Dairy farmers: Here is your complete winter housing checklist…

With the end of the grazing season fast approaching, it is time for dairy farmers to begin getting prepared for the housing period.

In getting ready for the housing and calving period, AgriLand has compiled a list of things for dairy farmers to do, get and check to ensure that nothing is forgotten to avoid any unnecessary stress.

Housing facilities

First on the agenda is housing facilities, in particular the cubicle shed, as it will usually be the first in use; if it isn’t already.

If it has not already been done, all sheds should be power-washed and disinfected. Where disease was present the previous year – for instance, cryptosporidium in calves – steam cleaning is advised.

The cubicle mats, lights, drinkers, feeding barriers, agitation points, slates and gates should all be inspected for damage or defects and any repairs, adjustments or replacements made.

Eve gutters and down-pipes should also be repaired or replaced, and blockages should be cleared. Any water piping above ground needs to be lagged against frost.

Also Read: Dairy expansion not being matched to winter housing facilities

Furthermore, automatic scrapers should be checked to see that they are working correctly and topped up with oil if needs be.

Shopping list

A list of things that need to be purchased before the housing period should be made. Whether you use lime, sawdust or your preferred bedding, it should be on your shopping list.

In addition, the drying-off period is only around the corner, so the number of cows to be dried off should be noted and the adequate number of dry cow tubes and sealers purchased. Methylated spirits – or your preferred method of teat cleaner – cotton wool and gloves should also be bought.

If selective dry cow therapy (SDCT) is being considered, time will have to be put aside to select the most suitable cows for this programme.

Also Read: Who should consider selective dry cow therapy and why?

Although it is still early days, dry cow minerals will need to be purchased in good time before they are needed. Getting your silage assessed will help you make a more informed decision when purchasing minerals for the herd.

Any dosing or lice treatments that may be needed should also be purchased in advance.

Herd health

Moreover, ensure that the herd is up to date with all vaccines – particularly the salmonella vaccine for in-calf cows and heifers. The same goes for parasite treatments.

Also, now is the ideal time to assess the body condition score (BCS) of your herd. Cows need to be at a target BCS of three by drying off. A plan needs to be put in place now, for any cows under a BCS of 2.75 and calving in February or early March.

Also Read: Body condition score: Are your cows on track for drying off?

Finally, the prevalence of lameness has increased on farms from the deterioration of farm roadways due to the poor weather. Any lame cows should be examined and treated accordingly, as cows which are lame can struggle to put on condition.

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