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Dealing With Summer Grazing Stress

By   /  July 14, 2014  /  Comments Off on Dealing With Summer Grazing Stress

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hot_cowWhether this is year one or twenty-one for your grazing system, this time of year provides serious management challenges.  The days are HOT, the flies are getting cranked up, and the livestock are ducking for cover by 10 am. Eyes are watering, sides are heaving, there’s not much grazing happening.  The humidity is an added problem.  And have you noticed that the water tubs are growing something other than water in them and the water temperature is rising too?  It all adds up to summer grazing stress. So how do you help your animals deal with these STRESSful conditions – and how do you keep your pastures in lush, vegetative, high yielding and high quality condition – under Summer-time Stress?

Check What’s Happening in Pasture

Monitoring may be even more critical now through August.  Without it pastures can ‘suddenly’ be all run-out one Monday morning, or ‘suddenly’ the milk tank drops 10 lbs per cow, or ‘suddenly’ several grazers have blind eyes. Here are some things you can do to make sure things stay positive in pasture:

  • Grazers love shade as much as we do!

    Grazers love shade as much as we do!

    Check the watering system including supply, cleanliness, and temperature every day.

  • Do your animals really have enough to eat? If you are not walking through your pastures then you really cannot tell what’s there – and it gets more deceiving as the season progresses.  Pastures that may look lush from afar may turn out to be dry and patchy when you walk through them.
  • Add new acreage, even if your grazing land is ‘holding up.  A piece of second cutting to graze is refreshing to the animals.  There are no manure or urine patches to avoid, and generally there are fewer flies.
  • Barn/shed cover with really good ventilation (i.e., tunnel), cool water, and clean/dry bedding is very helpful on certain afternoons.  It could be jus the thing that some milking herds need to maintain production.

This is the time of year when everything is going so fast you may think you don’t have time to do this.  But make the time.  Your animals’ immune systems are diminished under any stress, and heat stress is one of the worst, causing whole system trauma. If it does not last long, then the effects are kept low. Summer-time Stress is likely, but your management can keep it at bay and you and your grazing stock can enjoy some Summer-time Bliss!

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About the author

Independent farm advisor & grazing consultant out of Ryegate, VT (802)535-9067 partnering with Dairy Consulting Group, LLC (www.dairyconsultinggroup.com/index.html) and Agri-Nutrition Consulting, Inc. (http://agrinutrition.com/our-consultants/willie-gibson/) Willie was born into a Vermont dairy farm family in the 1960s. His parents sold the 30-cow herd in 1968, but Willie pursued his interest in farming by visiting farms with his Extension Dairyman father, showing dairy cattle throughout New England, and then working on Vermont farms from his early teens until his mid-20s. After graduating from UVM in 1985 with a B.S. in Animal Science – Dairy Herd Management, Willie expanded his herdsman experience from dairy cows to dairy goats at The Barnyard Chorus goat dairy, in Brookfield, Vermont. (Real Vermonters DO milk goats!) In 1988, Willie was hired as the last “County Ag Agent” for the UVM Extension Service in Washington County, Vermont. For 15 years, Willie was a key player in bringing ‘sustainable agriculture’ into the mainstream of education, research, and on-farm technical assistance, delivering a cadre of tools including: grass-based ruminant/dairy herd management, intensive/planned grazing, Holistic Management®, cultural pest management, diversified/alternative farming, natural/organic farming, soil health/quality, and financial/business management. In this position, Willie was mentored by many gracious dairy and livestock farmers, including Dairy Consulting Group, LLC colleague, Brian Stone. From 2005 - 2013 Willie was the staff dairy & livestock farm advisor with NOFA-Vermont. He helped nearly 100 Vermont dairy farms transition to certified organic, and provide in-depth technical assistance to the 200 certified Vermont dairies, and many other farmers, from grazing and forage management, to herd husbandry and nutrition, and business planning and farm financial management. Willie has helped dozens of farmers develop and implement farm business plans through the VT Farm Viability Program. Second only to being on a farm regularly as an advisor, coach, and ‘critical observer’, bringing farmers together for local, on-farm discussions and workshops is a favorite approach used by Willie for over 25 years. Willie and wife Martha have been blessed with ten children, and with owning and operating a homestead farm in Ryegate, Vermont. They raise and graze cattle and other critters, and grow food and herb crops for the family and local use.

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