It’s great to be back in New Zealand, if only for a short time. The positivity in the dairy industry is great to see. I am continually asked about the problems in the Australian dairy industry, it appears that only the negatives are published here. Dairy farmers in South Australia are receiving increased payments following deregulation plus their compensation payment. So they are very positive.

It is still disappointing to hear of the low levels of production and the high percentage of lameness still being experienced by many. The extend of lameness and empty cows in many of our herds is still unacceptable, especially when information is available to significantly reduce or eliminate these issues. Good races are only part of the lameness cure, nutrition holds the key.

Fertilisers must not only be applied to promote production but also to provide essential elements to optimise animal health, eg. Trace elements, calcium, magnesium, and the right form of N and sulphur.  Also fertilisers that will influence the way pasture plants handle the various forms of N.  Having the desired level of N, 4.5-5.5%, in pastures is one thing, having the right forms of N is another.  Remember crude protein is N multiplied by 6.25.  N in pasture can be in the form of nitrates, nitrites or as amino acids.  Some forms of N are toxic, others desirable.  As the weather changes so does the form of N in the pasture and so also changes the extent of lameness, animal health and fertility.  Frosted pasture, higher hours of sunlight and slower growing conditions see higher percentages of desirable forms of N.  Toxic forms of N are high during periods of flush growth, growth during periods of overcast weather, growth following dry spells and high levels of growth following some N applications, so it is critical that you understand both animal and pasture requirements when planning your fertiliser programme. As we know pasture and animal requirements are very different.

Timing of application is also important for stock health.  Applications of NPK just prior to, or in the few weeks following calving can have detrimental effects on cow health with many deaths occurring.  With calving and during early lactation the cow is put under a period of tremendous stress.  Increasing this stress with bad timing of a fertiliser application is less than cost effective.  A good example is the grazing of areas just prior to or in the few weeks following calving, that have been recently treated with potash or urea or some phosphates.  Do not apply these products during this period, and if you need to apply N use SOA or ASN or CAN, save the urea and potash until after the soil temperature increases, eg. Late September/early October.  I see or hear of too many herds loaded with metabolic problems as a result of poor fertiliser timing.’

Understand what your cow is going through?  Understand her requirements?

Understand how to predict problems that she is likely to face before a problem arises.  We all like to see our bank balance grow, looking after each individual cow, providing her needs from one season to the next is the greatest way to achieve this goal.

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