Mixed weather ‘makes good dairy management more important than ever’ says Velcourt

A DRY start to 2012 followed by 150mm rain in April has made life extremely difficult for dairy farmers, a farm management company has warned.

Velcourt, which currently manages over 8000 cows in 14 herds, said the variable weather has put additional pressure on the company’s dairy Farm Managers to make the right decisions.

“Recent rains have disrupted grazing rotations, fields have been poached and cows re-housed,” said livestock director Robbie Taylor. ”As pastures carry more water, Dry Matter Intake (DMI) decreases, meaning that grazing practice and rations need to be reassessed to ensure that cows are getting enough energy at this crucial time of the year.

“Where cows are re-housed it is vital to review pasture management, and that grass areas that have grown rapidly are removed from the grazing rotation and taken for silage. Prediction of grass growth and management of grazing areas will be even more critical where access to pasture is sporadic.”

The weather has also had major effect on prospects for maize and grass forage. Mr Taylor said much of the maize crop is yet to be drilled, while crops that have been drilled have been slow to get away with much still to emerge.

“We still need to wait for optimum drilling conditions,” he said.

“And soils should be allowed to dry to a workable nature before attempting sowing. We also need to look-out for seed-rot, frost damage and post-germination loss. It looks like the 2012 maize harvest will be later with lower quality and yield than usual. Therefore we are planning to adjust following crops and buffer winter rations.”

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In terms of grass forage, Robbie points out that the hot, dry March and wet April mean that fertiliser uptake and grass growth have been sporadic. Fertiliser uptake will have been slow in the dry conditions and there is a risk that nitrogen levels in the crop will have surged with recent rain.

He added: “It’s crucial to pay greater attention to detail in individual fields and grass leys using fresh grass analysis and fertiliser application history to determine heading-dates and nitrogen levels. This information helps to devise a detailed ensiling plan for optimum forage quality. Splitting the cutting dates or ensiling in separate clamps where possible should be considered.”