Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Plan ahead for road trips

For many Southland farmers, sending cows off to winter grazing is just around the corner. There are two key must-dos when preparing stock for transport, to ensure cow health is protected – set a feed transition plan and organise how the cows will be managed in the lead up to transport. First, where possible, ensure stock are transitioned to their winter grazing diet (if different from the home farm) seven to 10 days before the move. If moving cows from pasture to crop, you can allocate one to two hours of crop/day while still grazing pasture and feeding silage while cows are still milking.

Transport often also causes a significant drop in blood magnesium levels, and late pregnant cows are particularly susceptible. To reduce the effects of transport stress, supplement with magnesium for three days either side of the journey – provide a daily amount of 80-100g elemental magnesium/cow.

If in doubt about an animal’s health and fitness for transport, contact your vet.

Secondly, get plans in place for animals, truckies and standing off. Southland farmers transport a large number of stock in a short time period, which makes effluent management a priority.

To help minimise effluent during transport, cows should be stood off green feed for four to 12 hours before the journey, and given access to water, good quality hay, baleage or dry feed.

Check now that you have enough hay to feed during that stand-off period.

Standing off is best done on a grazed-out paddock or stand-off pad, rather than on concrete. A grazed-out paddock is often the best option, giving cows plenty of space to lie down.

Pregnant cows are a valuable asset and are worth looking after properly, so have someone who is skilled in transporting animals supervise the process on the day.  

Book your stock trucks early and make sure they have good effluent storage tanks.

On the day, it pays to keep in touch with the transport company and check the truck is running on time and that its effluent tank will be empty. Have a chat with the driver on arrival, to make sure everything is in good order for the journey ahead, and help load stock to ensure minimum stress and maximum efficiency.

Be cautious about allowing truck effluent disposal on your farm from unknown or mixed sources, as this can be a disease risk.

On arrival at their destination, provide cows with food and water and check them, especially for signs of bloat, around two hours after arrival.

The DairyNZ website has a checklist for transporting cows and more information on preparing stock for transport, at dairynz.co.nz/transportingstock. 

Richard Kyte is DairyNZ’s regional leader, Southland.

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