Dairy farmers are being advised to make sure their cows are properly prepared for transport when being moved off the farm.
DairyNZ development team leader for animal husbandry, Dr Nita Harding, says that many farmers are transporting cows at this time of year, either to winter on another farm or as cull cows.
“There are a number of things farmers need to do and some checks they should make with the driver before their cows are loaded onto trucks or trailers for transport. Travel can be stressful for the animals and it’s important that they are well presented for transport.
“At this time of year, farmers who are wintering off stock are moving animals which are in late pregnancy and they need to be handled with particular care and patience.
“Farmers should take the opportunity to have a good chat with the driver to make sure the truck is in good order for transport. The truck needs to have sufficient effluent collection capacity for the journey and be in good repair.”
Farmers should also make sure that the transport provides enough space, including crate height for larger cows, adequate ventilation and that the animals are protected from adverse weather.
“And also, with the requirements of the National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) scheme taking effect from July 1, it may be better to tag animals before transport, especially if the home farm has better animal handling facilities than the wintering block.”
When animals are being moved to a wintering block, care must be taken to ensure that a feed transition plan is in place, so the animals adjust to the different feeds of the two farms. A gradual adjustment over 7-10 days is recommended.
Cows should receive a diet containing 80-100g elemental magnesium a day for three days either side of transport. The stress of transport causes a significant drop in blood magnesium levels so some supplementation is required.
Nita says that farmers who would like more detailed support or advice should contact their local DairyNZ consulting officer or phone the Farmer Information Service 0800 4 DairyNZ (0800 4 324 7969).
The main things farmers should consider when moving any stock, are:
- all people responsible for transporting cows need to have the experience and knowledge to look after their welfare
- cows should be fit, healthy and strong, and able to bear weight on all four legs
- cows with a body condition score of three or more can be transported, those less than three need immediate remedial care
- cows should receive a diet containing 80-100g elemental magnesium/cow/day for three days leading up to transport and for three days following
- cows in the last three months of pregnancy should not be transported for more than eight hours without a rest period
- cows should be stood off green pasture for 4-12 hours before transport to reduce effluent during the journey – preferably on grazed-off pasture or a wood chip pad rather than on concrete. Make sure water is provided during this stand-off time
- Feed and water should be immediately available to the animals when they arrive at their destination.
Transporting stock information is available at dairynz.co.nz/transportingstock