Words by: Guy Michaels

In the past few years, it’s felt like we’ve had a lot of changes coming our way onfarm. This has included adapting farm practices and being more environmentally friendly.
I have seen farmers making some great changes recently to protect our environment, look after our animals and continue to operate a profitable and successful business. These incredible changes onfarm need to be celebrated as something we are all proud of.
During the recent DairyNZ animal care consults, some of the wintering practices being implemented to ensure stock welfare made me very proud of the work done throughout our sector. We found 88 percent of farmers have already adopted at least six of the eight good wintering practices onfarm, while one third of these have adopted at least one new practice in the past two years. These are great improvements as we all strive to continue doing our best for our animals and the environment.
There has been a noticeable rise in staff training on wintering practices. Creating a fit-for-purpose plan for staff and implementing it onfarm helps clarify roles during winter and ensure everyone knows what is expected. Teams that completed a formal adverse weather plan have found they were able to take action quickly, when needed.
Providing our cows with somewhere comfortable to lie and rest is another good wintering practice. I’ve been shown many clever options for managing the wet, including utilising the area behind a back fence, shifting the crop fence more often to provide fresh ground, saving breaks near hedges, or removing animals to a specific location such as a woodchip pad.
Despite great improvements, some actions like formalising adverse wintering plans are lagging, with just under 60 percent of farmers having adopted these.
Having ideas and plans written down means others can access them. Take the first step by sitting down with your team to discuss this winter and get ideas down on paper.
I’ve also talked to a lot of farmers who go through the cycle of intending to do something, but never quite get around to it. Not everything has to be a one man job, especially when we are part of a team. It is okay, and actually important, to delegate and ask for help.
So, if you’re finding it hard to sit down and formalise your adverse wintering plan, consider whether someone else in your team can help.
You can also call on organisations like DairyNZ to provide some advice to get you started. We have new cultivation and grazing plans along with our break fed wintering resource. These are available at dairynz.co.nz/wintering.