Use this flowchart to assess your situation now against three key indicators - pasture cover, body condition score and availability of supplement. Follow this through to key actions tailored to your situation.
For additional drought assistance please contact us at 0800 4 DAIRYNZ (0800 4 324 7969).
Recovering from drought
No two winters are the same, so focus and respond to the situation in front of you.
Expect temperature to limit pasture growth. Only exceptional pasture growth will fill the extreme pasture deficits some are facing.
There are still opportunities to improve the situation in time for start of calving. Compared with some winters, a few things are more favourable than normal. Drier conditions allow high utilisation of feed, less pugging and good opportunity for pasture re-growth. Smart management is required to fill this deficit. Anything less is likely to take you down a risky path towards below par conditions at calving, higher costs and lower cash flow.
It’s all about matching feed supply to demand as best you can, but that’s not always straightforward.
Grazing intensity and feeding levels
The first step for winter pasture and animal management is to obtain good data and make regular observations about what’s going on in the paddocks.
Try to make every blade of grass count:
- Get on a long rotation to build average pasture cover. At least 80-100 days, (1/80th to 1/100th of the farm area offered per day) is required
- Unlike summer, pastures are well adapted to hard winter grazing (down to 1000 kg DM/ha residuals) provided pugging is avoided.
- Only feed the cows what they need. The better condition cows just need enough for maintenance and pregnancy only (see page 53 of Facts& Figures). Avoid overfeeding cows prior to calving and then running out of grass after calving.
- Use any available supplement to fill the gap between holding a long rotation and meeting cow requirements.
Nitrogen and Gibberellic acid
Save your money for applying Nitrogen and Gibberellic acid for closer to spring. Pasture growth response per dollars spent will be lowest during June and improves in July and August. Avoiding June applications is also expected good management practice environmentally.
It’s important to regularly monitor cash flow and pasture cover.