Coping with drought conditions

With growth rates to send into almost nothing we have our fingers crossed for rain for doing the meat but As the saying goes expect the best but prepare for the worst. With this in mind we write with some pointers for management for milking cows.

Grazing management - slowdown rotations

Those on a rotational grazing system are in the best position to cope with dry conditions currently full stop the key is to preserve the Grazing wedge,and to do this it is necessary to slow down rotation speed considerably.

Current growth rates are 12 to 15 kilos of dry matter a hectare which translates to a rotation speed of 40 + Days. By slowing down your rotation there's a good chance you'll catch a shower of rain whilst the grass is still vegetative and it will respond very quickly to a drink, Also it means you will not run out of grazing completely.

Dry off low yielders and cull poor performers early

With supplement costs lighting to be much higher than expected it pays to dry off cows yielding less than say 12 l currently. In addition to boosting efficiency it will save a lot of forage.

Take stock of your forage supplies now

We can assist you calculating any shortfall in forage supplies so we can manage things most effectively. This is key if you need to buy in feeds or decide how much whole crop to make

Target your best forage at the most productive cows

For autumn calvers this means holding on to the first and second cuts as best you can. Prospect for maize harvest is very good and this  will reduce pressure on forage stocks. Target your best forages at your most productive cattle

Whole crop

Whole crop offers a great way to acquire extra forage, however crops are maturing very fast and the window of opportunity will be short-lived.

Price will be based on the value of Grain and straw for gone less the harvesting cost. So for example a 4t/acre wheat crop would cost in the region of £680 per acre. 

Whole crop can be made as a fermented products at 40% dry matter i.e. when the grain is at a soft Cheddar stage, or as Alkalage at 60 to 70 percent dry matter i.e. when the grain is almost fit the techniques are very different and if you're interested in exploring these please get in touch.

Moist feeds

Feed such as brewers grains and Trafford gold can be great for a stretches but at a price. Often they are priced on a dry matter basis close to concentrates and the losses in hot weather can be very high if you wish to  explore the use of these feeds please get in touch but for many people whole crop will offer a lower cost solution.

The best form of defence is attack

For early and mid lactation cows is important to keep rumons full and cows milking well. The situation is different for early autumn calving cows, but for those with a long lactation ahead of them it's important a good lactation is established and maintained. Budgeting forage supply and demand carefully will be vital to ensure you only buy what you need. Milk sales will be higher if you feed well and this coupled with positive seasonality (where applicable) will make it it possible to invest in forage replacers.

Straw prices?

Straw prices for harvest 2018 likely to be very high again. At a recent auction prices of £120 per acre of straw in the swath were seen (£150 per acre for Barley straw).

Feeding straw to young stock, often considered a very cost-effective route when forage supplies are tight will be prohibitively expensive. Purchasing haylage or hay is like to be a much more cost-effective option and will require less supplementation.

More tips and farming advice

If you have any questions or would like further advice, please contact our farm consultants at Douglas Green Consulting and we'll be happy to help.