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Recently I placed some comments on the condition of cows in the Manawatu on this publication. I pointed out that the cows in autumn were at about Condition Score 4 and needed a lift of 1 to 1.5 CS during the winter.

How many farmers fed their cows enough to get that lift?

None that I know of. In fact it was probably an impossible target, given the length of time until the next calving and the animals lack of ability to ingest large quantities of feed.

Although there is now much feed on hand, the new season is starting with cows below the optimum body condition.

Already potential peak production is limited and mating statistics will be below the achievable targets.

So where from here? Next autumn do farmers resolve to dry off the cows earlier?

May be feed them much better in autumn while following the trend to milk on later. Both these options seem to leave the cows short on condition at calving for 9 years out of 10.

REMEMBER THE AIM... Cows at 5+ CS at calving, a strong peak, a gradual lactation decline and GETTING THE COW BACK TO THE STARTING BODY CONDITION before the next calving.

Already the peak for this season is as good as set by the cow condition score, the grass cover at calving (and the conserved feed on hand). FROM THAT PEAK POINT ONWARD, I suggest, the plan to get the cows to the ideal calving condition score has to be foremost in the farmers mind. Look after the condition and the production will look after itself.

Feed the cow while it is lactating because it converts feed more efficiently. Feed it while there is a greater choice of extra feed about and avoid the scramble for good winter grazing. Long term this could mean lower stocking rates, but not a reduction in production. It could mean more conserved feed, or even extra costs, but if handled properly the financial advantages should out strip the disadvantages. A steady milk production from, a given area, may be more in keeping with the current dairy industry philosophy, and could even be easier to manage than the old higher stocking rates, with wild climatic fluctuations.

Watch this space as the peak gets nearer. May be add your views or ideas to the discussion line when it is up and running.

Happy Calving and Milking.

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