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Dairy Newsletter - May 2024

13 May 2024
Type Newsletter

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In this month's edition:

  • May top tips
    1. Dairy farmers have had a tough time lately, with seemingly endless challenges coming from inside and outside the farm gate. The mood at discussion groups reflects this. Take some pressure off when you can – a day away from your routine can make a big difference.
    2. Examine the issues now to plan for the next bad spring. List the main problems and make a list of priorities. Grazing infrastructure and silage reserves should be sorted first.
    3. Milk earlier in the afternoon for a structured working day. Productivity increases with a defined day. A 16:8 milking interval has no effect on yield or somatic cell count (SCC).
    4. The Dairy Beef Index (DBI) gives an opportunity to breed better beef calves for next spring, with low calving difficulty. Do not breed dairy genetics to your lowest performing cows. Instead use a high-DBI beef AI straw.
    5. Milk record to identify low performers and persistently high-SCC cows. Don’t keep cows that can’t generate break-even milk value. Cull these ASAP, especially if you have to buy silage. Culling four to five chronic high-SCC cows could save nearly 100 tonnes of silage for the year.
  • Keep up momentum on submission rate
    In addition to conception rate, a high submission rate (the proportion of cows bred in a period) is also vital to drive a six-week calving rate. The aim is to submit 90% of eligible cows within three weeks and to have all eligible cows intended for breeding submitted by six weeks after mating start date. For a cow to be eligible, they must be calved in time.
  • Grazing targets in May
    May is often when grass growth reaches its yearly peak, so supply can change fast. How you respond to grass growth is the key:
    • during a 20-day rotation in May 1,300-1,400kg/ha of grass will be grown;
    • one of the main reasons for cows falling too quickly off peak in summer is poor grass quality;
    • every 1% reduction in grass digestibility will reduce milk solids yield by 1-2% – grazing heavy covers will reduce milk solids by 15-20kg per cow in mid season;
    • keeping the sward green from top to bottom is important for grass quality and regrowth – the grass plant is right for grazing when it is at the 2-3 leaf stage, so if grass starts growing the ‘fourth’ leaf, the rotation is getting too long; and,
    • average farm cover should be at 160-180kg DM/cow in May. This is equivalent to an average farm cover of around 600-700kg DM/ha. Paddocks should be removed as silage if they are too strong or where the rotation is too long.
  • Silage 2024 – quality and quantity needed
    Recent weather reinforces the need to have quality silage reserves. Do not delay first-cut silage in order to bulk up the crop and replenish diminished silage stock. Delaying is likely to have a negative effect on silage quality, as well as reducing the total yield for the year. Delaying the first cut beyond late May is likely to result in lower total dry matter yield between the first and second cuts.
  • Nitrogen fertiliser for grass and clover swards
    In the summer, when sward clover content is sufficient (≥20%), nitrogen (N) fertiliser application can be reduced. Suggested N application strategies for grass-clover swards with a range of sward white clover content are outlined.