Factors in Herd Management
Movement of stock is an important matter on dairy farms as the herd must be driven to and from the milking shed twice a day. On well-managed farms, fencing is often used to provide some sort of farm road or race, to enable the herd to reach paddocks without traversing others on the way. Not only is this a great help to the planning and utilisation of feed but it also leads to greater convenience and saving of time in carrying on the work of the farm.
An orderly layout around the milking shed also reduces work. The milking-shed yard should have easy access from the race and individual cows should be able to return quickly to a grazing paddock after milking. If calf-feeding facilities form part of the cowshed yard, time involved in using and cleaning them is likely to be reduced. Bull paddocks need to be so placed that it is possible for an adjacent mating pen to adjoin the exit race and also be visible to workers in the shed. And ease of access for a milk transporter should not be overlooked.
Changes in shed design have also contributed to a lessening of work. The walk-through shed has undergone many refinements in its 50 years of service and has generally given great satisfaction. A new innovation, the herringbone shed, is now gaining favour and, with round yards and specially designed gates as adjuncts, offers prospects for further streamlining the work of milking. In some one-man sheds of this type, cows are milked at the rate of one a minute. Mechanisation of milking is almost universal. Since the war tractors have almost completely replaced horses, and many new improvements have been introduced in cultivating, harvesting, and transport machinery. Machines, however, are costly things to run, and decisions on their purchase are important problems for the farm managers.
Where whole milk has to be delivered to processing factories, it has been customary for each farmer to transport his own. But many factories are now changing to a system of tanker collection which is generally cheaper and certainly more hygienic. This elimination of a daily task, with a consequent saving in farmers' time, is one of the ways in which costs are reduced.
Routine work, notably milking and associated work, takes up much of a dairy farmer's working day. Further, a great deal of seasonal work arises which must be done to time. In August and September a peak of work occurs with care of calving cows, calf feeding, feeding out to the herd, and generally initiating the start of the farming year. Towards the end of September paddocks are shut up for silage. Mating is under way in October and November, as well as silage making and the cultivation of ground and sowing of fodder crops. In December and January hay is harvested and perhaps a start made with summer feeding of supplements. During February and March summer-feeding work continues and the summer crop area may be recultivated and sown back to pasture. Manuring may be commenced and continued during April. The herd is probably dried off towards the end of May. Over the winter, supplementary feeding is necessary, and during late autumn paddocks will be shut up to save pasture growth for winter and spring feeding. Development and maintenance work are usually put in hand in the autumn and winter since routine work is then at a minimum. Farmers may take their annual holidays when cows are dry in the winter.
A capacity for working with stock is usually a characteristic of good dairy farmers. Such work is exacting and requires patience together with keen powers of observation and the ability to review a situation and make a decision quickly. But stock work is directly remunerative. Good stockmen are usually interested in their charges and keen to do everything possible for them. Should a prospective dairy farmer not be interested in stock, he may do well to consider some other vocation.