Winter grazing of forage crops is very harmful to the environment, says an AgResearch scientist, Professor Richard McDowell.
The annual workshops help farmers and staff grasp the right knowledge and skills to give calves the best start.
CalvingSmart is led by DairyNZ’s animal care team headed by Helen Thoday. Local veterinarians are brought in to address subjects such as facial eczema and lameness.
Thoday says there is always new knowledge to gain at the workshops with their relaxed atmosphere and hands-on experience.
“In several places we had to add extra workshops to accommodate everyone.
“The workshops set up farmers and staff for a successful calving season. All get to improve, whether they’re starting out in farming or have 20 years experience.”
Canterbury farmer Rika West went to the Ashburton workshop.
After ten years dairy farming she is now studying for an agribusiness diploma.
She says she liked the interactive learning experience in the workshop.
“The demonstration model showing how the calf needs to move through the cow’s birth canal was far better than seeing it on a slideshow. I wish I’d seen such a presentation when I started out dairy farming.”
Eion Savage, an Irish potato farmer turned contract milker, liked the learning and company of farmers at the Te Awamutu Golf Club workshop.
“It was a fun learning atmosphere with separate sessions at the start for more experienced farmers and another for beginners. And I left having made good connections.”
Savage’s partner Imogen Bryan, a contract milker on another farm, suggested he attend the workshop after having been to one herself a couple of years ago.
DairyNZ’s website has a calving season refresher – dairynz.co.nz/calving -- including the Calf Care Toolkit recently launched to help farmers fine tune their calf care.
The toolkit asks 12 questions and gives instant, tailored feedback on ways to improve, providing web links for more advice and support. Farmers may then discuss the results with their staff, vet or consultant.