Lime or calcium are essential for:
Freeing up other nutrients, particularly N and P;
Perennial ryegrass and clover growth.
Grass palatability (lower dry matter digestibility [DMD]);
Lime, because there is no legislative restriction on it, must be the
first fertiliser money to be spent;
You will not get the full value for N unless the phosphate (P) and
potash (K) and calcium (lime) levels are at optimum levels;
Low P could result in grass yield being reduced by 30 per cent
while low K could cause reductions of to 10-15 per cent;
The best value P and K fertiliser, by a long way, is 10:10:20.
Compared with 0:10:20 plus CAN or urea, you save 56 and 34
per tonne, respectively;
18:6:12 is also very good comparative value and I would advise,
where no P and K or N has been applied this year yet, that you
would spread three bags of 18:6:12 now.
Grass management principles for March
To minimise soil compaction and poaching damage you must
practise `on-off' grazing:
Let cows out twice/day after each milking for 2.5 hours each time
by milking at 7am and again at 2.30pm;
I don't buy the suggestion that cows do no damage at this time
of year when weather is good, so we leave them out full-time. To
make that call be very sure you are correct.
If you want to reduce meal costs, then you will graze silage ground
twice before closing:
This practice saves huge meal bills in early April;
It will only delay silage cutting by only a few days because growth
rates will be over 90 in May compared with 30kgDM per day in
To push this concept to its limit, the silage ground must be grazed
a second time from April 10-20; this will result in silage being cut
June 1-15, probably in two splits.
Compact calving 2019: manage heifers now
The bulling heifers are the solution because you can arrange their
Two things are now important to maximise the number of heifers
that calve down in the first three weeks of calving next spring:
Adequate size; and
Synchronisation (discussed next month).
Conception rates will be best if:
They weigh 310-340kg at bulling time (also overall farm
They are on their third heat at bulling;
They are well used to the grass diet at that time (two months at
Heifers on March 1 must be 53 per cent of their mature weight.
Light heifers (less than 260kg) should be out at grass now and
separately fed 2-3kg meal;
If still in trouble, delay service by two to three weeks;
Don't decide to let them `run around `till next year' because
heifers calving down at 36-40 months of age only have 2.1
lactations compared with 2.8 lactations for 22-26-month calving
age. This is because they get too heavy at mating.
Inject them for leptospirosis before March 17 (the cows also):
This is a must-do job for most herds;
It must be done three to four weeks (at least) before bulling.
Let out worm dose is not necessary for these animals (or any
Why waste money?
Put calves to grass in March
Calves at grass in March, while still on milk, will thrive as well as
those indoors and will have a lot fewer health problems while being
easier to manage:
Try to have fresh grass for them every three to five days by
rotating them round low grass covers;
Feed hay or straw while at grass, as they need fibre (essential);
If the weather is wet and cold, farmers favour letting calves run
back into a house but this can be dangerous unless it is well
ventilated, like a hay barn;
All they need outdoors is a dry lie and ground shelter because
they spend a lot of time lying down.
This option must be seriously considered by dairy farmers who:
Haven't a good record of rearing replacements to target
Want to maximise income off the milking platform by milking
I have a list of contract rearers who charge 1.00-1.40/day
depending on the period involved and services to be provided.
I am also promoting contract mating agreements for farmers with
low EBI herds more next month.
"The deepest principle of human nature is the craving to be
appreciated." (William James)