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Getting Ready for the 2022 Dairy Season

05 November 2021
Type Media Article

By Michael Donoghue, B&T Dairy Adviser, Teagasc Galway/Clare

The 2021 dairy season is almost finished on most spring calving herds with 4 to 6 weeks milking left before drying off for the year. Decisions made over the next few weeks will have long lasting consequences for the profitability for the dairy business in 2022. Some of the key areas are discussed below;

Grass:

The weather in 2021 especially the second half of the year have been great for growing and utilising grass. Indeed most farms will have gained 4 to 6 weeks grazing compared to last year, which represents a massive saving in terms of less silage fed and less slurry produced but also cows have milked very well in September and October.  However we need to be very careful now to ensure that the grass that has been grown in October is not grazed again as this is the grass that will feed the cows in February and March. Covers on these fields are probably in the region of 500 to maybe 1,100 Kg DM/ Ha now.  So once grazing conditions allow in the spring there will be a great supply of very high quality grass available for the freshly calved cows to start grazing.

Fertiliser:

One of the darkest clouds on the horizon at present is the cost of fertiliser for spring 2022. Nearly all merchants have stepped out of the market for now so getting any supply for fertiliser is nearly impossible at the moment even at the current very high prices. The net result of this will be to dramatically increase the value of slurry on you farm. Historically the value of a 2,000 gallon tanker of slurry was about €40 but with current prices been talked about this 2,000 gallon tanker is worth about €100 per load. Thus slurry is a very valuable fertiliser and should be managed to get the best results from it next spring. So wait until soils are starting to warm up, >6O , ground is nicely dry, no rain is forecast and aim to use LESS slurry equipment to ensure maximum N retention.

BCS:

The general rule for dry cow periods are

  • Cows 8 Weeks
  • 1st Lactation Cows 12 Weeks

So for a 1st lactation cow calving in the 1st week of February she should be dry for the last week or two. If that same cow needed a bit extra TLC, so was lame, thin or expecting twins, etc, she would need an extra 2 to 3 weeks. The periods above are based on good silage, greater than 67 DMD, if this is not the case ration will be required and/ or longer dry.

Drying Off Cows:

Drying off cows is often viewed as a tedious and time consuming job but is probably one of the most important jobs of the dairy year. Get it right and it offers the opportunity to potentially cure cows with mastitis and permanently lower the SCC. However get it wrong and quarters can be lost or cows get very sick.

Increasing over the last few seasons, some dairy farmers have successfully stopped using dry cow tubes and are only using teat sealers on a proportion of their herd. Critical to the successful use of teats sealers only for drying off cows is milk recording, having records all cases of mastitis and a very high standard of hygiene at dry off. If thinking of going down this road contact your vet for a consultation to see if it could work for you.

The critical thing when drying off cows is hygiene and not rushing. Cow’s tails should be clipped and cows separated before drying off. Small batches should be done in a day, 10 to 20 depending on help. Wear gloves and disinfect the teat end well before inserting dry cow tube/sealer. Ideally cows should go out to a dry field for a week but if this is not possible cubicles need to be kept very clean while the cows soak up.

Above are some key areas that will affect the profitability of the dairy business in 2022. Of course there are more that will need to be addressed but get the above correct and 2022 will start off a lot easier.