Results from DairyNZ’s nationwide survey highlights dairy farmers continue to focus on wintering well and caring for their animals and land, no matter the conditions.
DairyNZ lead advisor Justin Kitto says he is pleased to see that the wintering survey showed significant improvements in wintering practice on previous years.
“This year 74% of farmers implemented at least five good management practices to support their cows and manage winter conditions,” says Justin. “Importantly, 96% of farmers also said they had strategies to provide comfortable lying conditions.”
“These findings emphasise what we have seen previously – that farmers use a range of tactics to care for cows over winter. These strategies include shifting them to a drier, lower risk paddock, or using crops positioned in drier or more sheltered areas for grazing during bad weather.”
Other strategies used to minimise mud and improve lying conditions include back fencing (temporary fences to protect previously grazed areas), portable troughs, providing extra straw as a dry bedding material and moving the break fence multiple times a day.
The survey also saw a significant rise in farmers having a written wintering plan, with an increase to 80% of respondents.
“These are important findings as written plans help to identify environmental risks and encourage thinking around keeping cows comfortable and healthy,” says Justin.
“It helps ensure that the right decisions are made at critical stages over winter, especially during significant weather events, or during long periods of rain. We also saw farmers with written wintering plans also implemented more good practices to look after cows and the environment compared to those without a written plan.”
Farmers are also focused on ensuring calves are born in the best conditions, moving cows off-crop around two weeks before calving date.
“Many farmers put cows in mobs based on calving dates to help them better monitor and manage herds,” says Kitto. “Daily checks then provide the opportunity to identify any issues and those getting ready to calve, so farmers can give them the best outcomes.”
“Winter weather can be cold and unpredictable, so dairy farmers know they need to care for stock right through to the end of winter.”
Additionally, the results showed that 98% of farmers had stock excluded from waterways, while 94% had a buffer around their waterways to filter contaminants before they reach a waterway.
“Farmers should be proud of the work they are doing to improve their winter management for the best outcomes for their animals and the environment. The work is being recognised, with regional councils and MPI complimenting farmers on their dedication and progress.”