Body condition determines management

Many farmers are careless about managing cows based on their body condition. Closer attention will deliver significant returns. Every extra 50 kg body weight (one condition score) will deliver 450 to 600 litres of extra milk next year, as long as cows remain under BS 3.5.at calving. Feed management depends on the condition of your cows and the quality of your silage, therefore. Condition score your herd at drying off, get your silage analysed and feed according to both (see Table 1). Divide up your cows into three groups, based on condition score (C.S.).

Many farmers are careless about managing cows based on their body condition. Closer attention will deliver significant returns. Every extra 50 kg body weight (one condition score) will deliver 450 to 600 litres of extra milk next year, as long as cows remain under BS 3.5.at calving. Feed management depends on the condition of your cows and the quality of your silage, therefore. Condition score your herd at drying off, get your silage analysed and feed according to both (see Table 1). Divide up your cows into three groups, based on condition score (C.S.).

Group (1): C.S. 2.75 - 3.25 - Most of the herd will be in this group and will need no special attention with silage 68% DMD or better.

Group (2): C.S. 2.75 or less - These cows need meal, the amount depending on the quality of silage (see Table) and, if calving in Feb must be dried off in early Nov.

Group (3): C.S. 3.25+ cows - As cows that are very fat at calving down will underperform by milking poorly and have poor fertility next year, they must be fed restricted or poor quality silage. Some farmers push on the left over silage from groups (1) or (2) to these animals. Other farmers will feed only 5-6 Kgs DM per day of silage with straw. That means only giving them 25-30 Kgs of fresh (20% DM) silage per cow per day plus 4-5 kgs fresh straw.

Some farmers see this three grouping requirement as impractical but it will result in 3-4 more cows per 100 being incalf, less calving problems and more milk per cow next year. If separate grouping is an issue with you, and if you are prepared to spend some money a new system, Cow Centric, where a computerised feed station rations out the level of feeding required for each cow during the dry period can be installed.

It is most important that: Each cow has a cubicle, that is, 50 cows need 50 cubicles; each cow has 2 ft. of head space if being fed meals; each cow has 0.75 to 1.0 ft. silage feeding space; cubicle and yard surfaces are in good repair and kept clean every day; access to the feeding area is adequate, and not restricted, with an access passage, 6ft wide, from cubicles to silage area every 5-6 cubicles; cows have adequate ventilation, which is enough inlet and outlet area, with no draughts; you walk carefully through your cows, not looking over the rail, every day to ensure none are sick, lame, stressed, free of mastitis, and putting on body condition.

Teagasc advice on traditional orchards

Teagasc in association with Irish Seed Savers Association are held a Five Hour Countryside Management Course on Traditional Orchards in Kildalton College last week. Over 2,000 farmers have planted approximately 30,000 traditional apple trees under recent agri-environment schemes. Speaking at the Teagasc course, Catherine Keena, Teagasc Countryside Management Specialist explained that mature traditional orchards are a habitat for biodiversity such as moths, butterflies, ladybirds, bees; hedgehogs, hares, snails, bullfinches owls, sparrow and bats. Planting traditional Irish varieties ensures the survival of this valuable pool of genetic resource.

Eoin Keane, Irish Seed Savers Association stressed that early care of new orchards is vital in the juvenile stage, with minimal management in later years. The juvenile stage lasts from three years for trees on smaller rootstock, to ten years for trees on larger rootstock. During this time it is essential that the root zone is kept weed free, in at least one metre radius. Tying and staking must be monitored and adjusted as necessary to prevent the main stem twisting. Tree shaping by pruning is done each winter during the juvenile stage on a dry day. It is important for the long term health of the tree and establishes good long-term fruit bearing capacity. It is skilled work and will vary depending on the long term management plans for the orchard.

Options to improve your income

The Teagasc course on “Options to Improve your Income” continues in the Teagasc Centre, Dungarvan, next Tuesday evening November 20th at 8.00pm. Dan Clavin, Teagasc Organic Farming specialist, will discuss the opportunities that exist in organic farming. Eileen Murphy an organic farmer from Kilkenny will give her experience of the enterprise. Teagasc forestry adviser John Casey will also speak about the opportunities for farm forestry. This course is free and all are welcome.

Teagasc National Dairy Conference

The 2012 Teagasc National Dairy Conferences will take place on Tuesday 20th November in Tralee and Wednesday 21st November in Mullingar. Both conferences will feature Teagasc and invited speakers delivering papers on topics around the theme of ‘Is Ireland ready for more milk?’

With a growing world population, increasing urbanisation and scarcity of natural resources for food production, there is a growing demand for food. But what do these trends mean for Irish milk producers? And more importantly, are we ready to avail of the opportunities presented? Milk quota abolition in 2015 will lead to land becoming the new limiting factor on milk production. Grass growth and utilisation will determine farm profitability. Grass utilisation is driven by stocking rate on the milking platform. So what stocking rate is appropriate for your farm? What factors influence your platform’s stock carrying capacity? The weather conditions of 2012 made grassland management very difficult especially on heavy soils. The ‘grassland management blueprint’ will have to be modified for heavy soils while adhering to the principles of good grassland management.

With opportunity comes risk. Price risk, the risk of poor prices or bad weather, the risk of personal injury all have to be assessed and managed. Tools are available to reduce your exposure to risk; more will be developed. These Conferences will challenge farmers to reach for the opportunities which are now presented and to profitably expand their dairy farm businesses.

Pre-booking is essential for the Conference. Registration is by email to dairy.conference@teagasc.ie or phone to 025 42664.

Please note these Conferences are Dairy Efficiency Programme (DEP) approved events for discussion group members