We’ve all heard that “the only constant in life is change”, a saying that today is as true as ever for our dairy industry. Four out of the last five fortnightly adjustments for global dairy auctions has seen a lift in price which coupled with the new free trade agreement, is very promising change for Australian dairy farmers! Albeit we also see change in the weather, with generally lower silage yields statewide and a drier summer forecast. The task of feeding milkers, dry cows, heifers and calves to achieve strong results is sure to be a challenging one.
In recent years many farmers have employed new summer feeding strategies for dry cows and maiden heifers, markedly improving the production figures, conception rates and health traits of their herds. These strategies target ideal body condition scores (BCS) through complimenting the forage component of the animals diet with a calculated level of regular grain over dry periods. Implementation of these changes is very simple in that trail feeding can take place several times a week when checking water and stock. The benefits can be huge!
The most economical method of achieving ideal BCS at calving is to have the cow leave the milking herd in good condition and simply maintain this over the dry period. A cow calving in BCS 5 is recognised as the most likely to achieve her production potentials, as a result of greater ease at calving, improved conception rates, and having the ability to mobilise body fat through the demanding stages of early lactation. Achieving BCS 5 at calving is not often a chance result, however it is easily achieved through careful management in the late lactation and dry periods.
A change in focus on maiden heifers may also present a great opportunity to your business. Two year old heifers hitting the milking herd at 550kg or more (or a size comparable with your mature cows) produce greater volumes of milk in first as well as following lactations. The value of healthy BCS in maidens is no different to that of mature cows, but is perhaps even more important. Having her first calf, producing volumes of milk, all at the same as finding her place in the pecking order of unfamiliar mature cows must be a tough task but one certainly made easier if she can physically compete within the herd.
It is my opinion that healthy milk flows in the coming year, as is usually the case, will result in healthy dollar returns. Achieving this requires sharp forward planning and smart feeding. Be sure to contact your Reid Stockfeeds representative to discuss economical approaches in feeding of all stock this Spring and Summer – 1300 REID FEED.