Some simple ways of reducing the workload on dairy farms in spring

The calving of a large number of cows in a short space of time is fast approaching on many spring-calving dairy farms. The chaos and extra workload this coming spring it will cause on farms can be mitigated by these tips.

Minimise the chances of a disease outbreak

In the midst of the calving season the last thing anyone wants is a disease outbreak.

To avoid this, ensure that your cows are up to date with all vaccines. Where scour – in particular rotavirus – is an issue, a one-shot vaccine can be administered between three and 12 weeks before calving to prevent this.

Have the calving area and calf house cleaned and disinfected before the calving season starts, while also ensuring that each calf receives adequate colostrum – at least 3L per calf.

OAD feeding and/or milking

According to Teagasc, in calves over 4 weeks of age there was no difference in calf performance or health observed between calves fed once-a-day (OAD) or twice-a-day (TAD) in trials carried out at Teagasc, Moorepark.

However, the overall labour input pre-calf was reduced by up to 36%.

Milking OAD for the first few weeks during calving will reduce the workload in the busy period.

OAD milking has been shown to reduce the labour requirement, while only having a minimal impact on annual milk production.

Get cows out to grass early

Getting cows out to grass early doesn’t only reduce the workload this spring, but it is also more cost-effective.

The time between now and calving can be used to identify paddocks that will have the correct cover and can be grazed early. This will all depend on the weather conditions in the early spring.

Ensure that all the fences and fencing equipment are working properly; it is also a good opportunity to make any changes you’ve been considering, such as new entrances to some paddocks.

Use different technologies and innovations

There are plenty of technologies and innovations available to reduce the workload this spring.

These include:

  • Automatic calf feeder;
  • Calving camera;
  • Milk trolley;
  • Milk heater;
  • Mobile milk feeder;
  • Calf transporter.

Have SOPs in place

A standard operating procedure (SOP) is a document or a sign with a clear step-by-step guide or instructions on how to complete a particular task or procedure on the farm or any workplace.

SOPs don’t necessarily have to be written down, once they are clearly communicated and understood by all employees.

SOPs can be adopted for tasks such as:
  • The milking routine;
  • Washing the milking machine;
  • Calf feeding;
  • Treating a cow for mastitis;
  • Treating a calf with scour;
  • Along with many more tasks that farmers perform on a daily basis.

Having SOPs in place reduces the amount of time spent explaining how to do specific task(s) to employees as well as providing direction and improving communication and consistency. They are also useful in the case of an emergency.