1. It is essential that the fields/paddocks closed during October are not grazed in November. Eating into grass supply now will only increase the cost of milk production next spring. Every day the cow is at grass next spring is worth €2.70/cow/day. Autumn grass is worth about €1 less.
2. If you have not done so already, now is the time to get your silage tested. This will allow you to open a conversation with your feed supplier, so diets can be planned ahead of the winter. If fodder is limited, then it is essential to put a fodder stretch plan in place early.
3. It is important to remember that every cow needs a dry period before she calves again and starts her next lactation. This is the time when mammary tissue regenerates, repairs and prepares to produce milk again. It is also the period when cows have an opportunity to reach the optimal body condition score (BCS), in preparation for calving and the start of the next breeding cycle. The general recommendation is that cows need a dry period that is at least 42 days long.
4. Dry-off is one of the most important jobs of the year. Ensure a hygienic routine is in place and dry-off in small batches. Mark each cow dried off with spray marker, take note of number and dry off date. Keep cows standing for at least two hours after treatment – don’t allow cows to lie down in dirty yards, roadways, fields or housing.
5. It is an ideal time to soil sample your farm – provided three months have passed since the last application of P and K fertiliser or slurry/manure. A soil test provides the necessary information when deciding on what fertiliser is required in the year(s) ahead.
6. Spread lime – Some 65% of the dairy soils in the country are deficient in lime. Lime is the key to making NPK available for plant growth. Consider applying lime this backend while weather and ground conditions allow. Lime will encourage growth in the spring by releasing organic and fertiliser N from the soil, encourage earthworm and microbial activity, releasing soil P for plant growth etc.