As calving season is at the early stages, now is the time for farmers to do their final checks and ensure they are correctly set up for the coming weeks.
Regardless of herd size or facilities, farmers can expect to experience a lack of sleep due to cows calving. Tiredness can not only affect moods and impair decision making, but it can also decrease productivity. Below are some steps farmers can take to quantify labour input, reduce where possible and allow time for rest.
Organise, prepare and plan ahead
Organisation is key. If farmers have not done so already, create a list of calving essentials. Include the calving jack, gloves, ropes, checking the calving camera etc, but also consider setting up sheds and facilities in advance. Tick items off the list as they are done. Make tasks easier for you by putting essential items all together close to where you will need them.
Farmers can also plan the timings of jobs. Make a daily schedule and aim to stick to it. For example, look after the cows and calves in the morning, then move onto cattle. After this additional jobs like fencing, cleaning etc, and then lastly feeding around the yard. Farmers can also plan out their week. Some farmers aim to have all cleaning and bedding done on a Thursday or Friday to allow for a reduced workload during the week. Unfortunately, farmers cannot plan for every occurrence but being organised can help with time management.
With organisation and thinking ahead, also consider grassland management. Getting cows out to grass early after calving can help cut down time spent on feeding and bedding. Set paddocks up in advance and aim to get cows out full-time or part-time, depending on weather conditions and grass growth.
Research from Teagasc shows that night-time feeding can help promote daytime calving. Restricting silage throughout the day and feeding later in the evening can reduce night calving from 25% to 10-15%. This gives the farmer an opportunity to get much needed sleep.
Consider once a day milking during Spring
At the start of calving, farmers could also adapt to once-a-day milking to help reduce workload. This is a great way to ease into the new Spring routine. Once-a-day milking is less labour intensive, can help heifers adapt to the parlour and allows farmers to spend time on bedding, cleaning etc.
Paperwork can take up time and if tired, can be difficult to complete without errors. Using the farming app, Herdwatch, can help farmers reduce workload and stay on-top of recording and calf registrations with the department of agriculture. Herdwatch displays the last tag registered and allows farmers to input information without internet connection. Farmers can also submit their breeding information and get notifications and reminders about which cows are due to calve. To find out more visit www.herdwatch.ie.
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