided in the Code of Good Agricultural Practice for the Protection of Water.

Copies are available from locally based Countryside Management staff or your local Development Adviser.

Failure to do so will only hasten the arrival of stringent legislation. The onus is on every individual to act responsibly for the good of the industry and our countryside.

Nutrition

How good is your silage this winter? …