The end of May is nearing and we are looking forward to a new season starting shortly. It’s 6am, still dark outside (except for the glow of the dairy shed lights, where Sam is joyful in his work) and squally showers are hitting the window pane every once in a while. A few nights ago these showers were accompanied by a really dazzling display of lightning accompanied by rolling bouts of thunder and some tremendous wind gusts. Yes, the weather has changed and the soils around here have finally been replenished with adequate moisture and a bit of free nitrogen from the heavens. After a somewhat frustrating long period of autumn dry, this “green” drought has ended, and in spectacular fashion might I add. Grass growth in the last few weeks has been nothing short of incredible, the warm temperatures combined with rainfall and some nitrogen have meant that pasture covers in our region have lifted significantly. I have seen some good growth in May before, but this one is right up there as one of the best in memory.
The heifers have been home for three weeks now and have settled in well, getting used to life on a dairy farm, getting fed on a feed pad and mixing it with some dry cows. It takes a while for them to get to know the rules mind you…..first attempts to get them to walk to the pad can be quite frustrating! Stand at the gate and call, well yeah they come for a look but no, not too keen to come out onto the race…..ok then, let’s go behind them I think to myself…..yep, you guessed it, I feel like the Pied Piper must have as they all decide to follow. Plan C, yes, get the dog, that will help!! A dog?? What’s a dog?? Now they have something else to follow so it’s round and round in circles for a while, not sure who’s leading who. No amount of yelling can stir up any reaction from the support crew inside the house so it’s just merry chaos for a few minutes until a truce is reached, we all calm down and I am able to coax two or three leaders out the gate which ultimately “siphons” the remainder out and they all head happily for the feed pad. Luckily this scenario only occurs for two or three days, as once these animals realise the benefits of the nutritious high quality maize silage that awaits them it becomes difficult to stop them from running home! These heifers all got Teatsealed yesterday, a non-negotiable in my mind, before they go grazing to the maize block for six weeks. I had a meeting yesterday, so Sam and the able team from Vetora took care of it. Always works that way for some reason, teatsealing clashes with meetings…..
I caught up with Marty, a guy I know well, the other day and we chatted about his change three seasons ago to autumn calving. There are many benefits of this system including: easier calving in dry conditions; less metabolic issues; months of “good” grass ahead without seedhead challenges; and winter milk premiums that are very attractive, especially in this period of lower payouts. I had toyed with the idea of a switch a few years back after we built the feed pad but quashed the idea as I do like a bit of time off in winter to go to SMASH conferences etc. However, now that I have a full time manager it is looking a bit more attractive again!! Or should I say WAS looking a bit more attractive!! When Marty and I were chatting about this system it was a lovely 21 deg day, grass was bolting and all was well. Now that it’s suddenly got a lot colder, and wetter, and darker, I am having second thoughts about the attractiveness of milking through the winter. Plus I’d need to convince Sam of the benefits….. Haven’t mentioned anything to him yet, I guess I’ll soon find out whether or not he reads my blog!! I’d be interested to hear from others who may have transitioned to autumn calving recently??
A good farming friend of mine, Greg (I’m sure he won’t mind if I mention his name), recently lost his dad to aggressive cancer. This guy had been a farmer all his life, and now Greg is running the farm. Greg had the pleasure and good fortune of farming together with his dad during the last couple of seasons. These guys are smaller herd farmers, and at the funeral Greg spoke of his dad’s unwavering passion for dairy farming and the love of his cows. Greg’s dad would often say to him, as they milked, that they were so fortunate and blessed to be doing the best job in the world. Working with animals on the land, being your own boss, doing what you love and having family all around you. What an inspiration this man was. He impressed upon me the true value of what we as farmers often take for granted. Let us appreciate these sentiments in our own situations and be grateful for all the opportunities our farming lifestyles offer us in both good and challenging times.
June will be a month of catching up on chores and getting prepared for calving. It’s always over before you know it and once July hits it’s a downhill run to the start of calving and all the delights and challenges that go with it. I am looking forward to what June has to offer, how the All Blacks go, conferences and field days that lie ahead, what calving may bring, the first signs of spring and of course the hot porridge I am about to go and make!! See you all next month!!