Prolonged dry and hot weather conditions can have a significant impact on grass growth and supply on some farms.
In this news article, Conail Keown, senior dairying advisor, CAFRE, looks at key management considerations for your farm.
But, in this article, he explores housing, young stock and a persistent dry period.
Other key management considerations for your farm
Where cows are grazing by day and being housed at night, consider grazing at night and housing during the day.
If housed cows are tightly stocked in warm weather, this will further add to stress on animals. Do not overload cubicle houses in warm conditions.
Feeding silage on a ‘little and often’ basis for housed cows should help to reduce feed spoilage.
Cows should be observed for signs of heat stress during warm weather.
Cows become lethargic and inactive and will often stand with heads bowed and panting. Respiration rates will also increase.
To alleviate heat stress, cows should be given access to shade and air flow increased for example, with fans.
Heat stress can not only adversely impact milk yield, but a number of farms have already reported a drop in fertility performance which may too be a direct result of heat stress.
Do not neglect youngstock – total dry matter intake requirements are small relative to the milking herd, but nonetheless, adequate feed must be offered daily.
Experience from other drought periods highlighted a downturn in heifer DLWG (daily liveweight gain), even when stock seemed content.
So additional purchased concentrates may be necessary to maintain growth rates, and this is especially important for herds aiming to calve heifers at 2 years of age.
Persistent dry period
Late lactation cows in poor condition should be dried off early to ease pressure on the best quality feed.
Consider offloading problem cows that are already in line for culling.
If silage must be fed for a few weeks in summer, complete an early fodder budget. This will allow plenty of time to take action if there is a risk of feed shortages later in the year.