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Down here, in the Manawatu, the calving is in full swing. Grass was in abundance but initial optimism is now being tempered with reality as grass covers drop rapidly. Still, the milk is pouring into the factory. It would seem that not every area is being treated so kindly with a wet winter up north and floods and snow blasting through the South Island recently.

Calving is a testing time. As soon as you think you have got a system for the spring, the climate does a shift in pattern, the neighbour's farm needs buying, or the lease block gets taken away.

The year you get the required condition on the cows the milk fever cases start arriving. The cows have to be well fed but the fear of running out of grass in September is always there. Then the advisers start throwing in the 'Transition Cow' and her treatment, or the need to spread Lime flour......of course there is still the cow in the hay shed to hoist up twice a day.

Then the calves need to be fed, and watched for scours, or navel ill, or coccidea. Last years system with milk powder worked well but this year the powder is too expensive and unavailable anyway. Life is both physically and mentally testing at this time. There is plenty to do with the cows and calves...but what about the forgotten ones?

Somewhere there is a group of female animals about one year old. These are the replacements that will be entering the herd next year at this time. They have to be in calf and they will perform better if they are in good condition at calving. If they lack size and are not in top condition they will struggle to get back in calf in 14 months from now. They are only 40 or so days from their first mating. Are they going to reach the target weights in that time?

If these animals are at home, are they being restricted, to keep feed up to the milking cows?If they are away grazing has the grazier run short of feed and had to pinch them a little? ....or a lot? Has the rising of the beef schedule made the grazier favour his beef at the expense of your replacements? When did these animals last get inspected? When were they last weighed?

Now what about the mineral status of the replacements?Would it be wise to have blood samples taken in case there is a problem? If a correcting injection is required it needs to be done at least 28 days before mating. That could leave 2 weeks to get the samples taken, results back and the injections done. Worms or lice could be worth treating too.

If they need shifting to another block of land may be now would be better than later, so they can settle into the new environment.

If all the above seems stressful and just another chore then it will seem even harder in a month or so when milkings are even longer. Remember that acting now will only improve the situation and give more time to reach the targets for mating.

The difference between a good farmer and an ordinary one is only a few days!

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