Through calving – onto AB – Brian Frost

BF helicopter fertCan you believe that some places are selling for Christmas already – some days I’m sure it still feels like winter!! It is great to see some sunshine, but alas this is amongst some very heavy downpours of rain and so the wet continues to be a real challenge. Our manager has done really well to get through such a lot of rubbish weather in good shape with both the farm and cows doing well – bring on the better weather!

Because it has been soooooooo wet we did decide to put ammo on with a chopper, as there was no way we could get onto the paddocks and since then we have been able to get some paddocks sprayed out for maize so things are looking up.

On the farm

There are currently 353 cows on farm – all grazing 3 ha/day (24 – 25 day round). Our production to date is 37,910 kg MS, compared with 39,690 kg MS at the same time last year. Our current production is 8.7 – 8.8 kg MS/ha/day and 1.8 – 1.9 kg MS/cow/day. The cows’ body condition score is 4.3 and the average pasture cover is 2,545 kg DM/ha.

Feed

We have decided to replace the molasses with P8 (whey) to go with the feed mix being fed in the shed, will keep you posted as to how this goes ☺.

Mating

AB is due to start on 23 – 25th October and will go for 8 weeks – finishing by 20th December.

The first prostaglandin (PG) shot for the heifers was done on 16th August and the second on 30th August, with AB from 30th August – 5th September, 103 heifers were mated. Then AB was done again from 19 – 25th September and 40(ish) were mated. After this 4 Hereford bulls went in with the heifers from 5th – 18th September and again after 25th September.

Crops and new pasture

There has been much discussion about the crops and pasture to be sown this season. After the disappointment of the calves’ poor progress on the straight chicory paddocks (this could also be attributed to the terrible weather conditions etc), the decision has been to mix the chicory into the paddock grass mix this time – as we have in the past.

With many of our paddocks damaged because of all the flooding, we have a fair few to put into annuals, another 7 paddocks for turnips (the aim will be to get the turnips sown by 10 – 20th October) and then the rest of the paddocks will go into permanent pasture over the next month, probably Trojan or One50 at 20 kg/ha, 2 kg/ha each of two clovers, and 3 kg/ha of Puna II chicory.

BF crop fert

Run off

Frostie has also been using every bit of fine (and not so fine) weather to get out and continue developing the runoff block. Getting rid of more trees that are past their use-by date and re-fencing paddocks. This is now taking a back seat for a couple of weeks while we are back in the shed to give our wonderful managers time off.BF run off tree removal

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Rain, rain go away!! – Brian Frost

We have had a few nice days, where the paddocks tried to dry out and the grass to grow. Unfortunately, more rain has come and we have flooded again, but hopefully there will be a few more sunshine days coming to keep our spirits up and the world looking good.

We are now reaching the end of winter sports too, so only a few more games of standing in the rain (or sunshine) watching soccer or lacrosse – until next year :).

Frostie is still hobbling around with a sore knee, and at times a sore hip, but is coping well now that he has a brace for the knee.

Things have been busy, with cows coming and going from the runoff, and now that all the cows are back on the milking platform things are starting to ramp up again with the heifers’ insemination program. Bridget’s Dad has been a great help, being the extra person to help sorting the cows to go back to the farm and now with the heifers.

BR bobby loadingGrant, our manager, was also able to host a school through the DairyNZ ‘find a farmer’ program a few months ago. It was rather nerve-wracking before the school arrived, but he did an amazing job and the children had a wonderful time. He even said he would do it again, so it must have been ok.

With the new regulations for bobby calf pens coming in we had many a discussion about how to attack this, and where it should go, or how we might adapt what we already use. We decided that we would dig out next to the calf shed to be at the right height for the truck instead of building something new – works like a dream and the trucking company loves it!

On the farm

Our production to date is 18,516 kg MS, compared with 17,930 kg MS at the same time last year, with current production 4.8 – 5.2 kg MS/ha/day and 1.4 kg MS/cow/day. Some of the winter milkers were really dropping off their milk, so the empty, low producers have been culled and the in-calf ones will be kept milking for the next 6 – 8 weeks, then dried off and taken to the runoff if they haven’t improved. Cow condition is 5+ for the dry cows and 4.4 – 4.5 for the milkers.

Feed

There are currently 346 cows on farm – all grazing 1.3 ha/day (50 – 55 day round). 265 milkers are grazing 1 ha/day, plus 5 – 6 kg meal, ½ – 1 kg molasses, 5 – 5.5 kg DM maize silage and 2 kg PKE per cow. 19 colostrum cows are grazing 0.1 ha/day plus meal and molasses. 62 springing cows are grazing 0.2 ha/day, plus ¼ bale of silage and some maize.

The average pasture cover is 2,000 – 2,100 kg DM/ha,with pasture cover targets of 2,200 – 2,300 kg DM/ha in late September and 2,400 – 2,500 kg DM/ha in late October. Holding to the rotation plan over the last six weeks has not been easy as the weather has continued to throw up some real challenges, but sticking to this as much as possible has set us up for a decent spring – as long as we get some sun!!!

The regrassing after the flooding is up and looking good – hopefully this will bounce back after this latest dumping.

Mating

Winter mating

Started on 25th May and finished on 6th July and the pregnancy test showed 72% in calf after 6 weeks of mating.

Spring mating

The heifers’ early calving has worked well and so we have done this again with mating started around 25th August. The first PG was done on 16th August and the second on 30th August. AB was for 7 days from 30th August – 5th September and will be done again from 18 – 23rd September.

The cows’ mating will start around 25th October with the aim to calve on 1st August next year.

Runoff

Thirty-three dry heifers (27 in-calf ones) plus 117 calves are grazing 1 paddock/day.

Cropping

The aim is to put 16 ha into maize this year, with the aim to sell 2 – 5 ha at harvest time.

New grass

Two of the worst chicory / annual paddocks will be sprayed out and sown into a Shogun or Bealey (22 – 25 kg/ha), chicory (3 kg/ha) and clover (4 kg/ha) mix.

BR heifers

A reason to smile – Brian Frost

Frost wedding Jul17Frost wedding2 Jul17Ella and Mitch got hitched! The last few months have been leading up to our eldest son, Mitchel, getting married to his beautiful wife. We had a wonderful day celebrating with friends and family, heaps of talking and laughter – great speeches and amazing food, and to top it off the rain held off for most of the day! This day was a fabulous reminder of the wonderful blessings in our life. Mr. and Mrs. Frostie scrubbed up ok as well – some wanted to take a photo of Frostie just to prove he could get dressed up and wear something other than shorts and jandals!

On the farm

Unfortunately, the water lying around our area shows how vulnerable we will be to the wet weather over the next few months with the water table still very high. Managing the wet conditions is going to play a major role in the success of this season.

Currently we have 227 milkers on farm on a 100 – 110 day round. 194 milkers are grazing 0.6 ha pasture, 7 – 8 kg/cow meal, ½ – 1 kg/cow molasses, 6.5 kg DM/cow of maize silage and 0.7 kg DM/cow of grass silage per day. 33 springing heifers are grazing 0.06 ha pasture, ¼ bale of silage and some maize per day. The production to date is 9,130 kg MS, compared with 5,498 kg MS at the same time last year, with current production 2.7 – 2.8 kg MS/ha/day and 1.1 – 1.2 kg MS/cow/day. The BCS is 5+.

The average pasture cover is 2,162 kg DM/ha. The pasture cover targets for the next 8 weeks are 2,000 – 2,100 kg DM/ha in late July and 1,900 – 2,000 kg DM/ha in late August.

Fertiliser

5.2 tonne of PhaSedN was applied in May at 120 – 130 kg/ha. 0.9 t on 26th May, 0.9 t on 3rd June and 2.3 t on 30th June. Now that the last round of PhaSedN has finished, we will keep following behind the cows with SustaiN at 85 – 90 kg/ha through July and August.

Mating

Winter mating started on 25th May and finished on 6th July. 53 cows have been mated once and there were 20 returns (including 5 short returns).

The early calving for the heifers worked well and will continue again next year – so spring mating will start around 25th August.

Season review

Below is our season review table. We have compared the last three seasons along with the 2011 / 2012 season, which is often regarded as the Waikato’s best growing season over the last 10 years or so.

Season review 2011/12 2014/2015 2015/2016 2016/2017
Total MS (kg) 162,300 168,606 169,813 167,426
MS/cow (kg) 519 505 492 488
MS/ha (kg) 2,193 2,278 2,295 2,263
Pasture eaten/ha 15.1 13 12.8 13.8
Feed conversion efficiency 11.4 11.5 11.6 11.6
6 week in-calf rate (%) 81 67 73 63
MS to 31st Dec (kg) 88,820 93,457 98,539 98,926

These results show a rarity for this season – a nice lift in pasture and crop eaten – which considering the flooding and difficulty over the last 4 months is an excellent result. This also probably reflects what we suspected, that the previous two years were very disappointing, with the pasture persistence and growth that was discovered in time to make things right before last season.

A deluge – Brian Frost

It’s been a while since we have posted a blog – time to catch up.

On the home front, we have lived in 5 different homes in 4 months. The house we were meant to be using just didn’t work for our family but luckily we have found another house that suits us much better. We are still unpacking boxes but feeling more settled and can enjoy the countdown to Mitch’s wedding. Frostie (in fact, all of us) is missing his father-in-law, who he calls on regularly to help where needed on the farm, as he is biking in Italy – he will be back in 10 days – so counting down to this also.

On the farm

BF flooding May17

The wonderful rain that we had in February, which didn’t flood the farm, unfortunately didn’t stop and we ended up flooding twice over the last couple of months – the first time 70 acres went under and a lot of damage was done. After getting this ground sown with new grass it went under again, so not fun times. Thankfully, the new grass seems to be doing ok and was not badly damaged by the second flood but the ground is still incredibly wet (as is the case for many others) and we could do with some fine weather for more than a couple of days.

BF flooding damage May17

We were able to get the maize off the week before the first floods came, so we have things to be grateful for as many had great problems getting their maize off. We are thankful for any sort of supplement as the quality has also been compromised by the season we have had.

BF maize harvest May17

Here’s hoping we get a bit more nice weather over the next 6 – 8 weeks to dry the soil out a bit before the cold weather turns up!

There are currently 289 milkers on farm – all grazing 1 ha/day (70 day round), 6.5 kg/cow/day of meal, ½ – 1 kg/cow/day of molasses, 3.5 kg DM/cow/day of maize silage and 3.5 kg DM/cow/day of grass silage. Production to date is 163,103 kg MS, current production is 5.3 – 5.4 kg MS/ha/day and 1.35 kg MS/cow/day. Cow condition is 5.1 – 5.2.

Feed

Average pasture cover is 1,988 kg DM/ha over everything, excluding the 6 new grass paddocks. The pasture cover targets for the next 8 weeks are 2,200 – 2,300 kg DM/ha in late June and 2,100 – 2,200 kg DM/ha in late July.

As the cows are dried off over the coming weeks, the round will naturally extend for the winter. The residuals have been hard to keep but we want to keep trying to keep the milkers to at least 1,500 – 1,600 kg DM/ha through the winter. The dry cows will follow behind the milkers initially (especially during the drying off process) with the target to leave behind around 1,200 kg DM/ha through the winter with these cows. The dry off plan is to dry off every couple of weeks according to calving date.

Winter mating

Winter mating started on the 25th May and will go for 6 weeks.

Fertiliser

5.2 tonne of PhaSedN has been applied in May, at 120 – 130 kg/ha. This will continue over the whole farm and then we will switch to SustaiN.

Runoff

The runoff also took a bit of a hit with flooding, but nowhere near as bad as the milking platform so it recovered quicker although it is still very wet underfoot.

Unfortunately, the calves have not done as well as we would have liked either. They have been on full chicory, we have since decided not to do this again. We will plant the chicory with another grass as there has not been enough fibre in the chicory alone – a hard lesson to learn as it’s depressing not having your animals thrive the way they should. All the wet weather has possibly had an effect too.

BF calves May17

At the moment there are 130 R2 heifers and 40 dry cows getting 1/3 paddock/day plus maize silage. 120 calves are getting 2 bales/day of grass silage plus maize silage.

There are about 8 paddocks left to finish with PhaSedN before changing back to SustaiN for the following round.

Still more change! Brian Frost

Another house and a wedding on the horizon

The rain in February was amazing, but more amazing was the miracle that we didn’t flood. The council finally, after nearly ten years, cleaned the drain last season – what a difference it has made. Usually with that amount of rain we would have been well and truly under water and looking at lake views – but not this time.

We are still nomads at the moment. We had to shift from the home we were in but the place we are moving to is being redecorated and wasn’t ready so we have had the luxury of house-sitting a beautiful home for a friend. Unfortunately, the completion date has been extended so we are on the move again, to another relation’s house, to look after their place for a couple of weeks. We feel very blessed to have people who are happy to allow us to use their homes but we are also ready to be amongst our own things again and settled.

Other news in our family is our oldest son has got engaged to his wonderful girlfriend, so we are now celebrating and in wedding planning mode and all the fun that brings. Amongst the madness of the shifts we have also been madly picking and selling corn for child #3 to raise funds for his Duke of Edinburgh Gold award trip later this year.

On the farm

BF Mar17 following cowsThere are currently 309 cows on farm – all grazing 1.5 ha/day (40 – 45 day round), 6.5 kg/cow/day of meal, ½ kg/cow/day of molasses, 1.4 kg DM/cow/day of maize silage and 4 m3/cow/day of turnips. Production to date is 132,905 kg MS. Our current production is 6.6 – 6.7 kg MS/ha/day and 1.6 – 1.65 kg MS/cow/day. Cow condition is 4.6 – 4.7.

With the rain we have had over the last month there is a good opportunity now to keep more cows milking for longer through the autumn. Therefore we will just take out the problem cows – those being the low producers (cull cows doing less than 1 kg MS/day), high SCC or return mastitis cows; basically everything else should be able to keep going for another 1-2 months at least.

Winter mating

At this stage the plan is to do six weeks of mating, from 25th May – 5th July, this will give a calving period from early March to mid April.

Feed

BF Mar17 cowsThe average pasture cover is 2,373 kg DM/ha (winter equation), the pasture cover targets for the next eight weeks are 2,300 – 2,400 kg DM/ha in late March and 2,300 – 2,400 kg DM/ha in late April.

The 40(ish) day grazing round has worked perfectly this summer, helping to maintain excellent growth rates and pasture quality in front of and behind the cows. The aim is now to finish up the turnips as quickly as we can, the day paddock feed will be taken away and replaced with extra turnips. This will make the round longer but it should settle back to a paddock/day when the turnips finish.

Just zinc is still going through the water and causmag, lime flour and salt are going on the maize.

Fertiliser

3.2 tonne of urea (SustaiN) has been applied at 90 kg/ha; 2 tonne in February and 1.2 tonne in March so far. We will keep following behind the cows with SustaiN at 85 – 90 kg/ha through the autumn.

Crops and new grass

The maize is almost ready so when it’s off we will put this area into permanent pasture rather than an annual. Two paddocks which were in turnips have been sown into new pasture (Trojan, chicory, and clover) with the rest being done as soon as possible after the paddocks are ready. The plan is to undersow Tama into next year’s crop paddocks. The paddocks that had Asset sown in them last year need another top-up to get through the next two years and will have Bealey sown into them.

Runoff

130 R2 heifers and 13 dry cows and are back getting ½ paddock/day or even 3 days out of the paddocks on the house side.

Calves

The 120(ish) calves are getting six days/paddock of chicory. They will stay on the chicory paddocks through the next two months at least, this will put them on a 40-ish day round just on the chicory.

Check out the fabulous new yards at the runoff. It’s amazing how much more enjoyable it is when things work well!

BF Mar17 run off yards

Changes are in the wind – Brian Frost

The new year is in full swing. We were able to have a few days away at the end of January, which was great when the summer weather finally arrived. The household is getting back into the routine of school, uni, and working, but to mix things up we are also on the move. We need to shift from the house we are in and we are having fun finding that perfect place to host all of us – including the pets ☺.

On the farm

Summer so far is throwing up some pretty mixed weather. Not really enough moisture to keep things ticking along as we would like but temperatures not too hot most of the time so the cows and pastures are hanging in there for this time of year.

Currently we have 316 cows on farm – all grazing 1.5 ha/day (the grazing round extended out nicely when we started the summer crop to 40 – 45 day round), plus 6.5 – 7 kg/cow/day of meal (the current meal mix is 85% PKE + 15% soya hull), ½ kg/cow/day of molasses, 3.5 – 4.5 kg DM/cow/day of maize silage (started again on 13th January). The turnips started on 15th January and at current feeding rates should get us through to early April. Ten cows have been culled and another four will be culled next week. Production to date is 114,326 kg MS, compared with 115,000ish kg MS at the same time last year. Twenty cows have been running in a sick/mastitis herd over the last 4 – 6 weeks, partly causing the drop in production, most will be back in the herd this week so we should see a lift in production. Current production is 6.6 – 6.8 kg MS/ha/day and 1.65 – 1.7 kg MS/cow/day. Cow condition is 4.3 – 4.4.

Average pasture cover is 2,400 – 2,500 kg DM/ha (summer equation) with the pasture cover targets for the next eight weeks 2,400 – 2,500 kg DM/ha in late February and 1,800 – 1,900 kg DM/ha in late March (winter equation).

Pregnancy testing

A pregnancy test was done on 24th January and showed 71 (21%) empty cows with the 6 week in-calf rate 64% compared with 73% last year. Dave, our vet, suggested FE could be part of the reason why the empty rates this year are higher than we expected. Although this is not what most people would like to see, we want cows to put in the winter herd so overall this result is pretty good.

Fertilizer

4.5 tonne of urea (SustaiN) has been applied since late December, at 90 kg urea/ha, and we will keep following behind the cows with SustaiN at 85 – 90 kg/ha (with moisture) through February and March.

Lactation length and culling

The plan from here is to try and keep as many cows milking through into the autumn as possible. Any cows not expected to be in the herd next year, doing less than 1 kg MS/cow/day, might drop out in the next month. These cows will include any empties, once they are identified, as well as any other old culls.

Run off

At the run off we have 130 R2 heifers, 13 dry cows and 120 calves. Twenty big bales of hay came back to the dairy farm in late December. The 14.9 ha of maize looks really good and will hopefully be ready in good time. We started grazing the 8 – 10 ha of chicory in early January; the paddocks seem to need a full month to get to full length again before grazing.

To keep some sort of sanity and happiness in the family it’s always good to get to the water. Frostie is feeling rather tired and sore from the amount of times he has been pulling the skis etc lately but the offspring and all their mates are very happy!!

bf-water-skiing2

bf-water-skiing

Roll on 2017 – Brian Frost

Frostie has had his op – knee cartilage sorted and he’s up and running again! Between Mr. and Mrs. Frostie and the kids we are in the shed for 10 days over Christmas to give Grant and Leigh a well deserved break – what a blessing to have great staff that run the farm just how you like it. We had a great Christmas catching up with family and friends – eating yummy food and playing lots of games.

Now it’s time to pack up the house we are living in and move to another house (which we have yet to find) as the owners of the house we are renting are coming home. Will also be great to have time at the beach at the end of January to relax and recharge for 2017.

On the farm

Back to news on the farm. There are currently 326 cows on farm – all grazing 2.25 ha/day (28 day round) + 7 – 7.3 kg/cow/day of meal + ½ kg/cow/day of molasses. The production to date is 91,666 kg MS compared with 89,000ish kg MS at the same time last season. Our current production is 7.8 – 8.4 kg MS/ha/day and 1.75 – 1.9 kg MS/cow/day. Cow condition is 4.3 – 4.4.

Our average pasture cover is 2,535 kg DM/ha (winter equation) with the pasture cover targets for the next 8 weeks 3,000 – 3,100 kg DM/ha in late December (December equation) and 3,200 – 3,300 kg DM/ha in late January. The grazing round has been extended, with the chicory being fed, and has held at the 28 day round since the chicory finished last week. The turnips start in January and will put the round out to 40ish days over the summer.

Over the next month we aim to get the rest of the farm covered with 85 – 90 kg SustaiN/ha to try and boost pasture quality and growth before the summer dry arrives.

Mating

The stats for mating are: 92% cows mated in 3 weeks, 97% in 6 weeks and 100% in total to AB. We will be pregnancy testing in late January-early February and the bulls will come out of the heifers in late December / early January.

Run off

At the run off 130 R2 heifers + 13 dry cows are getting 2 days/paddock. 120 calves have improved heaps and are getting 6 days/paddock + 500 kg/2 days of a PKE/soya hull mix.

Two paddocks have just been cut for hay, which should give around 20 big bales to come back to the farm. Possibly more area could be shut up for hay again after this lot has been cut.

BF maize.jpg

Cropping

  • Maize – 14.9 ha has had fertilizer, spray etc and is looking fantastic. It is well above Brian’s head now and getting higher by the minute!
  • Chicory – 8 – 10 ha of chicory was sown on 11th November and 6 – 8 ha on 20th. This will be ready to graze in the next week with the calves getting 6 – 8 days out of each bigger paddock and the heifers getting 2 days out of the smaller paddocks.

Fertilizer

SustaiN has been applied over the whole runoff at 85 – 90 kg/ha with a second round starting now that will be finished over the next month.