As temperatures start to cool around the country, now is a good time to take stock of just how well you are placed to keep your herd healthy this winter, and for a reminder of some of the seasonal health challenges they will face.
Create a feed budget
If you haven’t done so already, it’s time to get out the spreadsheet and compile a feed budget. By taking an accurate look now at how much grass you have in the paddocks, its quality and rate of growth and comparing that with how much you need, you will know exactly how big a gap you need to fill with silage and supplements. In some parts of the country the picture might not be pretty, but knowing is better than blind hope.
Check shelter conditions
It’s also a good time to check that your cows will have enough shelter available to them when wintry storms and squalls blow through. As we know, cows need to lie down each day to be healthy, but they won’t do so if they can’t find a bit of dry, soft shelter.
Ensure animals are well fed for calving
Nutrition both before and after calving has a great impact on cow fertility. Cows that are not well fed during pregnancy take longer to start cycling again after calving than cows that are well fed. Ideally cows should calve in medium body condition.
Account for staff shortages
At least feed and shelter for the herd are things we can have a plan for. The old problem of staff shortages never goes away, regardless of the season. And while it’s looking like another strong season for milk prices, economists are becoming concerned that demand may weaken.
No one ever said farming was easy – fencing by day, feed budgets by night. Keeping your herd healthy through a New Zealand winter won’t be any easier this year than last. But then Kiwi farmers got used to things not being easy a long time ago. That’s what makes them so resilient.