The housing of livestock has begun on many farms, with many more just days away from housing their cows and heifers.
This means that the calves that were born in January, February and March of this year will be entering sheds for the winter.
These animals are the future of our dairy herds. Soon after they exit the shed next spring, they will be put in-calf to join the milking herd in spring 2024.
Ahead of housing these animals, it would be a good idea to check if they are on target regarding weight gain.
Before housing it would be a good idea to weigh these heifers to determine if they are on, ahead or behind target.
Any heifer that is behind target should be housed separately to the rest of the heifers to allow them to have priority access to fed.
If this is not possible, there should adequate feed space available to allow all animals to eat at the same time. For a yearling heifer, 0.3m/animal will suffice.
To ensure that these heifers continue to maintain growth rates over the winter period, high-quality silage is required.
If poor-quality silage is being offered, concentrates will be needed to maintain growth rates.
For example, feeding heifers a 72% dry matter digestibility (DMD) silage compared to a 67% DMD silage will mean that concentrate feeding can be reduced by 1kg/head for heifers that are on-target.
As heifers enter the shed it is also a good idea to administer any treatments that may be required, such as treatments for potential parasites.
The four major parasites farmers need to be conscious of at housing are:
- Gutworms, (particularly Ostertagia);
- Fluke; and
Heifers should also be inspected to ensure that there are no other issues, such as lameness, coughing or dirty tails.
Anything that may impact on the heifer’s performance once they go into the shed should be corrected at this stage.