COMMENT: In my last article I stressed the importance of being appropriately prepared and set-up for a compact calving season. Once calving commences, the number one priority is establishing an efficient work routine and sticking to it. In this way a farmer, either working on his own, or as part of a team in the case of bigger herds can ensure a smooth running system is in place with maximum attention to detail at all times.
I visited a 250 cow farm last week where calving was due to start that day. A calving group of 30 cows and heifers had been created. When I saw them they were lying-down outside on fresh woodchip. They had access to water but no silage.
The farmer went though their proposed daily routine:
6.30am – Check calving group in indoor straw bedded shed. Identify fresh-calvers, match up cows to calves, tag and record in notebook. Send all uncalved cows outdoors to woodchip area. Send fresh calvers into colostrum group of cows. Stomach tube all new calves with body temperature colostrum (5% of their bodyweight, give another 5% within 4 hours)
7.15am – Milk main group of cows, which will consist of all cows who have settled into milking and whose milk is fit for sale. Student arrives and starts feeding older calves.
8am – Student and farmer together milk the colostrum group of cows which will consist of all cows calved in previous four days, sick cows etc. The Farmer felt it was very important to have two people in the pit for this group of cows. Main group of milkers go to grass. Colostrum group always remain indoors.
9am – breakfast
10am-1pm –Gather new born calves from calving shed, transport them via quad trailer to calf shed. Bull and heifer calves going to opposite ends of the shed. Office work, register calf births, process movement permits etc
Check calving group on woodchip, tag and stomach tube calves as they are being born.
Other yard work, feeding etc
2pm – Run springing dry cows through milking parlour. Draft cows approaching calving and add to calving group
3pm – Remove new calves from woodchip area to calf shed as above. Add fresh calvers to colostrum group.
4pm – Milking and calf-feeding as above. Set-up grazing for the night & following day.
5.30 – Final check on all stock. Bring calving group back indoors to straw bedded shed with self-feed silage.
6pm – Home.
9-10pm – Check calving shed, tag and stomach tube any new-born calves. Rarely any need to visit the yard again until 6.30am
The farmer in this example stressed the importance of establishing this routine and sticking to it. Of course there will be days where the unexpected arises, delaying everything and throwing the routine astray. However these events pass and it is important to quickly resume the old routine again.
Being organised and disciplined in this way enables, in this case, 2 people to get through an enormous amount of work and still be back in the house for 6pm. They take turns regarding the 9pm yard visits. Extra help is available at the weekends enabling the two on duty all week to take some time off.
On this farm, 50% of the herd will be calved in 16 days, after which the workload starts to ease off. Bull calves are sold at the earliest opportunity while the grazing mob of cows gets bigger everyday thus reducing yard work.