Tweaking the system – Brian Frost

Well the grass is not growing as much as Frostie would like and the payout is adding stress to everything. Some things we can control, and others we can’t, so we are trying to manage as best we can and tweak what we can in the system to make the impact of the low payout as minimal as possible. While the Fonterra drop in forecast payout was expected, the extent of it was certainly a bit of a shock. However, we can’t lose our focus on farming well to ensure productivity isn’t lost as well during this low payout season.

Calving is well over half way through. It started with a hiss and a roar and then, of course, slowed down. Frostie is kept busy looking after the babies and then heads to the runoff to look after the dries and the heifers. Mrs. Frostie is temporarily working at DairyNZ to earn back our levies :).

On the farm

Current situation

There are 306 cows on farm – all grazing 1.15 ha/day (60 – 65 day round).

Daily intake:

  • 216 milkers are grazing 1 ha (45 m2/cow). Per cow intake: 6 kg meal, ½ kg molasses and 2 kg DM grass silage.
  • 20 heifer springers are grazing 0.05 ha.
  • 48 springing cows are grazing 0.1 ha plus 2 kg DM/cow of hay.
  • 22 colostrum/sick cows and 85 replacement calves are also on farm.

Our production to date is 10,314 kg MS, compared with 3,483 kg MS at the same time last season, with current production 3.9 – 4.2 kg MS/ha/day and 1.4 – 1.5 kg MS/cow/day. Cow condition is 4.5 for the milkers and 4.7 – 4.8 for the dry cows.

Feed budget

The average pasture cover is around 1,700 – 1,800 kg DM/ha. The pasture cover targets for the next 8 weeks are 1,600 – 1,700 kg DM/ha in late August and 1,900 – 2,000 kg DM/ha in late September.

Residuals:

  • Dry cows are leaving residuals of around 1,200 kg DM/ha through the winter.
  • Milkers are leaving residuals of 1,300 – 1,400 kg DM/ha through the next month with this lifting to 1,500 – 1,600 kg DM/ha through September.

Short term management

Grazing round
With the current growth and average cover conditions we will continue with the rotation plan that we have put together.

In shed feeding

The cows have stayed at around 6 kg/cow/day through the last 6 weeks. This will continue for the milkers. Other supplements – trying to make last as long as possible.

Mating

  • Heifers. We are looking at mating the heifers to calve a month before the cows. This would mean calving around mid June – mating starts in early September. The plan is to do AB for 3-4 weeks and then tail off with some bulls.
  • Cows. With the heifers calving earlier, the cows won’t need to start until around 10th July, therefore mating should start around 1st – 5th October. We are planning to take the empty cows through the winter again, so there will be no need to do pre-mating heats or a CIDR’ing programme. This will save costs this year, which has to be a real bonus!! We are planning to do 6 – 8 weeks AB, then bring a couple of bulls from the heifers to tail off, to give a 10 week mating programme all up.
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