How you can reduce the heavy workload in spring on my dairy farm?
By Ellis Caldbeck & Rupert Murray
With the expanding dairy herd, the work needed with calving a large number of cows over a short period of time is coming fast for many dairy farmers. There was a huge workload on dairy farms last year, as storms and snow played havoc with the day-to-day running of farms. However, if current weather conditions remain, life will be much easier during this busy time. With the push for efficiency, many farmers have targeted calving 90% of their cows in just six weeks. Alongside this comes the pressures of milking for the first time in 2019 and – hopefully – pushing to get cows out to grass. However, there are a number of ways that dairy farmers can use to relieve some of the pressures at this difficult time of the year. These include: feeding silage at night; once-a-day calf feeding; the outdoor rearing of calves; once-a-day milking in early lactation; and shortening the milking interval.
Feeding silage at night
According to Teagasc, this practice reduced the number of cows calving between 12:00am-06:00am from 25% to 10-15%.
To limit the feeding time:
- Allow adequate silage feeding space
- Put silage at the feed barrier during the day
- Use lockable head gates to keep cows back from the silage
Once a day calf feeding is fairly self-explanatory .
Rearing Calves Outdoors
Given the growth that is happening on many farms, some farmers may find that they are short of space next spring.A simple solution to this may be to turn calves out earlier than normal and – with current weather conditions – this is definitely an option.
Once a day milking
To minimise labour demand in February and March, some farmers may choose for once-a-day milking for a few weeks during the peak of the calving period.
Most farmers start milking at around 5 o’clock in the evening but it is better to start earlier on in the evening at around 4 o’clock to allow a good yield of milk.