Feed an issue as cows lose condition

TONY BENNY
Last updated 12:13 28/06/2013
cows in mud
IN THE BOG: Cattle are trampling their feed into the mud.

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Saturated paddocks are making it difficult for Canterbury dairy farmers to feed their stock and cow condition is suffering as a result.

"The amount of feed wasted over the last 10 days to two weeks has just been phenomenal," said South Canterbury sharemilker Ben Januay. "We're probably only getting 50 per cent utilisation and we've lost two weeks of putting condition on cows so we're now right behind the eight-ball."

Januay milks 2200 cows on a farm near Rangitata but the herd is being wintered on a runoff at Waihao Forks, near Waimate. "We're the same as every farmer I think in the region - flooded paddocks, flooded rivers and mud up to your waist. Every farmer I talk to says they're just struggling to get into paddocks to feed stock."

Januay's cows are being fed kale, silage and straw but the paddocks are so muddy that much of the green feed is being wasted.

"They walk on their crop break and within 10 minutes it looks like they've eaten it all but it's just been trampled into the mud - they walk over the whole thing, squish it in and turn around and go, 'where's the feed gone?'," he said.

At this time of year January's cows would normally be putting on weight in preparation for calving and a new season's milking but if anything, he said, his stock are going backwards.

"We're only really four weeks away from calving and you've got four weeks to put quite a bit of condition on some of these cows. I'd say they've actually lost condition through that weather."

Federated Farmers Mid-Canterbury dairy section chairman Hamish Davidson said the weather was playing havoc on dairy farms. "Just trying to utilise things like crops is turning out to be a bit of an issue for people.

"It's bloody tough, it's got a financial cost, it's got a toll on farmers both mentally and physically, it's got a physical toll on the cows and it's not a nice place to be," Davidson said.

"The only bonus is the rain has stopped, the snow's gone away in most places on the plains and at least with frosts you can stop the mud for half a day."

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