DAERA Management Notes: Dairying

Cows need to take at least three strides through the treatment bath
Cows need to take at least three strides through the treatment bath

Farm SAFE: Think safety on the farm at all times.

Transferring slurry from one tank to another at this time is common on many farms, so always be aware of the danger of slurry gases.

Soil analysis

Now is an ideal time to carry out soil analysis. Only take soil samples when no fertiliser, slurry, manure or lime has been applied for at least 12 weeks. If you plan to apply slurry to grassland soon take soil samples first.

Based on the results of the soil analysis informed decisions can be made about applications of fertilisers and slurry. If the correct levels of nutrients are applied, yields will be optimised and cost savings may be possible. A standard soil analysis gives an indication of:

* soil pH and lime requirement

* soil phosphorus index

* soil potassium index

* soil magnesium index

Soil augers and sample bags are available from your local DAERA office. For meaningful soil analysis it is essential to obtain a sample that is representative of the area being tested. Therefore:

Always use a corer when taking samples. Never use a spade or lift a handful of soil from a ploughed field as a poor sample is worse than none at all.

Do not take samples within three months of nutrient application and avoid taking samples when soils are waterlogged.

Take cores down to 75 mm (3”) for grassland and 150 mm (6”) for arable.

Each sample should not represent more than four hectares. Divide large fields, noting and sampling each area separately.

Take cores from the field by crossing it in a ‘W’ pattern.

Take 20 cores from a field, bulk them together, mix and put the soil in a labeled sample bag.

Don’t sample near water troughs, gates, headlands, trees, dung or urine patches or areas where stock shelter.

Don’t put cores from different soil types together in a sample. Avoid small areas of a different soil type or take two samples, one from each area.

Getting the cow back in calf!

Breeding is well underway. All cows that are six weeks calved should have displayed a heat and are past their ‘voluntary waiting period’. Heats seen after this should be bred and a record of the service made on farm software. Assess breeding efficiency by working out the submission rate for the last three weeks. How many cows that had completed their ‘voluntary waiting period’ three weeks ago have been served? This answers the question of how many cows that were eligible to be served in the last 21 days were served. It should be all of them! If not, there is a problem with heat detection on your farm.

Tackling digital dermatitis

Is digital dermatitis a problem on your farm? The AFBI Hillsborough farm survey on lameness found that 45 of the 57 herds visited had digital dermatitis. Routine foot bathing is the most practical method of control, but to be successful it must be carried out effectively. Without regular foot bathing the incidence of digital dermatitis will increase weekly during the winter.

Foot bathing

Ideally provide a double foot bath, a bath to wash feet, followed by a treatment bath.

The wash bath is needed to remove dung which reduces the effectiveness of the chemical in the treatment bath. If there is not enough space to fit in both baths, the cows’ feet can be washed with a hose before leaving the parlour on the way out to the foot bath. To allow time for good penetration of the chemical the cow needs to take at least three strides through the treatment bath. It must therefore be at least

3 m long. Fill the bath to a depth of 10 cm to ensure the foot is covered up to the top of the hoof. The frequency of treatment depends on the incidence of infection in the herd. The minimum regime is to bath after four consecutive milkings each week.

Exporting records for organic manures

As with last year records of all organic manures exported must be submitted to NIEA by 31st January for the previous calendar year by the exporter.