Achieving calving BCS targets is great for cow welfare as well as production
Cows in good body condition are better able to withstand cold as the fat layer beneath the skin acts as an insulating layer.
Set a strategy in early Autumn to get all cows to target BCS not only for production benefits but also winter welfare benefits.
To maintain BCS over winter ensure feed supply matches feed demand. In poor weather allow for decreased utilisation and increased demand.
A combination of strong wind and rain is the trigger to provide shelter and/or increase feed allowance. Depending on the situation - wet and windy conditions require an additional 0.5 - 3 kgDM/cow/day.
Ensuring cows achieve a minimum of 8 hours lying time per day is vital for cow welfare
The welfare code requires a minimum of 8 hours lying time per day. A trial conducted in 2011 looking at cows in different wintering options were monitored for lying time. All cows on all crops achieved an average of over 8 hours/day.
Weather has a major influence on behaviour. Grazed crop leaves behind bare ground which can become saturated after a rain or snow event, soil type and slope will influence the level of saturation. Wet conditions lead to reduced lying times. Numerous studies show lying times are reduced shortly after wet weather events. If wet weather continues for a few days lying times can be too low for too long.
Have a plan B for periods of wet weather where crop paddocks may become very muddy. Options include: drier paddocks elsewhere on farm or a stand off facility however, hard surfaces for lying are no more preferable than wet mud. This is sometimes difficult to rectify without a fit for purpose soft stand off pad. Paddock selection can overcome some of these problems so ensure better paddock selection next year.
Farmer tips to reduce saturated mud:
"Keep the break fence close to troughs and back fence"
"Stay out of critical source areas and graze wetter paddocks or heavier soils earlier in the season"
Ensure the team looking after cows during winter have good husbandry skills
Set expectations with your team about daily stock observations e.g. recognising sick or poor animals that are not keen to feed when the rest of the herd is. Deal with these cows quickly especially in poor weather conditions. Provide a suitable recovery site such as a grass paddock with good shelter and a low stocking rate with additional highly palatable feed and water.
Separating cows from the main mob can be stressful for cows and staff and transportation within the paddock is likely to be restricted due to wet conditions. Think about the best option for cows and staff.
Have a plan for shelter in adverse conditions
If a cow is clean and dry and there is little wind or rain, cold stress is rare until temperatures fall below -10°C. However, rain, wind and mud will result in cold stress at higher temperatures.
Shelter can reduce the impact of cold stress and reduce the demand on additional feed for heat production. If shelter provision is substandard or not possible feed supply must increase. A combination of strong wind and rain is the trigger to provide shelter and/or increase feed allowance.
Depending on the situation – wet and windy conditions require an additional 0.5 – 3 kgDM/cow/day.