Things slow down a little on a dairy farm in summertime
At the beginning of summer, there’s usually still lots of grass – more than the cows can eat. It’s really important not to let any of it go to waste, so farmers harvest the extra grass and store it as hay or silage. Hay is dried grass and silage is pickled grass.
Making silage is a bit like us pickling onions and putting them in a jar to eat later – the grass is preserved and stored in a silage stack until the farmer needs it to feed the cows.
Cows still need to be milked twice a day on most farms, even on Christmas day, so if farmers want a holiday, they need to get someone to milk the cows for them.
Through the dry part of the season, when there’s less grass, cows may be seen grazing summer crops, hay or silage.
Farmers sometimes use irrigation to help pasture grow when it’s very dry – it’s just like watering the plants in your garden during summer. Technology helps farmers decide when the pasture needs water and how much to use too. Water used for irrigation is often collected and recycled from other parts of the farm.
Just like we need to wear hats and be sun-smart, farmers have to make sure their cows stay cool during summer. Some of the things they do are:
- Make sure cows have lots of clean water to drink (fact: cows can drink over 100L of water each per day in summer)
- Make sure cows are in paddocks with trees for shade
- Make sure cows don’t have to walk too far for milking
- Milk cows later in the afternoon when it’s getting a little cooler
- Use a sprinkler system in the yard to cool cows off
As summer progresses, the amount of milk starts to drop, and in a very dry summer some farmers switch to milking the cows once a day instead of twice. This means the cows don’t have to walk so far and can save energy.