The dairy herd will now be in full milk and the time has come to arrange for the closing up of pastures which are to be cut for silage and hay.
When selecting a paddock for silage, care should be taken to ensure that it is one that has no bad harvesting features and is reasonably level and dry. For preference it should be a paddock on which the dairy cows have been wintered so it will be necessary to harrow the surface to spread the droppings and to scatter any waste hay that may have been left from feeding out. It is also advisable to topdress the paddock to ensure a quick growth, for to make the best silage the grass should always be cut and harvested when young and succulent.
As grass becomes more plentiful, paddocks should be selected to be closed up for hay. It is always advisable to close up different paddocks each year. These paddocks should always receive the same treatment as for silage prior to closing.
A most important job at this time of the year is the mating of the dairy cows. Before each cow is mated two heat periods or an interval of 30 days should be allowed after calving. Cows mated before this period are less likely to get in calf and chances of contaminating the bull are increased. Hand mating, i.e. by putting the cow in the bull paddock and allowing two services only, should always be practised. Accurate records should be kept, showing the date of service together with the name of the bull, for should breeding troubles occur, these records will be of considerable assistance in arriving at a correct diagnosis.
If cows are returning to service these mating records can be examined to see if any particular bull is to blame. If so, a veterinarian or Livestock Instructor could be called in to take a semen sample for examination. If a new bull is required great care should be taken in his selection and if at all possible a young bull that has had no previous service should be purchased. Always avoid buying a bull at the sale yards unless you can be absolutely certain of his past history.
Washing out cows seldom helps and may cause trouble if irritant fluids such as kerosene are used. It always pays to consult a veterinarian as soon as cows are noticed to be returning to service in unusual numbers. This should be done immediately as he will not be able to diagnose the cause of the trouble if left too long.
ON THE SHEEP FARM
By the time that this publication reaches the farmer lambing will be the main job on the sheep farm but it should still not be too late to give a few hints covering the care of lambing ewes.
About 10 per cent of all lambs are either born dead or die during the first week. These losses can be reduced by careful shepherding.
Many lambs and some ewes can be saved by skilled assistance during lambing. A reliable lubricating antiseptic should always be used on hands and wrists when attending to ewes as faulty presentation must be corrected. A lamb should never be forcibly pulled away when a leg or the head is turned back. Many lambs die from suffocation even after delivery through the cleanings remaining over the nostrils; these are easily removed if attended to soon enough.
Where necessary lambs should be assisted to get their first drink of milk. This is particularly important when the ewe has very large teats. Drawing away a few squirts of milk will reduce the size of the teat and enable the newlyborn lamb to suckle.
These ewes with very large teats and others with extra small teats, badly placed teats or defective udders, should be marked for culling. A big per-
centage of their lambs will die through not being able to get milk. Many lambs which die during the cold wet weather would survive if they got a good drink soon after birth.
Docking of the lambs is also a most important job and very often too little time is spent on the preparation for this work.
First select a level clean grassed area in the corner of a paddock and fence off with netting an area of sufficient size to hold all the ewes and lambs in that paddock. When mustered in they should be allowed sufficient time to cool off before the docking operations commence. A smaller yard should then be erected in front of the big yard to be used as the main docking pen and with a good docking board of convenient height the work is made easy. Be sure to have ample disinfectant available in which to dip the tools of trade. Docking fluid should also be used if the knife is necessary.