Putting your wintering plan on paper
3 April 2020
By Nick Tait, DairyNZ Developer
Planning is without doubt the key to successful wintering. Drawing up a wintering plan on paper is a great way to make sure everyone on-farm understands, commits to, and implements the plan.
By now your crop paddocks will be well-established. So, the next step is communicating with your team how to manage the paddocks during winter.
Start by identifying the risk areas in each crop paddock – this includes identifying critical source areas, waterways, swales and wetlands. Think about the appropriate buffers for these areas and, if planted in crop, plan to graze these after the rest of the paddock has been grazed and only if the weather is good.
Think about grazing direction for each paddock. Strategic downhill grazing of crops reduces the risk of overland flow – draw up a plan so staff can see details of each paddock’s grazing direction.
Also note down how the paddocks will be fenced, including how often you will move back fences and catch fences.
Portable troughs minimise cow movement and reduce pugging – now is a good time to set these up in your paddocks, before it’s too difficult to move around.
Most of you will have set out baleage in the paddock by now. If you need to add more over winter, make a plan now on how you will avoid soil damage later on.
Managing the wet
Adverse weather events are an inevitable part of winter in New Zealand. The welfare of your cows should be front of mind when creating a strategic plan for wet weather challenges and ensure access to food and water, shelter and sufficient lying times.
Creating a written farm plan which details where animals will be moved in adverse events and what temporary solutions are available, means your farm team will know immediately what to do when the weather turns.
I’ve been talking with Southland farmers about their plans for adverse weather this winter. One option we discussed was identifying low risk areas within the existing paddock and saving that area for adverse weather.
This allows cows to stay on the same crop and minimises any transition or welfare issues. Another option some farmers have planned is removing their cows to drier crop paddocks with lighter soils or shelter elsewhere on-farm.
Another option is stand-off facilities as a temporary solution in adverse weather, including yards, laneways or feedpads. I’ve also visited farms with existing tree blocks or shelter belts which can act as a stand-off area in wet weather.
Planning early for extra feed and access to fresh water during adverse weather is a key consideration. This may mean an extra couple of kilos of dry matter per cow per day during these times, as utilisation may drop off.
Successful winter planning is good for the environment, the cows and the people involved. Having a plan makes it much easier for the whole farm team to play their part in successful wintering.
For more information visit our website dairynz.co.nz/wintering