2014 is upon us and with it brings a whole new year and lots of new opportunities.
I find it is a great time to look back on the previous year and see what has gone well and also what did not go well in the farm business.
What would we have done differently if we were faced with the same set of challenges this year or in the years ahead?
The key learnings from 2013 that customers have related to me are:
1. Budget your Fodder. Measure your pit, count your animals and allow for a wet spring. Feeding a little extra concentrate over the winter when short on fodder saved my customers thousands in fodder costs.
2. Cut your silage with quality in mind. This year many farmers waited a few weeks to bulk up their silage crops. In many cases this has led to low quality silages being fed with a subsequent lack of performance. Silage is an extremely expensive fodder! It has to be quality!
3. Value of Straw. Perhaps over any other point due to the fodder crisis people can see the value of straw in the Ruminant diet. Being forced to feed large quantities of it last spring has opened many farmers eyes to the possibility of using it as a portion of the diet in high concentrate scenarios. We fed 14 continental bulls concentrate and straw diet with great results early in the year at housing.
4. Parasite control. Unfortunately after the previous few wet summers there is a huge parasite population in the soil. It is generally accepted across the Island that all soil types have picked up large amounts of parasitic organisms. Grazing in anything less than ideal conditions has resulted in animals picking up large quantities of Rumen and Liver fluke with serious knock on results. A key point to remember is that an animal with a large population of Parasites will use 2 kilos of concentrate feed a day to survive. Dosing effectively and regularly is the lowest cost solution. Farmers who have adopted this approach have seen big increases in feed efficiency.
5. Sit back and take 10 minutes to plan ahead your next months activities. A little forward thinking can make a huge difference between running around after problem after problem or getting ahead and making life easier in the long run. Small things like fixing gates, having the tractor in good condition, fitting a few lights for working in the winter or for late nights calving cows. Clearing the yard of any unwanted or unused items can also make everyone’s life a lot easier. How many times have we seen an old mower or slurry tank abandoned in a yard for months on end till the wife hits it with the car!