For many farms, this season has been particularly difficult with regards lameness. Here are some tips to reduce pressure on cows, especially during early lactation to minimise lameness:
- Maximise time in the paddock – reducing time on concrete and increasing time for eating and resting improves cow comfort.
- Maintain races and entrances - drain muddy areas.
- Calm, patient stockmanship - let cows walk at their own pace and use the backing gate sparingly.
- Minimise BCS loss post calving by feeding cows well before and after calving.
- Early identification of lame cows and prompt treatment will reduce future lameness risk.
- Use the DairyNZ lameness scoring system to identify lame cows.
Focus on your heifers/young cows - being part of a milking herd is new to them
- Dry cows should be fed appropriately to achieve calving BCS – an extra bale on a wet day is a good plan, as we all know it’s hard to gain weight on a water-based diet! If you are unsure about your herd’s condition, please contact the clinic about body condition scoring.
- Herd Lepto, Salmonella & Rotavirus vaccinations should all be booked in this month.
- Tidy up horns/feet/tails ready for calving. Remember, it is illegal to dehorn cattle without local anaesthetic.
- Plan your minerals for the coming season.
- Nitrate test any new grass/oats/other rapidly growing winter feed crop – it’s better to be safe than sorry! Farm-side tests are available from the clinics. These are quick, cheap and give you a good indication of whether your paddock is safe to graze.
- Feed the winter milkers well – especially through any adverse weather that occurs during mating.
- Boost the springers for B12/Selenium – as they enter the springer mob is the best time pre-calving.
- Check your calving kits are ready to go with ropes or chains, pulleys or a jack, and lots of lube plus a lube pump. Also stock up on pain relief, starter drench and metabolics.
- Teatsealing should be almost done by now – for those still to go, please have your hot water turned on, and feed your heifers hay for 48h beforehand, as this keeps them both calmer and cleaner on the day.
- Train your heifers to the shed, to make it easier come milking time.
- Remember to boost them for Lepto/Salmonella/Rotavirus as well as the herd.
- Autumn-borns should be close to weaning, remember their second 5 in1/10in1 boosters.
- Your R1sout at grazing will soon be due their BVD booster – remember to ask the grazier about the bulls’ BVD vaccination and test-status too, as it’s often easier to tidy this up in the winter months.
- A winter drench after a warm autumn is usually recommended for a clean-out – now is probably the best time to spend the money on a top-end combination one.
- Make sure your calf sheds are ready for those early calves. If not yet done, replace bedding substrate, remove faecal matter and dirt, and give them a thorough clean, as well as any general repairs and maintenance.
Hopefully there are still a few more lazy mornings to go before calving hits in full force in a few of weeks.
All the best.