Over the last 10 days or so I’ve heard of a good few cases of health issues in cows from bloat to digestive upsets and colic.

All possible causes go back to the weather – poor growth leading to low covers, wet weather leading to lower intakes, high growth rates leading to very lush grass that potentially has high nitrate levels and so on.

It is something that will inevitably pass as grass goes to seed and more stem comes in to the sward. Hopefully, more settled weather will allow for consistent intakes.

In the meantime, it’s probably not a bad idea to give at risk cows, or herds that have been affected access to some extra roughage such as straw or silage.

Some farmers will give access to these feeds in the collecting yard or on the way into or out of the milking parlour and find that the cows that want it will pick at it.

Worthwhile exercise

Neither are good for feeding value but if it keeps the rumen in good shape then it could be a worthwhile exercise. When conditions improve the diet can revert back to grass only.

Some places got very heavy rain over the last week and cows did damage or left a lot of grass behind.

The next time cows will be in these fields will be early June and grass quality is likely to be poor. Let’s face it, cleanouts have been poor all spring because of the wet weather.

Some mechanical intervention could be necessary this year in order to improve quality for the mid-season.

For me, the first choice would be to select the worst quality paddocks for silage. This will clean off the old sward and the subsequent regrowth will be good quality.

It also means that no grass is wasted as the poorer quality grass is converted to winter feed where quality is not as much of an issue for dry cows.

The second choice option is to top fields after grazing. This is a practice that has largely gone out of fashion and not one that is normally recommended on these pages due to cost and lost production and the fact that good grazing management renders the practice null and void.

Good grazing management

However, good grazing management just wasn’t possible this year so topping may have a role to play in 2024.

The key thing is to ensure that it is done as soon as possible after cows leave the field. Waiting a day or more means that the regrowth will be cut which will have a very negative impact on subsequent grass growth.

Another key point is to ensure that the topper is set low enough to actually improve subsequent grass quality.

Too often, toppers are set too high which means that they are really only doing a cosmetic job on the grass.

To get a good cut, the topper should be set to cut at 4cm of a cutting height. It’s easier to achieve this with a disc mower.