Plans for winter should ensure every aspect of cow management is geared towards optimizing performance.
Here are some tips when preparing for winter:
1) Cubicle comfort and feed access
Look at the cubicle design and feed access to check and see if there are any improvements that can be made prior to housing.
If the cows are comfortable, it will lead to less lameness and improved production and better overall health.
Target a minimum of 76cm feed space a cow until they are in calf and 63cm once they are in calf.
See if the cows are perching with two feet in and two feet out. This could signal that the neck rail is in the wrong place.
Improve the trough surfaces by using plastic on the base of trough.
2) Winter diets
Look at what forage you have and start planning for winter diets.
If you do not plan in time, you could get low quality silage stocks which will affect performance of the cows.
Get the silage stocks analyzed and test the fresh grass samples ahead of cutting if harvest had been delayed.
If you only managed to get bulky and low quality second cut, energy could be more important in bought-in feed and it may be more practical to give liquid feed to encourage intake and increase energy.
3) Track body condition score
Low milk price has caused some farmers to cut back on feed rates, leading to a higher incidence of lower conditioned cows.
Assess the herd condition and ask how these cows can be given the best possible start around calving.
The main focus should be cow comfort and dry matter intakes.