As I headed off on my early morning walk around the block this morning I was struck by two things….firstly the chill in the air as we hit single figures on the thermometer for the first time in a long time, and secondly, a scattering of leaves lying on the drive. The weather to date has belied the fact that autumn is here, but these two signs reminded me that we are indeed heading towards winter and all the joys and challenges that go with it. Less flies around will be a welcome blessing, as will the fact that cooler nights should start having an impact on the growth of eczema spores. Yes, time rolls on; I reckon that it was high time that daylight saving ended last weekend as the long dark mornings we were experiencing certainly weren’t much fun for farmer or “round the block walker”. I guess Bev would argue with this owing to the fact that staying in bed while it is dark is a firm belief of hers, these long dark mornings of late giving her every excuse to get maximum value out of the new sheets she bought recently. However, now we have daylight a little earlier in the morning, and nightfall a little earlier in the evening these habits may change, although I won’t hold my breath!!
Getting back to the eczema subject, there have been some very high spore counts around in this area and farmers are experiencing clinical cases in all classes of stock on many farms and grazing blocks. We have one cow with a mild outbreak and one more suspect, in spite of having zinc going in the water via a Dosatron since early January. I know that they say zinc in a Dosatron is a bit hit and miss, but it works for us on most occasions providing we start supplementation early in January. The worry is that there may be a number of cows that haven’t broken out and are still suffering from liver damage. Feeding a good part of the diet in supplements also helps as it dilutes the effects of the spores that do get ingested. In extreme years, such as this, we also add some zinc oxide to the maize silage as a backup. The youngstock have all had a zinc bolus carefully inserted down their throats, as you do, with the calves having had two lots. It’s not cheap and not much fun to do, but sure beats the old days when we had to drench them at least 2-3 times a week.
Lameness has been a bit more of an issue for us this year. Poor old Sam is having a steady trickle of cows coming in lame, white line and footrot being the common issues. I don’t know why it seems to be worse this year. Does anyone else have it worse than normal? Can’t blame Sam for pushing the cows up the race as they always come home from the Battlatch. Sam’s dog, Jeff, was a prime suspect in being a part of the problem, but no, Sam has a tight rein on him around the cows…..plus he’s usually off chasing hares, rabbits, rats and the odd hot air balloon! I was going to send Sam to a lameness seminar a few months back, but there’s no need for that now as all these cases have given him heaps and heaps of practice and experience as he watches and supports me trimming and snipping and digging and cursing and getting crapped on! I always had buying a decent lameness crush thingy in mind but the payout has taken care of that for the time being! Luckily Stu from ‘Hoofit’ lives reasonably handy, as he has been called on several occasions to trim some feet to prevent further issues…and to fix a few of my half-pie hatchet jobs!!! It’s not my favourite job on the farm but needs prompt attention when it rears its ugly head!
The new grass has been sown for a couple of weeks now; it’s up but needs a drink. The rainfall has been sporadic for 2 months now; it is still very dry although we are greener than we have been at this time in the last four years. I have undersown annuals into next year’s maize paddock and stitched up another one or two paddocks that were full of summer grass. I have also planted one lower lying paddock with Aber high sugar grass, even though it only has AR1 endophyte. I am keen to see how it goes as it should do well in that environment with its high root mass. It all depends on black beetle pressure and what effect that may have. This was a paddock that was in maize so hopefully any black beetle pressure should be minimal. Has anyone had any experience with this grass in the past?
Going forward, we need some good soaking rain to try and lift our cover while we still have a bit of warmth. SustaiN is going on in the very near future, which should help our cause. It will be May before we know it and the heifers will turn up for a while, long enough to get used to the feedpad and dairy before we Teatseal them and send them on to the maize block for 6 weeks.
Good to see a small lift in the Fonterra auction this morning. If we get a lift of this magnitude at every auction for the next 12 months, we may get close to breaking even and making a bit of money again! Won’t that be nice!! On that positive note I will sign off and bid you all goodbye. Stay positive, stay focused and remain grateful for all the good things we have on the land in this wonderful country of ours, even though the flag that we fly has remained unchanged!!