Navigating difficulties of unsettled weather
As most farmers are aware this has been a most unusual spring with wet, cloudy weather contributing to lower grass growth and utilisation as well as a lower dry matter (DM) per centage in the grass.
For most of us this has meant less production per cow with production to date averaging around 10 per cent behind last season.
The prolonged wet weather and associated grass issues has meant that mating performance on some farms has been below target which will potentially impact on early milk production next season.
It is therefore an opportune time for some decision making on farm.
Firstly do some ‘number crunching’ around the mating performance. Low submission rates and high numbers of noncycling cows will put pressure on bull numbers and also impact on empty rates.
Discussions should focus on what went wrong and right and allow some strategic decisions to be made around next year’s mating period.
There is a growing demand for the use of short gestation semen to help consolidate the calving spread and this should be considered. This will assist extending the mating period and allow the opportunity for more cows to get in calf. Secondly the late spring has meant that there is less silage being harvested and crops are being planted later.
This may put some pressure on summer management so it is important for each farm business to look at contingency plans for the 60 days of summer that are likely to need supplementary feed. This may include putting contracts in place for supplements.
These decisions need to be made now as the cost of input will rise sharply if farmers wait until a deficit period occurs with associated market demand.
Other options now include the use of nitrogen to push feed in front (as well as increasing leaf growth) and the need to push rotation lengths out towards 30 days by mid to late December. Each farm is different and will need different strategies to cope over this time.
James Thomas is a FarmWise Consultant.