The calving season can be a busy and stressful time of the year on farms

Long hours, not enough labour, and dealing with challenging weather conditions are only a few items that come to mind in the causing of stress during the spring-calving season.

Cows will be calving around the clock for the next few weeks on the majority of dairy farms, so it can be very hard to grab a few hours of ‘shut-eye’ in-between checking cows.

Combining this with worry or stress can have a long-lasting negative effect on a farmer’s mental health if nothing is done about it.

With this being the case, here are some tips for farmers to reduce the workload – particularly at night-time and obtain those valuable few hours of sleep.

Silage feeding

One method is the practice of night-time feeding, which should increase the number of day-time calvings.

Research from Teagasc Moorepark has shown that restricting silage feeding time during the day can result in less night calvings, compared to allowing cows full daily access.

According to this Teagasc study, this practice reduced the number of cows calving between 12:00am and 6:00am from 25% down to 10-15%.

It is also important to note, that this practice is only really suitable where adequate feeding space is provided for all cows – which is at least 0.6m/cow feeding space.

Liquid milk production nitrates regulations

OAD

Many farmers will adopt the practice of once-a-day (OAD) milking in early lactation and OAD calf feeding is also an option for dairy farmers. However, this practice should only be done for calves that are four weeks-of-age or older.

This practice will free up time to complete other tasks, which could include the cleaning of calving and calf sheds, completing grass walks, allocating grazing breaks and many other duties that are required.

Also Read: OAD milking in early lactation

Calving cameras

Using a calving camera may reduce the need for night-time checks. This provides a suitable system that allows farmers to check cows without having to go down to the yard.

If a camera is already in operation on the farm ensure that it is working, and also check that lights are in good working order to brighten up the shed.

Other Options

Using contractors more is another way of reducing the workload in the spring. Contractors can be used for spreading fertiliser, for spreading slurry (for example, using an umbilical system) and even for feeding silage.

Having a good relationship with your local contractor will mean he/she can be easily called on, when needed.