Mavis Motlokwa, Harrismith, Free State
December is mid-summer in South Africa and the grass is in full swing. This is the time to make grass silage if there is more summer growth than the animals can eat.
We are walking the pastures weekly and allocating the best grazing to the milking herd. Looking after the pastures is our priority because feeding cows grass is the cheapest way to produce milk. Maize silage for autumn and winter feed will be made later when the silage maize is ready to cut and ensile.
The bulls have been in the herd for November to pick up the stragglers that did not conceive with first and second AI; they come out at the beginning of the month. Now is the time to check autumn calvers for condition and milk production.
We will take out autumn calving cows that are low producers and dry them off. We also check cow condition 90 days before the dry off due date and dry off over-conditioned autumn calvers to avoid calving problems later.
If we think animals are taking strain, we dry off early or put the cow onto once-aday milking cycle. We roll out a vaccination schedule to protect our herd against CA (Brucellosis). Heifers get the shots between four and eight months, so we keep vaccinating to keep up as they get older and not to miss the eight-month cutoff.
We use S19 for the first two vaccinations and, if possible, we boost with RB51. Many farmers are doing this now with CA becoming an ever-present danger. Lumpy skin and Rift Valley fever vaccinations are also done.
Rain brings wet, muddy walkways and a guaranteed number of lame cows. Our farrier comes in every fortnight to sort out lame cows and to treat infections.
We work on the principle that early treatment can save our lame cows from the cull list. We will get the vet in this month for PDs (pregnancy diagnoses) and we hope our breeding season will be successful.