Dairy farmers are weather-watching before they decide to dry cows off for the season.
Farmers usually go to once-a-day milking before cows are totally dried off for the winter. It means cows are not milked through winter, while they are in-calf.
Some dairy farmers with properties on heavier soils opt to have cows over-wintered on separate land, while they build up feed reserves on their own dairy farm.
Fine weather means dairy farmers could milk on and most of them would do that to put more milk in the vat, said Manawatu’s Colyton farmer Scott MacMillan.
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He said skinny cows on his farm were on once-day- milking to try to get more body condition on them for the winter ahead.
MacMillan said farmers were still watching and waiting despite the whole milk powder price climbing again at last week’s global dairy auction.
“What goes up, can come down, and we’ve seen that. So farmers are wary and most people are still apprehensive about what the auction holds.”
He said farmers weren’t spending anything they didn’t need for milk production and new tractors, quad bikes, or cars were out of the question.
DairyNZ consulting office for Manawatu and Rangitikei, Jo Back said most farmers were watching the weather before they decided what to do with milking.
“May is a month that can get cold and wet, so people are seeing how the month goes before deciding on drying off.”
She said most dairy farmers dried cows off in late May, but this would depend on the weather.
Back said farmers had pregnancy tested cows, and empty rates of cows not in-calf were about 4 per cent higher than usual.
She said the empty rates were usually 8-12 per cent, but this year they had been about 16 per cent on many farms.
“It is up, because of the wet, low sunshine summer. And there was less intervention by farmers [use of hormones] because they didn’t have the money.”
Back said farmers needed to take special care of their young stock, as the loss of a heifer, which didn’t get in-calf, would cost farmers to raise that animal, and there was a genetic potential that was lost.
MacMillan said dairy farmers had welcomed the fine weather last week, and so had the cows.