Farm Management Tips for May by Daniel Hession

Farm Management Tips for May by Daniel Hession – Nutritionist & Technical Manager

1. Grassland management

Continue to walk the farm weekly, preferably twice weekly during periods of very high grass growth. Maintain pre-grazing covers of 1,400 kg DM/ha to maximise milk production and liveweight gain. Match demand with grass growth and maintain a rotation length of 18-21 days. If paddocks are gone too strong, skip them and cut for high quality silage bales. Graze paddocks to 3.5 - 4.0 cm to maintain grass quality in subsequent rotations.

May is the month to use nitrogen as growth rates and responses are best – 1kg N will grow 30 kg DM of grass on average. Use protected urea. Spread Nitrogen appropriate for your stocking rate.

May is an ideal month to stitch-in clover to existing swards but they must be open or after a cut of silage – sow seed less than 1cm deep. The seeding rate is 5 Kgs per hectare or 2 kgs per acre of pelleted clover. This is spread with 2.5 bags per hectare or 1 bag per acre of 0:7:30.

2. Dairy

Check submission rate - the target is for over 90 per cent of cows to be submitted for AI during the first 3 weeks of the breeding season. Check progress now. Identify cows that are over 35 days calved and have not been served.  Call your vet to scan these cows and treat accordingly. Heat detection aids are essential, keep tail paint topped up as it becomes harder to pick up cows in heat later in the breeding season. 


Switch to 24-to-36-hour grazing areas for cows, forget about strip grazing or 12-hour blocks which results in cows having too small an area from which to get their feed. Benefits of 24-to-36-hour grazing areas include; less work setting up and moving fencing reels every milking; higher cow intake, better grass utilisation and increased cow performance. Cows should enter a fresh paddock in the evening (not after mornings milking) because the grass will have a lot higher sugars – could result in 1-2 litres more milk.

Treat lame cows promptly so that it does not cause reduced fertility, increased SCC levels and loss of milk. Body condition score cows in mid to late May so that fertility or milk yield are not affected. Stay on top of mastitis issues by constantly monitoring SCC and milk recording results. Examine your cost base and complete a cash budget for the remainder of the year.

3. Beef

Prioritise good quality grass for cows during the breeding season. During the breeding season, cows should be on a rising plane of nutrition at mating. Give preferential treatment to thin cows, first time calvers and late calvers. Mineral supplementation is also important and should be kept in mind. Selenium, copper and iodine are important and deficiencies are common. Grass samples can be analysed to determine the mineral supply to the animal and appropriate supplementation selected. Ensure breeding vaccines are up to date.

Ensure the stock bull has a pre-breeding check before the start of breeding. Watch the bull when turned out with cows; check he is following animals in heat and mounting properly. Keep safety in mind so don’t get too close to the bull. Watch for repeats from 18 to 21 days after cows are served. If there are a lot of cows repeating, there may be an issue with the bull’s fertility. Young stock bulls in their first breeding season need careful management, too many cows can cause fertility problems. As rule of thumb, give the bull one cow per month of age. Replacement heifers should weigh 60% of mature cow weight when served.

Dairy beef calves should get a worm dose three weeks after turnout and again at appropriate intervals during the grazing season – use faecal egg counts to determine the need for dosing.

4. Sheep

Maintain high stocking rates by grouping up ewes and lambs to graze out paddocks to 4 cm without restricting lamb growth rates. This will ensure quality grass for the summer. Maintain short, leafy swards (5-7 cm pre-grazing) with high-intake characteristics. Control scald in lambs which may affect growth rates. Lambs born in early March or before should have been dosed for Nematodirus in late April. In later lambing flocks, lambs aged 6 weeks of age and older and grazing on contaminated pastures for Nematodirus should be dosed now. Lambs should only be treated with a Benzimidazole (white drench) based product. This is one of the key actions to reduce resistance and improve sustainability. If lambs are still scouring after dosing for Nematodirus, they may require a second dose or you may need to dose for coccidial infection – contact your vet for advice.

5. Farm Safety

The month of May is a high-risk month as the silage cutting season kicks off. The safety of yourself, your family, those working for you and other road users must be your highest priority to avoid serious injuries during this busy time.  Put a safety plan in place before silage starts.

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