This page contains information and advice on dealing with wet weather. Other sources of information and assistance are other farmers, rural professionals, Rural Support Trust, and DairyNZ consulting officers.
Strategies for wet weather management
- Stress management
- Minimising pugging damage
- Feed management
- Animal health
- Effluent management
Looking after yourself and staff
It is important to remember that although we can’t control the weather we can control how we respond to the current conditions. Remember you are not alone and if you are feeling stressed make sure you talk things through with those around you...
It can be a real help to talk to neighbours, or attend your local discussion group and find out how they are dealing with the situation. For information on a discussion group in your area click here.
Your staff may also be finding the current conditions stressful. Be open and sensitive, and encourage staff to talk about how they are feeling.
Sometimes a stressful situation such as this can be the last straw for someone already under pressure. If you think you, a staff member or farming colleague is in this camp, contact your GP or health professional or the Rural Support Trust (0800 787 254) as soon as possible for advice.
On/off grazing is the most effective grazing strategy for wet weather
Cows can consume their daily intake in 6-8 hours so can be stood off paddock if necessary to avoid damage, alternatively stand cows off paddocks during the day and let them graze at night...
Alternative places to stand cows off include - races (confine cows to limit damage), paddocks that have been identified for regrassing, yards (ensure that they are stone-free to minimise lameness). Ensure they have enough space to lie down - at least 3.5m2 per cow if on woodchip, sand or concrete for up to two days; at least 5m2 on woodchip or sand for more than two days; and 8m2 if on crops or feed-out paddock.
Note: a 400 cow yard would only accommodate 200 cows as a standoff area.
If cows are on a feed-out paddock stand cows furthest away from waterways to begin with, to ensure there is no runoff of effluent into waterways and leave at least a 3m buffer from the edge of the waterway.
Cows need to lie for at least 8 hours a day. If lying is restricted they will lie in preference to grazing when put onto pasture, resulting in underfeeding.
Block grazing with temporary fences
Make breaks as square as possible to help reduce pasture and pugging damage
- Graze the back of paddocks first or set up temporary laneways to prevent cows walking back over a grazed section of paddock
- 24 hour grazing vs 12 hour grazing to increase the area the stock are spread over
- Back fence to prevent stock from back grazing and causing further damage.
Pasture walk/drive to establish feed situation and boost feed supply – well fed cows cause less damage...
- Hold your pasture rotation length (minimum 21 days)
- Use extra supplement to hold or extend round
- Update feed budget and monitor amount of supplement on hand
- Feed out before cows go onto the break or into the paddock (less walking around the break)
- Take care when changing cows’ diets, and slowly introduce them to differing feed types and quantities. Take special care with grain and avoid feeding too much too quickly. Increase at no more than 1kg per day and only after the cows have been eating 1kg grain for at least 5 days.
Once-a-day (OAD) milking is an option in the short term to take the pressure off young, light and lame cows and to reduce damage to paddocks from cows moving in and out...
OAD cows in early lactation will consume the same amount of feed as TAD milked cows, therefore this should not be seen as a strategy to save feed. OAD milking comes at a cost in reducing the potential milk production for the season – see our website for more information.
- Make sure all lameness prevention measures are in place e.g. gentle handling alternative milking intervals...
- Consider alternative milking intervals (e.g. OAD, 3 times in 2 days) to take the pressure off light and lame cows
- Mastitis prevention: focus on teat condition, and keep the emollient level up in the teat spray.
- Talk to your vet about any animal health concerns.
Frequent rainfall and saturated soils has prevented effluent being applied to land and causing storage ponds to reach capacity or be close to overflowing. See more advice see Coping with full effluent ponds.
Whatever the strategy you adopt it is critical to constantly monitor the pasture and stock to ensure that neither is suffering and the planned strategies are working. Conditions can change quickly so have a plan to revise the strategy regularly over the next couple of weeks.
Wet weather management plan
The best and most proactive way to overcome the impact of any wet spell is to carefully plan for the various possibilities beforehand. The planning process involves both how to feed cows and how to manage the financial implications.
Download Farmfact 1-41 Wet weather management plan (pdf)
Minimise pasture and soil damage
The key to surviving a wet spell during early lactation is to avoid pasture damage at all cost. For information on minimising pasture and soil damage download Farmfact 1-42 Wet weather strategies to minimise pasture and soil damage (pdf)