Care for cows cru­cial de­spite the rain­fall

It has rained at last but not nearly enough, and with it has come a new set of is­sues for farm­ers, writes An­drea Fox.

Matamata Chronicle - - Rural Delivery -

Dairy farm­ers need to be on high alert against un­der­feed­ing their cows now that some rain has fallen on drought-parched Waikato, says Live­stock Im­prove­ment’s Farm­Wise ser­vice.

Gen­er­ally cow con­di­tion is still ‘‘very ac­cept­able’’ but with last week­end’s rain not enough to break the drought, dry mat­ter in the pad­docks will start to de­com­pose and farms are mov­ing into a feed high-risk pe­riod lead­ing to May 31, win­ter and calv­ing, said Farm­Wise man­ager Jon Ni­cholls.

‘‘They’ve got to feed them. The rule of thumb is to dou­ble the amount of sup­ple­ment you have been giv­ing.’’

Mean­while, vets are pre­dict­ing the risk of fa­cial eczema, which had been low un­til the week­end, will soar with the rain and as­so­ci­ated muggy heat.

The se­nior vet­eri­nar­ian at Anexa Te Aroha, Jan Meertens, said there could well be an ‘‘ex­plo­sion’’ of fa­cial eczema spores as a re­sult of the de­com­pos­ing dry grass.

Pre­par­ing cows by build­ing up fa­cial eczema preven­tion a week be­fore spore counts rose was sim­ply good risk man­age­ment and farm­ers should have done it ‘‘yes­ter­day’’, he said.

Most farmer-clients in his area had dried off their herds, he said.

With ewes soon to go for mat­ing, fa­cial eczema mon­i­tor­ing and preven­tion was also crit­i­cal in the sheep and beef sec­tor, said Beef + Lamb NZ chair­man Mike Petersen.

The ef­fects of fa­cial eczema could af­fect an an­i­mal for its life­time, he said.

‘‘It’s im­por­tant to make sure you are mon­i­tor­ing, and there are a num­ber of ser­vices for this, and to stay away from fa­cial eczema hot spots. Many farm­ers will know where th­ese are on the farm, and there are some treat­ments.’’

Farm­Wise’s Ni­cholls said he had re­ports of pock­ets of the Waikato get­ting up to 40mm of rain but more gen­er­ally, 10-30mm. Dairy farm­ers now had 180 days of feed deficit to work through un­til spring growth.

It was im­por­tant to have a plan, to work out what the feed sit­u­a­tion would be in three months time.

‘‘Sup­plies are def­i­nitely tight. If you haven’t got feed planned, and if you want it in the next two weeks, that will be very, very chal­leng­ing. But if you pre­dict you will be very short of feed in three months time, it is much more man­age­able.’’

With rain came chal­lenges such as when to un­der­sow and spread urea, fa­cial eczema and an as­so­ci­ated huge de­mand on con­trac­tors, vets and ru­ral sup­pli­ers, Ni­cholls said.

He said one of the most use­ful things drought­struck farm­ers could do was get off the farm, even for a drive.

‘‘It’s amaz­ing how much bet­ter they will feel, it’s in­cred­i­bly ther­a­peu­tic. It’s good to talk to oth­ers and see oth­ers in the same po­si­tion.’’

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