Since the last time we wrote, we have had a massive flood yet again on the farm! Unfortunately it’s the new grass paddocks so we have had to re-sow these paddocks and wait again for the growth – grrrrr. We have had many many, many, meetings with the council; both with the community and as a small group of affected farmers, to get the council to maintain and in places upgrade the drainage system. This has been a tiresome task, one that has required a ridiculous amount of time, effort and paperwork!
Finally, we thought we were getting somewhere when the council agreed to clean out part of the system and cleared 3 km of rubbish and built-up silt out of the drains further down.
This definitely made a difference, and we were very thankful, but then it took more meetings to get the council to continue and then clean and maintain more of the system. They agreed to do this and then didn’t carry out what they said and just did 10% of what was promised. After another grumpy meeting they agreed to come back yet again and do what they had said they would in the first place, but in the meantime on the 19th of April we had the enormous weather bomb that landed a vast amount of water on the bottom of the farm – shame we can’t claim back the costs of the damage done to our farm because of the council’s lack of work done.
The upside is the council is now finally working again – albeit too late for this downpour, it might save us from the next one. We did have another heavy rainfall on 14th May, and the water didn’t come in at all so hopefully this is proof that maintenance is working.
June is fast approaching and with it comes the arrival of the run-off (the one the bank purchased for us and we will use!). Yet more bad news of the Global Dairy trade prices falling again is not boding well for us, but Frostie always says ‘you have to take the good with the bad and farm through it’ so that is what we will do.
On the home farm
Autumn has kicked in, the cows and pasture are in great shape, the cool weather is certainly coming in but with the quite warm days still the growth is not showing signs of slowing yet!
As at the beginning of May we had 325 cows on farm – all grazing 1 ha/day (60 day round) + 7 kg/cow/day of meal + 0.5 kg/cow/day of molasses + 6-7 kg DM/cow/day of grass silage. Also 115 calves grazing 0.15-0.2 ha/day + ad-lib PKE. Production was 156,606 kg MS compared with 162,775 kg MS at the same time last season. Current production is 5.9-6 kg MS/ha/day and 1.35-1.4 kg MS/cow/day and cow condition is 4.8-4.5. Zinc and the Altum mix is going through the water and the minerals stopped in the meal at the end of March. Causmag, salt and lime flour are being added to the maize silage.
Average pasture cover is 2,044 kg DM/ha. The pasture cover targets for the next 6 weeks are 2,100-2,200 kg DM/ha in late May and 2,200-2,300 kg DM/ha in late June. The plan is that as soon as the new block becomes available, the dry cows will be taken there to give the main block a rest over the winter. These cows will then come back as/when they come close to calving.
The turnips were finished on 25th March. They did really well this year to get us through to when the autumn rain came. 5 paddocks of new grass were sown early March and the two last paddocks were sown initially in early April and since the flooding they were sown again on 2nd May. These were sown into Shogun to make up for the late sowing.
The first paddocks of new grass are being lightly grazed with the calves. With the good growing conditions over the last 5-6 weeks, the residuals have lifted to indicate the improving feeding levels for the cows. These should be able to stay at good levels now through the rest of the season to allow the good weight gain and lifting pasture cover that we need over this time.
Urea/SustaiN (85 kg/ha) has been applied behind the cows, this works out to be a total of 5-5.5 tonne over the last 6 weeks. We will change to PhasedN to follow the cows over the next 6 weeks at 150 kg/ha – until the soil temperature drops below 7 degrees, or it gets too wet.
The grazing round has been around 60 days up until now, but now that we have started drying off the round will extend to at least 80 days.
Molasses: feeding around 0.5 kg/cow/day through the next few months.
Meal/feed mix: the current meal mix is 87% PKE + 13% soya hull. This is starting to stick a bit, we thought about lifting the amount of soya hull to around 20% to see if this will help, but have decided to stick with what we are doing.
Feeding: the cows have stayed at 7 kg/cow/day through the last 6 weeks. The maize has been dropped to around 5-6 kg DM/cow/day.
Cow numbers/drying off
90 cows were dried off on 20th May and from here on more will be dried off every two weeks according to their calving dates. The aim is to take around 370 cows into the winter this coming season. We are planning to mate the heifers next year for them to calve around 10th June 2016.
Another dry year means pastures have become quite weedy, our plan is to spray with Baton over the next 3-4 weeks to improve the pastures.