Outdoor Autumn Calving System on a UK dairy farm
The majority of UK dairy cows have access to pasture for a portion of the year. This is governed by the weather and ground conditions. Here we hear why calving outdoors for a UK dairy farmer works for their Autumn block calving system.
Calving outdoors on well managed pasture works for this farming family – they like the cows to be out in the fresh air and it fits in with the rest of their farm management. The near to calving cows are bought in from the calving field once a day for an extra feed and the grass is grown slightly longer than the other grazing fields to provide more fibre in the calving cow diet. This alleviates any metabolic issues, such as milk fever associated with a lack of fibre in the diet. The farmers also make sure the cows get a fresh patch of grass every day and where they laid the day before is fenced off. This helps keep the cows clean and avoids any build-up of bugs that could cause mastitis around calving. The mastitis rate is ~13% for this herd and they have very low rates of lameness (~6/100 cases per year). They also find calving outdoors is cheaper as there is no need for bedding material and further cleaning. In winter, all the cows are bought in due to poor weather conditions. To optimise cow comfort, soft mattresses are used in the cubicle sheds and there is plenty of space so that every cow can lay down at once. When the cows are grazing, they come in for milking at their own pace and are foot bathed daily with Formalin. These are key factors in preventing lame cows and reducing the need for antibiotics for this farm.