Is this the best Christmas present for a dairy farmer?

Having all the necessary equipment to make calving a success does not stop at having a good calving shed, attendees at a recent farm walk heard.

“When you go down to cows calving at night, you want to make sure that you have everything beside you and you don’t spend half the evening looking for different bits and pieces. You can save serious time that way.”

This was the main take-home message from Colin Anderson at a new entrant practical skills workshop on the farm of Gerry and Mairead Fallon in Streamstown, Co. Westmeath, this week.

Colin, who works for the Lakeland Dairies / Teagasc Joint Programme, said farmers lose time “by walking over and back the yard” looking for the same thing.

“Every farmer should have one of these,” Anderson said, holding a tradesperson’s bag.

“You can have everything in there to make sure you are saving time and effort around calving time.

“Make sure you have the iodine for the calf’s navel; taggers and tags for the calves; a feeder for colostrum; dehorner for when you’re disbudding; and the blue spray too.

“Don’t forget a notebook to write down calves’ tag numbers if you’re not registering them on the phone. Something as simple as this will save every farmer time around the farm.

“It’s the perfect present if you’re looking for one this Christmas,” Colin said.

‘Now is the time to think about next spring’

Colin said farmers should take the opportunity between now and the end of the year to ensure that they are fully prepared for the spring calving season.

Ideally, what you want is a bulk calving pen where you can group cows coming near calving and that cuts down on that one-to-one work with individual cows. Make sure your calving pen has good access to the parlour.

“One thing that does work is feeding silage late at night. Research shows that feeding silage between 6:00pm and 8:00pm can reduce night-time calvings by about 9% to 10%.

“Having something as simple as a daily checklist is critical to ensure that you are fully prepared for the busy calving season. It’s no good thinking about it the day before calving; now is the time to think about next spring,” Colin concluded.

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