For spring calving herds it’s that time of the season again to decide “where-to-from-here?” How will you achieve the target body condition score at calving, With parts of the Waikato looking green but still basically in drought and others with pasture supplying a good portion of the cows’ ration, there is no single ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution.
Deciding when to dry off cows or mobs of cows means finding the balance between individual cow condition and predicted calving dates on one hand and feed availability on the other. It can be tempting, during high payout years like this year, to chase the extra income by continuing to milk cows later into the season. This can often result in farms milking for longer than they should, using up feed reserves and ending up not achieving cow condition targets, or pasture cover targets, or both.
To make sure you find the balance between short- and long-term benefits, particularly considering that payout predictions are also looking good for next season, the following questions need to be answered:
- How many cows are required for next season and when will any surplus stock be able to be moved off farm (bearing in mind current delays)?
- What supplement reserves are on hand? What can be fed by end of this season and what needs to be left for next season? Is there scope or desire to purchase more supplement if needed to either milk on or use to gain cow condition if needed?
- What ability is there to balance the feed that’s available? E.g. feeding all your available grass silage and summer crop now and leaving just maize for later on could result in cows needing to be dried off earlier if there isn’t enough grass available to balance that maize. Could the maize be fed earlier (especially given the earlier harvesting of maize this season) allowing grass silage, crops and other supplements to be more evenly spread across the remainder of the season?
- Will my cows achieve target body condition score at calving based on the feed available?
To answer the last question, you really need to know what body condition score (BCS) they are at now. Once you have that information, you can take a look at DairyNZ’s dry off calculator to get an overview of when cows should be dried off, or better still you can have your Anexa vet generate a Dry Off List for you based on each cow’s individual BCS and predicted calving date and the feed available on your farm. Contact your local Anexa clinic to book your herd in for individual body condition scoring now.
Other Anexa resources you may find helpful: