Monday, 17 February 2020

Week ending 17-2-20 farm notes:

17-2-20 data table

18-2-20 wedge

Pasture cover has dropped again this week to 1658 kg DM/ha with a growth rate of 7 kg DM/day.  What is noticeable during the farm walk is that some paddocks are actively growing, albeit at a low rate, and a number of paddocks have stopped accumulating cover.  38% of the farm did not record a visible increase in cover this week.  For the paddocks that are still recording growth rates over 10 kg DM/ha/day we are being very careful not to over-graze.  The cows are currently grazing 3 ha/day or 1/45th of the farm.  We are returning cows  back to paddocks for supplement feeding for 3-4 nights post their grazing to provide, shade and minimise walking to the shed or crops.

The cows have now had almost a week on OAD and have settled into approx. 1.2 kg MS/cow on average, down from 1.35 kg MS (an 11% drop).  SCC has moved between 160-200 during this time.  One cow has been pulled out with mastitis since going on OAD.

We finished the turnips on Sunday and started the kale crops on Monday.  The cows have handled this transition well. We have approximately 3 weeks of kale feeding for the 383 remaining milking cows.

We have started feeding a PKE/tapioca (20%) blend.  This has lowered the FEI result giving us the opportunity to feed more and remain at a B grade or less.  This has worked well as we are now comfortably feeding approximately 3.2 kg DM/cow and hope to increase it further now that the cows are on kale. We are still using PKE that we had on contract at the beginning of the season, so by adding tapioca it is still the cheapest form of extra feed we can access at the moment. Some silage we could source is between 35-40c/kg DM landed on farm.

We have approximately 123 t DM silage left, with 50-80 t DM required for June-August.  We have dropped the feeding down to 6 kg DM/cow/day and this (43 t DM) should last as long as the crops do on the current diet.

We are aiming to feed as much PKE/blend as we can to make the grass silage to remain in the diet as long as possible (at 17-20% protein it is a valuable source of protein to keep cows milking). The current diet still provides 15% protein which is enough for cows producing 1.2 kg MS/day in mid/late lactation. DairyNZ recommends protein between 14-16% DM.

We are feeding the cows approximately 15.7 kg DM/day.  This is made up of 3.5 kg DM pasture, 3 kg DM crop, 3.2 kg PKE/tapioca blend, and 6 kg DM silage.

On this diet we are hoping to stop further weight loss and hold BCS at 4.2. We want to have as many cows in good enough condition to continue milking when the rain comes.

Tom and Kyle made a start planning the re-grassing programme for the coming autumn: a mixture of new grass out of crop, annuals pre the 2021 crop, permanent and Italian undersowing. At this stage we will likely drill 25% of the farm this autumn (17% of which is part of the cropping plan). Before we make a final decision in early March on undersowing paddocks, we will assess how pastures are looking. Fingers crossed we have received some rain before then. As usual we use the Italian ryegrass to buy us some time within a long-term cropping plan; the perennial plan is just filling any gaps in otherwise healthy paddocks to offer a new/longer lease of life.

On the dry block (average 9 t DM/ha grown to date) at the Cambridge town end of the farm, we are still undecided what to put in there - maybe an annual to get plenty of DM growth pre-Christmas, followed by either chicory or sorghum as something is better than nothing once it turns dry! These paddocks (7ha) will not be grazed for at least three months of the year so if we can offer something to be fed we are winning!

Monday, 10 February 2020

Week ending 10-2-20 farm notes:

data 10-2-20

wedge 11-2-20

Yet another hot and dry week with no rain this week and no rain in the immediate forecast.  Our summer management plan is in full swing with extended rotation between 40-50 days and eeking out silage and crops for as long as we can. Last week we grazed 3.18ha/day of the farm. APC has taken another tumble to 1709 kgDM/ha with a growth rate of 7 kgMD/ha/day.

Crop allocation remains around 3kg DM to extend their availability and we are now feeding 3kg PK/Tapioca blend to fill in some of the lost turnip yield. FEI is sitting comfortably in the middle of the B range.  All turnips will be finished by Friday and the Kale started on the 15th Feb.  We will be having yield assessments and nitrate test done before crop allocation.  We aim to start allocation of the Kale at 3kgDM/cow.  We are estimating to have around 21 days of crop feeding available. Silage allocation remains at 7kgDM/cow per day.

Current feeding:

Pasture 4kgDM, PKE blend 3kgDM, Grass silage 7kgDM, Crop 3kgDM = Total 17kgDM

In the hope that we would have rain by now we had saved green paddocks to graze during rain (and they are nice to look at).  These are now due to be grazed of this week and will extend our rotation out further to 60 days as we work our way through them. After this week our pre-graze paddocks drop to below 2200 kgDM/ha.

15 culls departed on Sunday the next 30 have yet again been delayed but should be gone before the end of the month. With our known MT cows now marked we are able to remove some culls, we are also targeting high SCC/repeat mastitis cows, low PW cows and repeat lame cows.  

Scanning results last week showed a pleasing improvement on last year. We scanned 10% not in-calf with a 74% 6 week in-calf rate. (Last year we had 13% not in-calf and 74% 6 week in-calf rate). We will see a slightly slower start to calving this year due to less intervention this season but a very pleasing result. A big thankyou to the team (Malou and LaArni) for all your hard work over the 12 weeks of AI. Using short gestation semen for the last 6 weeks of mating has bought forward the expected calving dates of this group with the last cow calving 17th September.

Although 3-in-2 milking has worked really well with the crop feeding we have moved to OAD milking today. Using Farmax modelling, BCS data and farmwalks we can see that although cow condition is not the limiting factor with APC now falling below 1800, delayed removal of culls and the recovery time required after rain, we have to stop any further BCS loss to maintain a milking mob after the rain comes.  Focus is on now on setting up the farm to regenerate when the rain comes.   OAD will likely have its effect on production but feeding will remain the same so we hope to see BCS maintained (or a slow gain).  With 1 less walk, we have to play the long game over the next month or so to aim for days in milk rather than trying to get more per cow on a daily basis. The hot days continue to put pressure on the cows and not all paddocks have shade on offer.

Zinc dosing is at half rate (18gms of Zinc Sulphate/cow/day) through the water troughs and pasture samples are being spore counted weekly at Cambridge Vets. So far we have had zero readings. The one benefit of a dry summer.

The remaining 12 calves on farm have been remob and are now close to the shed receiving 2kgDM/calf Fibre Fresh and 1kg PKE, they will finish the left over bags from spring and then go onto grass silage.

Heifers are due for weigh and scan on the 20th Feb. This will give us some more information on numbers coming into the herd and how they are coping with the dry period.

With one of our valued team members choosing to move on at the end of last week we are making the most of students being back at school and keen for relief milking duties and to cover time off for the remaining team. This gives us time to run through a robust recruitment process and induct a new team member before the start of the new season.

We said it last week but it is still very important to have your plans in place, take stock of what feed is available on farm or can be bought if needed, talk to your advisors even if it’s to run over your plan, and remember to take time off farm when-ever possible.

Monday, 3 February 2020

Week ending 3-2-20 farm notes:

data 3-2-20

wedge 4-2-20

Another hot and dry week with no rain or rain on the forecast, our summer management plan is in full swing with extended rotation and eeking out silage and crops for as long as we can. Last week we grazed 2.7ha/day  of the farm and also grazed another 6ha this week of pasture on neighbouring grazing land.  Further extending our rotation out to 50 days on the grass area of the milking platform. This will allow plenty of recovery time for pastures to grow once rain comes! APC has fallen slightly to 1811 kgDM/ha with a growth rate of 13kgMD/ha/day.

Crop allocation has been reduced to around 3kg DM to extend their availability and we are now feeding 2.5kg PK to fill in some of the lost turnip yield. FEI is sitting comfortably in the middle of the B range.

Silage allocation remains at 6kgDM/cow per day, culls departure have been delayed a week due to the works being so overbooked. (Make sure you have some or all of your culls booked in ASAP as they are very busy) 30 are still booked in to go this month.

Current feeding:

Pasture 4.5kgDM, PKE 2.5kgDM, Grass silage 7kgDM, Crop 3kgDM = Total 17kgDM


Body condition scoring of the whole herd today showed a 4.2 average.  Analysis of individual results this week will allow us to act on any at risk cows within the herd that need drying off or preferential feeding. Scanning will be carried out tomorrow so watch this space, results and analysis will be put up by the end of the week.

Although 3-in-2 milking has worked really well with the crop feeding we will likely move to OAD milking in the coming week or so, possibly once we finish the turnips on the 15th and get through the remaining paddocks on target in our feed wedge before we hit the hole in the wedge. This will likely have its effect on production but feeding will remain the same so we hope to see BCS maintained (or a slow gain).  With 1 less walk, we have to play the long game over the next month or so to aim for days in milk rather than trying to get more per cow on a daily basis. The hot days last week continue the pressure on the cows and not all paddocks have shade on offer so they do enjoy the sprinklers on the yard during milking. The weekly fluctuations in per cow milk production can be explained by alternate weeks having an extra day of TAD milk collected.  The cows have held approximately 1.35kgMS/cow/day for 4 weeks now since going on 3n2 milking.

Zinc dosing is at half rate (18gms of Zinc Sulphate/cow/day) through the water troughs and pasture samples are been spore counted weekly at Cambridge Vets.

It’s very important to have your plans in place, take stock of what feed is available on farm or can be bought if needed, talk to your advisors even if it’s to run over your plan, and remember to take time off farm even if it’s just for a BBQ with the neighbour or a swim with family at the lake.


Monday, 27 January 2020

Week ending 27-01-20 farm notes:

data 27-01-20

wedge 28-01-20

Cover has dropped again to 1837 kg DM/ha with growth rates of 14 kg DM/ha/day. Another dry and hot week with no rain, and with not much rain in the forecast things are getting pretty tight. Last week we grazed 3ha/day extending our rotation out to 45 days on the grass area. This puts us on a good recovery round length when the rain comes!

Crops unfortunately have not enjoyed the hot dry conditions and have lost yield over the past 2 months, which is frustrating so they will only last us until the end of Feb feeding around 3kg DM/cow/day. This is three weeks earlier than our feed budget predictions. Yields are approximately 7-10 t DM and we aim to feed approximately 3-4 kg DM/day of turnips and then start the kale. The silage stack is also getting smaller by the day with the current feeding levels of 6 kg/cow/day; PK is now just above 2 kg with the FEI sitting at a low B and holding steady so we will try to add a little more this week as we get tighter for grass.

We have almost finished grazing the deferred pasture paddock, the cows seem to have back-grazed pretty well and there is plenty of seed drop on the ground which will be a bonus when autumn rains arrive. Milk production hasn’t dropped while in there which is pleasing. Spore counts in that paddock were zero as were all the other paddocks tested last week.

Feed samples returned this week showed the deferred grazing was 36.8% DM, 9.9% Crude Protein with an ME of 9.5 MJ/kg DM.  The silage sample for the September cut was 27.4% DM, CP 20.2%, NDF 40.1% and ME 11.1.

Planned feeding this week:

5-6 kg DM pasture, 2 kg DM PK, 6 kg DM silage, 3-4 kg crop = approx. 16 kg DM/cow/day

We have secured an earlier spot for the second round of scanning and will then be able to drop away any empties and make any remaining culling decisions earlier. This will help reduce the demand of all feed types and gain us a few extra days of milk.

3-in-2 milking has worked really well with the crop feeding but we will likely move to OAD milking in the coming 7-10 days, this will probably reduce milk production but at least keep the girls in milk in the hope that rain eventually arrives! Some very hot days over the weekend have definitely put the cows under pressure but with our regime they seem pretty happy seeking shade once they have had their fill of silage and crop, so the transition to OAD shouldn’t affect their grazing activity too much. 

We will be carrying out a whole herd BCS to add some extra data along with herd test results from last week to start making a dry-off plan.

Monday, 20 January 2020

Week ending 20-1-20 farm notes:

20-1-20 data

21-1-20 wedge

With only 5.6mm of rain since the rainfall event on the 20th Dec we are feeling fairly crisp at the farm. APC has dropped to 1897 kgDM/ha with a low growth rate of 15kgDM/ha/day.

The 3 in 2 milking routine and feed allocation has become a fairly easy routine now. Everyone is enjoying being away from the shed during the hottest parts of the day.  This combined with sprinklers on the yard, access to shade during the day, and access to water troughs in the races has helped alleviate the stress of the hot week we have had.

We have recorded daily highs of around 24-29C and around 11-15C at night.  This is well over the comfort zone for a cow at 4-20C. 

Feeding for the last week has been approx. 6kgDM grass, 5kgDM grass silage, 4kgDM crop and 2kgDM PKE total of 17kgDM allocated.

This week we will be starting to feed our one paddock of deferred grazing.  We are planning to offer the big herd of 240 cows 2.5kgDM per day (based on a 1800kgDM residual), 5kg grass silage, 4kg crop and 2kg PKE up to 4.5kg pasture = 18kgDM.

The smaller herd will receive the same total but with 7kgDM pasture.  The feed wedge is looking tight this week but we will maintain a 37 day round and the cows will receive whatever pasture is available in that area allocation with the aim to feed between 16-18kgDM total diet.

We have had 6 cull cows leave the farm and another 30 are booked for early and mid-Feb. We still have 3 weeks of turnip crop and another 2 weeks of kale crop based on current feeding levels.

We will hold the current feeding and milking system until we carryout PD and BCS.

Time saved in reduced milking is being used by feeding out and shifting cows throughout the day. 

On our farm walk we identified 2 paddocks and another 4 paddocks with small patches that have YBG that requires spraying.  After close inspection there were only a few seed head.  These paddocks will be grazed shortly and then sprayed after grazing with Dockstar.

Monday, 13 January 2020

13-1-20 data

14-1-20 wedge

Week ending 13-1-20 farm notes:

  • Tom has been processing the farm walk data for the last two weeks while Jo was away, so this week Jo and Malou were in charge while Tom took a well-earned break. The APC of 2034 is higher than last week, partly due to the difference between operators across the summer break and the fact that the pasture eaten was around 26 kg DM/ha/day. With a growth rate recorded of 41 kg DM/ha/day this is an accumulation of cover over the week of around 13 kg DM/ha/day. 
  • There is more dry matter available in these dry summer paddocks than you would guess from the pasture height alone, although the plate meter picks it up as it records a compressed height.
  • The longer rotation over the last week with cows fully transitioned onto crops has ensured paddocks are cleaned out and given more time for regrowth.
  • We baled 3.5ha of hay last week which produced 42 big squares of beautiful quality hay which is all stacked nicely in the shed.
  • Everyone is settling into a 3-in-2 milking rhythm after a week of the new system.
  • 5am milking is followed by grass and grass silage and then crop at 10am. The cows stay on crop until the 6pm milking and then go to their paddock for the night with silage. At 6am the cows go onto crop until their 11am milking then they head off to the paddock with silage again until their next 5am milking.
  • Last week we grazed 3.77 ha/day with pre-grazing between 2300-2500 kg DM/ha. Averaged over the 48 hours, cows are getting between 8-9 kg DM grass, 4 kg DM grass silage and 4 kg DM crop. Total diet approx. 17 kg DM/cow/day.
  • FEI grade has now dropped to an A again after struggling last week with C grades. PKE was removed completely from the diet until returning to an A grade, and introduced again today at very low levels. Hopefully with the cows now transitioned onto the crops and the new milking frequency we can slowly increase the PKE levels again up to 2 kg/cow/day and remain within an FEI A or B grade.
  • Thorough planning and having clear systems in place has meant everyone has had a chance to get a good break off the farm - including Tom who is making the most of the beautiful weather wakeboarding in Mangakino this week!

Monday, 6 January 2020

data 6-1-20

Week ending 6-1-20 farm notes:

Welcome to a new decade folks!! I hope 2020 has started off well for you all. Starting off pretty dry here at Owl Farm for those of you that had rain for your Christmas present I’m just a little jealous haha. I’m not sure I’m enjoying this strong drying wind at the moment!! Despite another dropin cover and growth rates we have our plans in place and are remaining optimistic.

Last week we discussed a transition onto 3in2; this was begun over the weekend. Although everyone (cows and myself that is!!) is a little unsure of what’s going on we haven’t seen any negative effects just yet.

We are milking 5am, 6pm and 11am to fit in around feeding crops and allowing walking times etc. We have upped the feed allocation slightly, over the 48hr window they will receive 36 kg DM total (2x18-18.5kg DM) consisting of 3.2 kg PK, 8-9 kg crop (turnips), 6 kg grass silage and 18 kg grass. The cows seem pretty content with this so far. FEI level has had a sharp increase now we are into the turnips so we have dialled back the PK for the next week until it is back in a B grade, then we will build it back up again and reduce the silage. Last year 2.4 kg PK was about the limit for us.
Cows are now fully onto crops after 9 days, currently eating 4 kg of turnips per day. We have had one case of scald so far; so the cow has been removed and put with the small lame/sick mob (7cows) and coated with zinc on her sore bits. This group is only getting about 1.5 kg turnips per day along with PK, silage and grass.

After 1 cycle of tanker pickups we have seen a slight lift in production to 1.64 kg MS/cow/day but expect this to level off over the coming week as the cows settle into the new regime.

As I mentioned before cover has dropped to an APC of 1943 kg DM/ha and growth rate is down to 29 kg DM/ha/day. With our current diet on average offering of 9 kg grass per day this is a demand of 27 kg D/ha/day (400 cows) over the grazeable area (136 ha) so slightly below the current growth rate. It puts us out to about a 40-day (3.4 ha/day) round aiming for pre-graze covers of between 26-2700 kg DM/ha. This growth rate is well below budget but we will use the levers we currently have to continue milking into February.
With very little rain in December and none so far or in the forecast in January we have made our plan to continue on with current feeding levels. We have at least another round of grazing for the 9 kg of grass and allocations at 6 kg/day we have 80+days of silage for all 400 cows (if we cull we will make it last longer!) PK is contracted so we have 60 days available and we have about 43 days of turnips at 4 kg/day so still in a strong position despite our soil moisture level (see photo) being the lowest it has been in 12months! I guess the key message is take a moment to see what is in your pantry and make a plan for the coming months.

Cheers Tom

Monday, 30 December 2019

31-12-19 data

Week ending 31-12-19 farm notes:

Owl Farm Update
Apologies for the brief update, but due to IT issues I am unable to access the necessary data. Hopefully we will be up and running again next week.

APC 2039KgDM/ha
Growth 39KgDM/ha/day
Production 1.58KgMS/cow/day
Feeding 16kg grass 1.5kg PK.

Covers have dropped again the past week with demand exceeding growth rates, we will start to transition the cows onto crops tomorrow starting with 1.5kg turnips/cow and building up to 5kg over a week.
The wedge shows a deficit coming so as we transition onto the crops we will also be slowing down the round to 30days from the current 23. (I will attach a copy of the wedge ASAP)

With no rain over the past week and none forecast for the coming week we believe this to be a safe decision.
Production has held nicely at 1.58kgMS for another week. Similar to last year which is pleasing.

PK has been offered on the race leaving the cowshed and cows have eaten only 1.5kg on average per day.

With 220ton grass silage in the stack, 100ton PKL remaining on contract, 100-120 crop and hay yet to be made we are confident we are still in a good position.

At this stage we will continue to milk TAD but are open to changing our milking frequency if we need to, last year we brought the afternoon milking forward so we could feed crops silage and PK (easy to eat feeds) in the morning then the cows had longer to eat grass overnight. We saw very little production loss by doing this. Another strategy would be to use 3in2 milking. Watch this space…..

From all of us at Owl farm we hope you have had a wonderful Christmas and managed some time off farm with family and friends, and wish you all a Happy New Year. All the best for what 2020 brings.

Monday, 23 December 2019

Week ending 23-12-19 farm notes:

23-12-19 data table

23-12-19 wedge

  • APC has remained fairly static this week at 2144 kgDM/ha despite PGR only being 44 kgDM/ha/day. This is due to our strategy of using silage and PKE to slow the round down for a short period as we grazed our highly productive cocksfoot paddocks.
  • We fed 2 kgDM/cow of baleage and another 3kgDM of PKE/cow for 5 days as the rough weather came through.
  • We have managed to ensile the last remaining silage (4.4ha) and we have 5ha of hay/deferred grazing still shut up.
  • Based on the residuals the cows are starting to leave we are targeting 17 kgDM/cow allocation on all grass with pre-grazing covers of 2650 kgDM/ha. This is to produce 1.5kgMS/cow, walk up to 4 km a day and maintain liveweight. We will allocate 6 ha day and reduce this area if needed as the turnips come into the diet.
  • Yields of our early crops on the sand soils are around 10 tDM at present and we are planning to start grazing both the early paddocks on the 30th There are some signs of leaf miner and we will look at doing a spray in the new year on the late sown turnips.
  • 2 cows were culled this week and our current stocking rate on the available grazing area is 3 cows/ha. This will make our demand in the coming week 52 kgDM/ha.  We expect to grow more than this after the rain we have had and will use this extra feed to lengthen the rotation through January.
  • We have 65 cows on OAD amongst both the herds (still walking twice a day to the shed). Still getting new cases of mastitis another 2 this week.  However we are pleased with the consistently lower SCC than last year.
  • Mating is over. Pregnancy scan showed a 6 week in-calf rate of 74% (similar to last season) and 80 cows will be re-checked in mid-Feb. We will have a look at the results on more detail after the holidays.

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

16-12-19 wedge

17-12-19 data table

Week ending 16/12/19 farm notes:

  • APC has lifted this week to 2139 kgDM/ha. PGR was 59kgDM/ha which was higher than our demand this week. 
  • We have 11ha shut up for silage and hay. The silage is due to be cut this week and the 3.5ha of hay will be done in mid-Jan. This leaves 125ha in our grazing rotation.  404 cows on this area creates a short-term stocking rate of 3.2 cows/ha. 
  • 2c/ha x 16kgDM pasture x 22 day rotation plus 1500kgDM/ha residual gives us a pre-grazing target of 2630kgDM/ha. We decided to hold our area allocation at 6-6.5ha/day and fill the gap with 2kg PKE/cow/day. Without the PKE we would’ve needed 2770kgDM/ha pre-graze cover which we didn’t have available last week.
  • Based on the recent farmwalk we have decided to feed 3kg DM PKE and 3kg DM silage along with up to 12kg pasture over the next 2.5 days as we move through 3 cocksfoot paddocks with lots of good quality feed. This effectively gives us another 125kgDM on next weeks’ paddocks which should allow us to reduce or cease PKE again if we get decent growth (over 60kgDM/ha) after this rain.  That will fill the hole we have at the top of the wedge before we start to feed turnips. We are still targeting 18kgDM/cow/day allocation
  • Mg supplementation and bloat oil stopped in early Dec with only Selenium and Cobalt going through the dosatron.
  • We have 65 cows on OAD in the smaller herd.
  • Mating is nearly over. Pregnancy scan will happen on Thursday to identify 6 week in-calf rate. This will be followed up with a scan mid Feb.
  • We found 2 new cases of mastitis this morning which explains the increase in SCC to 122 from 114. We also have 2 new cases of lame cows after 3 weeks without any new ones. 
  • This week we met up with our Vet to start the Healthy Hoof consult along with a review of spring metabolics. We looked at the number of lame cows and the treatment and diagnosis before devising a plan to systematically look at pre-disposing factors. This included a review of facilities and history of infrastructure changes. The first 2 actions we are undertaking is to get a whiteboard at the lame cow station to accurately record the cause of lameness.  We have numbers drafted as lame (120) and numbers treated with antibiotics (17) but are missing some data of what type of lameness. The second action is to set up a go-pro to record footage of cow flow and behaviour in the yard during milking.  This will be done over multiple milkings to see whether cows are under pressure in the yard.
  • Kyle and Sophia from PGGW Seeds have done early yield assessments on the trial paddock #3 which was planted 20th Estimates of yields are Toto 10tDM, Barkant 8tDM and Clean crop bulb 7tDM (this is late maturing and expected to yield similar amounts by grazing time).  This equates to 120-170kgDM/ha/day growth rate!  Other than removing a strip for demonstration purposes early - this crop is not due to be grazed until end of Jan.
  • The remaining 12 calves have been set stocked on the farm and our replacement calves at grazing have been weighed upon arrival. Average was 135kg with less than 2% underweight. 
  • The R2 heifers have also been weighed with an improvement from 13% to 3.5% underweight. Their average weight was 374kg.  The bull will leave the mob on the 20th Dec and they will be pregnancy scanned in early Feb.
  • Over the next 4-5 weeks we are managing time off for everyone. This was the last week with everyone at work together so we took the time over a nice lunch to enjoy getting to know more about each other, what we are involved in and what we enjoy outside of work. It was also a chance to show gratitude for everyone’s contribution in the team.
  • The effluent pond has been emptied over the last 3 weeks to minimise work on the farm over the break. We have also got the silage wagon in working order before the mechanics shut down for Xmas, and completed work on race access to water troughs. Priorities over the next month include spending time with loved ones, milking cows, farmwalks, putting up break fences, and setting up systems for crop feeding.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Week ending 9-12-19 farm notes:

9-12-19 data table

9-12-19 wedge

  • The rain we had hoped for has only been 9mls on the 3rd and another 9mls on Sunday. Soil moisture levels are back down to 29% VWC
  • APC has dropped to 2077 kg DM/ha with PGR of 51 kgDM/ha/day. The big drop in cover can be explained by growth being less than our daily demand (53 kgDM/ha/day). We also removed 40tDM as silage this week.
  • We don’t expect the growth rate to increase to meet demand over the next few weeks until we get more rain.
  • It is too late to feed out our hay paddocks which we require for springer cows and drying cows off so we will have a grazing platform of 132ha until the crops start in the first week of January. This gives us a stocking rate of 3 cows/ha with planned intake around 18kgDM/cow/day.  We want to hold the area allocation at 6ha/day (22 day rotation) so require pre-grazing covers of 2700 kgDM/ha.  Our feed wedge shows that we have a few days at this rate and then residuals will dictate if we need to fill a deficit with PK which we still have in the bunker.
  • Calves left the farm last week and 2 cull cows are due to leave the farm next week. Our 2 bull calves have gone today to raise funds for IHC and Rural Support Trust.
  • The early turnips will get yield assessments later this month to plan feed allocation and again once we have established feeding levels to capture accurate yield and cost assessments.
  • We have had all cows individually BCS with the average being 4.4. This is well within the industry target of >85% of cows BCS 4 or greater.  We have 9 cows at BCS 3.5 which are all now on OAD within their herd.
  • We have 47 cows on OAD already and have identified another 24 cows that are 2 and 3 year olds that are currently BCS 4. We need a minimum of 150 cows to make an OAD herd to reduce the extra walk to the shed. This can be done by combining the remaining 2 and 3 year olds. The other option is to milk 3 times in 2 days.  We are exploring the options with the goal to implement a change in milking frequency by Xmas.
  • Continuing to monitor leaf miner damage and presence of white butterfly. No spraying required this week but Tom is vigilant with his twice weekly monitoring.
  • We have 9 days of mating to go. We still haven’t started the countdown to Xmas yet!!
  • We have been using the DairyNZ resources found in the HR toolkit and online to carryout self-reviews for the team. These are part of their performance review which also identifies further training needs.
  • We spent time at our local discussion group today to learn from other farmers and share ideas on managing the next 6-8 weeks. It always provides thoughtful discussion on the drive home as we reflect on our own system choices and challenge our current thinking.
  • Now is a good time to take stock of all the factors available to manage throughout the summer period. Manage and monitor crops, analyse herd test data for SCC and potential culls, discuss options for milking frequency, collect BCS data, carry out a feed inventory.  Having a plan in place means we can enjoy the summer time with friends and family knowing we are doing the best with the information we have got.
  • We are looking forward to our team lunch on Thursday to celebrate and show gratitude for all the hard mahi (work) that has gone into the season to date.

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Week ending 2-12-19 farm notes:

  • This week has all been about planning for the summer. Collecting information so that we know what levers we have to pull depending on how the summer goes.
  • As I write this we have had 9mm fall so far this afternoon and we are hoping for some more.
  • PGR took a dive this week down to 56 kgDM/ha/day. The heavier clay soils have slowed significantly with topsoil hardening and cracks appearing.
  • APC dropped to 2269 kgDM/ha this week without any paddocks being cut for silage. We have definitely eaten more than we have grown this week.  The calves add another 3kg DM/ha to our daily demand.
  • After todays’ farmwalk and with the rain predicted, we are still comfortable to have 4.4ha shut up for hay. This is set aside for springer cows and used for drying cows off in the autumn.
  • We also have 11.3ha of surplus feed that will be cut tomorrow. This drops our grazing area to 120ha and a gives us a 20 day rotation until the end of Dec. We are targeting 18kgDM/cow/day allocation.
  • We will then use the turnips (with silage or PKE if needed) to push out to a 35-40 day rotation through summer.
  • We are individually condition scoring the cows this afternoon to give us data that enables robust decisions around milking frequency and preferential feeding during the summer. OAD is an option for the young/lighter herd before Xmas if needed.
  • We have herd tested and prepared a list of culls so that we have options to reduce demand if needed before our crops are available.
  • Starting to monitor leaf miner damage and presence of white butterfly. No spraying required this week but Tom is vigilant with his twice weekly monitoring.
  • We have 15 days of mating to go. We haven’t started the countdown to Xmas yet!!
  • The calves left the farm today at an average weight of 135kg. They have been weaned off milk and meal for 10 days.  The remaining 12 calves averaged 115kg and are being weaned shortly and will remain at home until May.
  • Teaching systems for our summer holiday vet student/relief milker has been going well. It is great to have support through the summer and to cover our time off with consistent capable help. We are also learning a thing or two about animal health while we share knowledge about farm systems.
  • Jobs on farm at the moment include keeping on top of weeds and checking power on fences. We are using a fence tester for optimum voltage levels and replacing broken insulators, so that we have maximum fence security when we start to feed the crops.
  • Early December is a good time to take stock of all the factors available to manage throughout the summer period. Manage and monitor crops, analyse herd test data for SCC and potential culls, discuss options for milking frequency, collect BCS data, carry out a feed inventory.  Having a plan in place means we can enjoy the summer time with friends and family knowing we are doing the best with the information we have got.

2-12-19 data table

3-12-19 wedge

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