Generally every year something in our farming system is new – “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” as they say. Whether it’s been OAD milking, feeding veggies, putting in Protrack or moving off the farm – nothing stays the same. Last year we bought the runoff; this year we have new managers starting and we have also changed milk companies. As this is two things Mrs Frostie is hoping that next year we will skip the “let’s do something new” phase. Just to make life even more interesting, and even more challenging, Frostie and Mrs Frostie leave the country for a lovely trip with friends (we have been planning this for the last 18 months) on 31st May so won’t even be here for any of the change overs – just a little stress to keep us alive!
From our farm advisor: “As we start drawing towards the end of a particularly difficult season in terms of cash flow, it is really important that we keep reminding ourselves of the fundamentals of ‘profitable’ farming” – meaning the most profitable ‘way’ of farming, which unfortunately in this payout environment doesn’t actually guarantee profit. In this blog I have included a summary of some key profit drivers that our farm advisor included in our report for this month, to give confidence that the system we are running is as good as it can be (always with improvements of course) – even at these very low payouts.
On the farm
There are currently 333 cows on farm – all grazing 1 paddock/day (1.5 ha/day = 40 day round). The cows are getting 6 kg/cow/day of meal + ¼ – ½ kg/cow/day of molasses. Production to date is 147,815 kg MS, compared with 143,320 kg MS at the same time last season. Current production is 6.4 – 6.5 kg MS/ha/day and 1.45 – 1.5 kg MS/cow/day. Cow condition is 4.6 – 4.7, well on track for a 5+ condition score by the end of the season. Zinc is going through the water at full rates and Triple Mix is going on the maize.
Our aim at present is to lengthen the round to give the undersown pasture more time to establish. Therefore we are dropping out the low producers and some culls to enable the rest of the cows to maintain good intakes on the longer round. The early calvers will be ready to start drying off around mid-May.
The average pasture cover is 1,650 kg DM/ha (on the ‘normal’ winter equation), the pasture cover targets for the next 6 weeks are 2,000 – 2,100 kg DM/ha in late April and 2,200 – 2,300 kg DM/ha in late May. The turnips finished in mid-March.
Permanent Pasture: All of the turnip paddocks have been sown into Ceres One 50, clover and chicory.
Annual Pasture: Winter Star is being undersown into next year’s crop paddocks.
Two – three year pasture: Fourteen paddocks have been undersown with Asset, with the remaining 18 ha undersown with Trojan.
The new grass is all coming through really well and with some time to establish should make a significant improvement in the growth over the coming 2-3 years.
SustaiN has been applied at 90 kg/ha behind the cows. This was started in mid-March and will continue through until the end of May.
With the round lengthening, we are aiming to lift the meal to 7 kg/cow/day and hold at this rate through the rest of the season. The PKE is just contracted now through to March next year. We started feeding the maize in mid-March at 2 – 3 kg DM/cow/day and have since increased that to 6 – 7 kg DM/cow/day – as the turnips ran out.
Ninety weaned 2015 calves are getting 4 days/paddock + PKE + maize, 113 yearlings are getting 4 days/paddock + 4 – 5 kg DM/day of maize silage. When the maize started, both groups dropped out to 4 days/paddock to give a 50 – 60 day round on this block.
SustaiN has been applied to the runoff at 90 kg/ha and will continue to be applied behind the stock grazing through the next 2 months. Forty-eight in-calf heifers have been sold last week with possession date May 1st 2016.
The maize silage area was undersown with annual (Winter Star) in mid March. We were able to get a 435 tonne crop from our 16 ha of maize, and with the amazing help of a team of school kids raising funds for a mission trip we were able to get these stacks covered in the blink of an eye!! AMAZING!
Decisions made by the previous owner about the banking of the council drain that borders our land and farm development upstream, which has put greater pressure on drains, have caused many bad floods on our farm.
Over the last few years we have met with the local councils to discuss how this problem (that affects more that our farm) can be solved. We are being listened to and are slowly getting results. This is a big issue, and there is lots of community consultation that needs to happen, as it’s everyone’s water that is coming off surrounding land and being stored on our land (and a few others) until the water can drain away.
Finally, for the second time in the last 16 years, the drains have been cleaned. So although it’s left large piles of silt on our paddocks we are very excited something has been done! This is only the beginning, but at least we are heading in the right direction.
(from our farm advisor)
In the March Dairy Exporter, there was a pretty good section on the top 5 profit drivers, which was a good reminder of the key elements we need to keep front and centre in our thinking in all the decisions we are making on farm:
- Pasture and crop eaten. This is the No 1 in my book and the key driver for profitability.
All my advice around management and feeding is directed to growing and harvesting as much high quality feed from your farm as possible.
- 6 week in calf rate. This is very important, but with milking all year round this can drop down the priority list a bit – although you did pretty well in this area this year.
- Production to 31st December. I think we saw how important this is this year as the production we lost through the spring through the Waikato was pretty impossible to make up again – even with a pretty good summer.
- Soil fertility. This is obviously important and something you have well under control.
- Percentage of first calvers on farm at the end of their first season. While this has always been an important issue, I have never actually ‘measured’ this on farm and I think it would be good to monitor from now on.
The only other one I think they are missing is the “Average cost of bought in feed”. This one is absolutely a key as instead of saying “supplements are bad!” or that we should all “feed less supplement”, this conclusion clearly depends on the price you can get the supplement for. Therefore, the average cost of bought in feed is a key driver for profit in any system, but especially in systems where significant supplements are used. So while you are able to contract feed in for under 25 cents/kg DM, this becomes a key driver to profit, compared to if you are getting this feed in for 35 or 45 cents/kg DM.