With the changing of the clocks and Autumn seemingly now in full swing, October has been a month of transition at the dairy. Milk production has dropped and grass growth has slowed, signaling that it’s time to start drawing our 2018 lactation to a close. With calving increasingly visible on the horizon, we’ll have dried off the milking herd by the end of November to give our ladies (and milking team!) a well-earned couple of months away from the parlour.
As we’re around 70% of the way through our last round of grazing, many of our fields are now closed up for winter. To ensure our grass gets off to a good start in spring, we aim to finish the season with a whole farm grazing cover of around 2200kg of dry matter per hectare, which we are on track to achieve thanks to the careful planning and hard work of the pasture team.
Closing the grazing platform means outwintering, which is already officially under way after we transitioned a group of R2s (Rising 2 year olds) onto the fodder beet at the beginning of the month! Other than our R1s (Rising 1 year olds) – who we’re housing over winter to make sure they keep putting on the pounds – and a handful of milkers in need of some restorative shed-rest, all our girls will be on the beet by the end of November.
The high sugar content of fodder beet makes it a potent source of energy for cattle, who love its sugary taste. But just as we get a belly ache if we eat too many sweets, some cows can develop a condition called acidosis if they overindulge in it. The effects of acidosis can be serious, so we limit our ladies’ access to the beet, moving them onto a fresh ‘break’ at least once a day. Fortunately they’re already big believers in the importance of eating their greens, so we don’t have to nag them: they happily munch down the grass silage we provide for them each day, which smooths out their digestion, reduces their risk of acidosis and staves off hunger. Some of them even swear it keeps wrinkles at bay, too!