Farmers forced to fully house, as soils reach saturation point

The heavy and persistent rain last week and over the weekend has resulted in the majority of soils across the country becoming saturated or waterlogged with some other areas experiencing extreme flooding.

With the spring-calving season in full swing and many farmers hoping to get cows out to grass as they calve, the recent poor weather conditions have made this almost impossible for some farmers.

Many farmers who did manage to get cows out have now been forced to fully house again and for those who didn’t, the housing period continues.

Unfortunately, there appears to be no let up in sight as this week’s weather forecast depicts more cold and unsettled conditions with continued rainfall forecast.

Also Read: Weather conditions to remain cold and unsettled this week

Where milkers are being housed, house hygiene must be a top priority. When cows are being milked off cubicles there is an increased risk of mastitis.

To reduce the risk of cows contracting mastitis, ensure that cubicles are cleaned twice daily and bedded with lime, sawdust or both. The same goes for passageways and yards – they must be kept clean.

Feeding and lying space should also be considered. If feeding space is limiting, it can affect intakes – putting cows at risk of entering a negative-energy balance.

A negative-energy balance occurs when a cow is not consuming enough feed to meet her energy demand. In prolonged cases, a cow will use up her bodily fat reserves to compensate for this energy deficit, or ‘milk off her own back’.

Poor-quality feed is low in energy and can affect intakes, so milking cows should be offered the best-quality silage available.

Inadequate lying space can also lead to animals becoming stressed, increasing the risk of them developing mastitis.

If, or when, ground conditions improve, some grazing strategies can be used to help to include grass in the cow’s diet. Remember, everyday grazing in the spring equates to €2.70/cow/day.

Grazing strategies in poor weather conditions:
  • Graze lower covers or drier paddocks first;
  • Assess the paddock by walking beforehand;
  • Use on-off grazing;
  • Use off-spur roadways;
  • Use a back fence;
  • Graze in 12-hour blocks.

On-off grazing entails letting cows out with an enthusiastic appetite for three to four hours during the day. Turning out cows with an enthusiastic appetite for grass is critically important to the success of on-off grazing.