Updated: Jun 1
Controlling what is in our grasp
We are at both ends of the spectrum along the coast compared to the majority of Australia, seeing local farms unable to get onto pastures due to waterlogging, whereas the rest of the country is praying for a drop. We are seeing grain and hay prices rising and low growth rates on our late started pastures, so it's a good time to focus on perfecting daily operations and controlling whats easily in our grasp to make improvements to the functionality of the business and production through the little things.
What are the main contributors of a strong and healthy calf?
Colostrum management - getting 4+ Litres of high quality, refractometer tested colostrum (>22%) within the first 6 hrs of life will lay the foundations for a long lasting cow. Provide 2nd colostrum feed at 12 hrs after birth.
Navel spray and pen hygiene - remembering these are babies with low immunity, the best chance of avoiding set backs is reducing the opportunity for bacteria and viruses to enter the calf.
Consistency - mllk, water, grain and hay. Keep all feed sources clean, fresh and the same each day. Feed milk at the same time, temperature and quantity.
Provide clean water every day, this will encourage starter grain intake as milk does not supply enough water to maintain full hydration.
If they get scours, feed electrolytes with or between milk feeds. Its important to keep food going into them so that they have energy to overcome the illness and stay warm.
Its cold! Feeding 10% more milk to calves will give them that bit more energy to keep themselves warm.
Rumen development - providing grain from day 3 and monitoring for a consistent intake for 3-6 weeks prior to weaning will mean the calf has developed the appropriate rumen bacteria, to get all the energy available from grain when milk is no longer provided.
Provide the same hay in the calf pens that they will have post weaning for a more consistent diet coming off milk. Leave hay with calves until they become used to eating grass. Continue to feed grain where possible until 180 days, when the calf's rumen will be up and running.
Maintaining a balanced diet throughout puberty - the growth and development that occurs in this time can be the difference of being culled in the first lactation or being a top producing cow.
Think of a heifer as a lactation curve, once you drop in production (growth) you may not get it back.
For further information on calf rearing or putting protocols in place on your farm, call one of our ruminant experts and they will be more than happy to answer any questions or provide support.
MAKING THE MOST OF HOME GROWN FODDER
In some regions in SA where the seeding was timed well before the first big rain, we saw pastures beginning to establish early and are reaping the benefits now, with some farms heading into full grass over the next week. Unfortunately the further North East we travel we didn't get that early rain and pastures have been working to get moving through the midst of winter, only now just starting to move. Coming into longer days and some rain on the radar, we are seeing growth rates accelerating and pastures starting to bulk out. Grass management over the next 3 months is critical to regain production and soften the bills of bought in feed. To maximise grazing value and potential for conserved forage, we need to keep on top of grass movements. For the farmers whose grass has kicked, increasing the grazing pressure on the pasture so the cow eats the leaf and some of the stem will increase tillering but also keep the quality in the pasture for the spring.
For those who are only weeks away, it is about keeping residuals high enough to spring back and not use up energy reserves from the roots, ultimately delaying regrowth periods - but holding out for the next few weeks can be a challenge with high hay prices. Keeping up with fertiliser requirements, having a rotation plan and being ready for silage conservation while ensuring the cows are fully fed, will pay off in spring where we have the opportunity to cut back bought in food and utilise home grown feed.
IT'S A GOOD TIME TO FOCUS ON THE LITTLE THINGS
It's the little things that make a big difference, as identified by one of our TRAC employees from a recent trip to the US. At home, we do a great job of working on cow health, comfort and overall wellbeing, but the benefits can be hard to see when there are so many variables and set backs such as rain washouts of loafing areas, laneways and limited options with calving areas that can see spikes in disease and illness that can often cause us to lose focus. Looking at an American system, where they have miles of rubber lined concrete, a red carpet for cows entering their automated, rubber lined dairy to be milked and return to their fresh TMR, where it all seems like it would run perfect, there is a big difference in milk production between those farms. What it comes down to is the attention to detail of cow illness and cow management that is the difference between kg's of solids and longevity of cows between those farms. Major focus is placed on identifying mastitis early, stripping every day and pulling out suspect cows and drovers keeping a close eye on lameness scores, checking the order cows walk in and analysing cow comfort. Every local manager will agree that this is their focus too, but where we might be slipping is in making sure that it is our employees priority too. Have we gone through, in detail, step by step the importance these diseases have on production? For example, are all employees
Checking for cows with a lameness score 3+?
Picking up on cows that are further back in the mob than usual
There is clean, fresh water available in their paddock
The cows are walking at a calm pace, selecting where they place their feet
Calves are protected from severe weather and comfortable
Checking the BMCC daily and stripping cows regularly
All the small things that impact a cows health and well-being will be impacting her ability to produce milk, demonstrate heats, eat and drink - and ultimately be an efficient production animal.
EXPERTS IN RUMINANT PRODUCTIVITY
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