News & Advice

Last summer was not kind to our dairy heifers

Jul 30, 2019 | Dairy, Dairy Animal Health & Welfare, Farm systems, Young Stock

Ashley O’Driscoll, Veterinarian, Anexa Vets Ngaruawahia

Last summer was not kind to our dairy heifers and it’s now obvious. Pregnant heifers are coming into the herd lighter than usual this year. This puts them at risk for calving problems, decreased milk production, and poor reproduction. 
Most of last year’s R1 calves had a 2-3 month period of NO weight gain. Their body condition has caught up now, but some of them are still smaller than usual. Body weight is a combination of proper growth (size) and body condition (fat cover). Do you know if your young stock reached their targets? 
Yes, last year was unusual. And yes, the grass growth is great right now. But farmers need to get used to preparing for the worst case scenario – because it’s going to get more common with the unpredictable weather patterns of the future. 
Be honest, do you actually have enough feed to keep your young stock at home? Or do you find yourself having to choose between fully feeding your milking herd or fully feeding the young stock? 
Do you send your young stock to a grazier? Did they hit target weights? What plan do you have in place with your grazier if we have another summer like the past one? It’s not ok to hold dairy grazing stock short on feed for a few months. 
This topic can be stressful and emotive to discuss, especially when using a grazier or when you have a sharemilker on the property. However, next time we have a terrible summer, you’ll be happy that you have a plan. 

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