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.

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.

Summer is coming – the countdown is on! – Brian Frost

bf-keep-calmIt’s the end of November already and we have welcomed some stretches of sunshine – a fabulous change from what felt like constant rain (much to the kids’ frustration, wanting to get the boat out for skiing). The cows have certainly needed the sun and the great lift in the GDT has also been a very welcome boost!

On the home front Frostie has been counting down to a long-awaited knee op for cartilage damage – 28th November could not come early enough (he was looking forward to coming off all the pain killer meds), but unfortunately this was not to happen as he was struck with a head cold the weekend before, and so after much waiting and pre-op checks etc it was decided not to operate and for us to come back in two weeks. The countdown is on again!! The countdown to Christmas is also on in the Frostie household and absolutely nothing is done yet!!

Frostie and Mrs. Frostie had a stint milking together again during November (and we survived) while Grant and Leigh had a much needed break in Oz; it was nice to see them back. The Frosties will be back in the shed again for a time over the summer break so this was good practice.

On the farm

As at 10th November we had 343 cows on farm – all grazing 3 ha/day (22 – 23 day round). 340 milkers are grazing 3 ha/day + 6 – 6.5 kg/cow/day of meal + ½ kg/cow/day of molasses. 3 sick cows are also on farm. The current meal mix is 69% PKE + 27% soya hull + 4% minerals and we will continue to feed 6 – 6.5 kg/cow/day through the next 6 – 8 weeks at least. We will also continue to feed ¼ – ½ kg/cow/day of molasses through the next 2 months.

Production at 10th November was 66,881 kg MS, compared with 66,000 kg MS at the same time last season. Current production is 8.5 – 9 kg MS/ha/day and 1.85 – 1.95 kg MS/cow/day with cow condition at 4.3 – 4.4.

The average pasture cover at 10th November was 2,756 kg DM/ha with the pasture cover targets for the next 8 weeks being 2,700 – 2,800 kg DM/ha in late November and 2,800 – 2,900 kg DM/ha in late December.

The grazing round has held nicely at two paddocks/day and should hold at this level through to when the chicory starts being grazed. We have done some mowing over the last couple of weeks to maintain the quality. When the chicory starts, we will go to one full paddock of pasture at night and ½ paddock of chicory during the day to make the chicory paddocks last for 10 days. When the chicory finishes, the plan is to stay on ½ paddock of pasture during the day so the round will actually end up on around 30ish days when back on all pasture. The plan will then be to extend to 24 hours/paddock when the chicory starts for the second time or when the turnips start – whichever is first.

Fertiliser

8 tonne of ammo was applied at 100 kg/ha from 29th September to 20th October. The SustaiN started again on 4th November and has been applied over the whole farm at 55 – 60 kg/ha during November. From 15 – 20th  December we will start another round of SustaiN at 90 kg/ha.

Mating

Mating started on 25th October and the plan was to go for 6 weeks but we have since changed this plan. With the later mating start and the aim to have good numbers milking through the winter we have decided to do AI for 8 weeks and not use any bulls this year. 29 non-cyclers were checked and treated on 17th October. As of 10th November 264 cows have been mated in 16 days = 77% submission rate.

Cropping

  • Turnips – 10.5 ha (7 paddocks) are in turnips. A weed and insect spray will be done 3 – 4 weeks after sowing and then 200 kg/ha of SustaiN will be applied 1 – 2 weeks later.
  • Chicory – 7.5 ha (5 paddocks) were sown into Puna 2 chicory at 10 kg/ha. The aim is to get 2 days feed/paddock out of the chicory when it has reached red band gumboot height, hopefully around 10 –20th December, the second grazing will be around 25 days later and will coincide with when turnips are also being fed.

Run off

The 130 R2 heifers still look great and are grazing in 2 lots on all pasture. Unfortunately, the calves have been a bit stagnant over the last few weeks with some health issues but this has been cured now so they are growing again!

16 ha has been cut 3 times for grass silage and taken back to the dairy farm, any surplus paddocks from now on will be targeted for hay.

14 ha has been sown into maize. The area in Winter Star has been sprayed and cut for silage and will get cultivated and then sown into 10 kg/ha of Puna 2 chicory.

Ammo was applied over the runoff in October with SustaiN being applied over November at 60 kg/ha and then again from 20th December onwards at 90 kg/ha.

bf-pasture-silage

Springtime – Brian Frost

bf-fireIt’s been great to see some nice spring weather; and the lift in the GDT and Fonterra’s forecast payout have given us a boost for the season ahead – long may this last.

Yet again we are trying new things in our farming régime. This year a change in grasses and crops, and a new calving date for next season.

On the Farm

Currently there are 357 cows on farm – all grazing 3 ha/day (24 – 25 day round). 323 milkers are grazing 3.2 ha/day + 4.5 – 5 kg/cow/day of meal + ½ kg/cow/day of molasses. One springer, 33 colostrum / sick cows (including 14 culls going tomorrow) and 123 calves are also on farm.

Production to date is 36,494 kg MS, compared with 33,000 kg MS at the same time last season, a boost at the beginning of the season for us. Our current production is 8.6 – 8.8 kg MS/ha/day and 2 kg MS/cow/day. The average cow condition is 4.2 – 4.3.

The average pasture cover was 2,847 kg DM/ha on 20th September. The pasture cover targets for the next 10 weeks are 3,000 – 3,100 kg DM/ha in late October and 2,700 – 2,800 kg DM/ha in late November. We would like to see the residuals hold at 1,500 – 1,700 kg DM/ha through the spring.

Our manager has done a great job over the last six weeks speeding up the rotation while also controlling pasture quality behind the cows. The plan is for the current two paddocks/day allocation to continue through the spring. The rotation will actually drop as and when crop paddocks are taken out of the round.

Fertiliser

Ten tonne of PhaSed N has been applied at 140 kg/ha, 6.5 tonne in August and 3.5 tonne in September so far. For the next full grazing round 100 kg/ha of Ammo will be applied over the whole farm, after that we will miss a round and then do a round of SustaiN at 60 kg/ha.

Mating

We are changing a few things this season. AB for the herd is due to start on 25th October and will go for 6 weeks. Of the 87 yearlings, 67 were mated to AB on 1 – 8th September and the last 20 were PG’d and mated over the following 10 days. AB is continuing on these as they come up over the next 3 – 4 weeks. We have also purchased a further 43 heifers. These will be synchronized and mated to calve around 22nd July, before the bulls are put out. Because we have changed to OCD we want to optimise winter milk without having two herds, so next year the heifers will calve in June (the same as this year) with the cows calving from 1st August.

Cropping

As Winter Star was sown into 11 paddocks there are now paddocks that need some attention or there will be significant growth lost over the next six months. While spraying out and putting straight back into pasture is an option, putting a crop in makes the most sense as it will give a lot more growth over the next six months, with not too much extra cost. Therefore the plan is:

  • Turnips. We plan on planting 10.5 ha (7 paddocks) this year. The aim will be to get the first four paddocks sown by 20th October and the last three paddocks by early November.
  • Chicory. Another 7.5 ha (5 paddocks) will go into chicory – Puna 2 at 10 kg/ha. This process can be started anytime now, so we will get onto this and see how soon they can be sown. A pre-emergence insecticide is recommended (DairyNZ http://www.dairynz.co.nz/feed/crops/chicory/)
  • Maize. At the runoff we plan on planting 14 ha in mid-October. Last year’s maize area will go into chicory in late October / early November.

Run off

Frostie has been very busy on the run off, re-fencing paddocks ready for the calves to come from the milking platform, and clearing other areas for the maize to go into. It was previously a bull farm so the fences are all one wire and need to be two wires for the calves so this has been a big job, but lots of fun when you get to light the fires.

At the run off the 130 R2 heifers are grazing in 2 lots on all pasture. 16 ha of silage was harvested in August and another cut is due to be harvested in late September / early October. The following (and last) cut of silage will come off this area in late October / early November.

bf-silage

Spring is on its way! – Brian Frost

The sunshine has been a welcome relief from the wet weather and mud! This being said calving has gone pretty well so far with not many losses of calves or cows. Thankfully, the grass has kept growing giving us a new (but nice) headache making sure we don’t lose any pasture quality over the next six weeks as we speed up the grazing round.

BF calves

On the Farm

We currently have 371 cows on farm (and runoff) – all grazing 1.1 ha/day (65 day round).

  • 221 milkers are grazing 1 ha/day + 6 – 7 kg/cow/day of meal + ½ kg/cow/day of molasses,
  • 50 springers are grazing 0.1 ha/day + hay,
  • 49 late dry cows are still grazing at the runoff + 6 empty cows about to be culled,
  • 45 colostrums/sick cows and 110 calves are also on farm.

Production to date is 12,441 kg MS, compared with 10,000 kg MS at the same time last season. Current production is 5 kg MS/ha/day and 1.7 kg MS/cow/day. Cow condition is 4.3 – 4.4 for the milkers and the dry cows are 4.9 – 5.

BF cows Aug16

The mineral mix is going through the meal at 3%. The minerals will also start going through the water in the next couple of weeks. Causmag is being dusted on the pasture for the dry cows. The colostrums are getting 300 g lime flower/cow/day dusted on their pasture.

The average pasture cover is 3,040 kg DM/ha (dropped from 3,100 kg DM/ha 3 weeks ago). This fantastic cover is attributed to the undersowing (which shows how poorly the fescue was doing), the use of the runoff over the winter and some excellent management over the last six weeks. The pasture cover targets for the next eight weeks are 2,700 – 2,800 kg DM/ha in late August and 2,500 – 2,600 kg DM/ha in late September.

Run off

We have been bringing 20 – 30 cows home each week from the run off, with the last 49 cows coming home this week. The heifers are also doing well and are going onto all grass.

All of the new grass is shut up to cut for silage later this month, with a second cut planned in late September / early October including some other paddocks.

The main key to getting through has been sticking to the plan – even when it’s not been easy.

The plan for the next four weeks (slightly earlier/quicker than what we originally planned due to the very good pasture cover) is:

  • 13 – 25th August ½ paddock/feed (1 paddock/day);
  • 25th August – 1st September 1½ paddocks/day.

We then plan to hold this round through until we are confident we are not going to run out of pasture – and when the residuals can be kept under control. The milkers should leave behind around 1,300 – 1,400 kg DM/ha of residual through until late August with the aim to see this lift to 1,500 – 1,700 kg DM/ha through the spring, also using the option to follow the milkers with dry cows if this helps to keep the residuals down to the lower target levels over the next 4 – 6 weeks.

We have also been discussing our mating plan with our farm consultant as we have changed our dairy company and so are looking to change a few things to make the most of everything on offer. With the aim to start calving on 1st August next year, mating will look to start around 25th October. CIDR’ing will therefore be targeted to be done around 15th October. We are still planning to calve the heifers in early June – so their mating will start around 1st September.

BF heifers

The start of a new season – Brian Frost

BF Canada

Mr. and Mrs. Frostie have returned from their wBF halibutanderings around Hawaii, Alaska and Canada and the children are all still alive and the house is standing, so we are on a win:win!!! We had a wonderful time with great friends, amazing sights and fabulous weather, and came back to use our thermals here! We once again have to say New Zealand is the best place on earth though.

The first day back Frostie went straight out to the farm to catch up with what was happening there while Mrs. Frostie stood in the freezing cold and rain to watch soccer and netball then that night left the houseful of people watching the rugby to pick up the youngest child and get her broken leg attended to – welcome home!

Well, as we start a new season we can only hope the financial challenges of the past season get better. As our farm consultant has said ‘the next 6 months are probably going to be some of the most financially challenging that we have ever experienced! Keeping good focus and a mind for the longer term is such a key at times like this.’

On the farm

We currently have 197 cows on farm – all grazing 0.6 ha/day (120 – 130 day round).

  • 138 milkers are grazing 0.43 ha/day + 7 kg/cow/day of meal + ½ kg/cow/day of molasses + 2 kg DM/cow/day of maize silage.
  • 15 colostrum cows are grazing 0.05 ha/day + meal + maize.
  • 44 springers are grazing 0.1 ha/day + 2-3 kg DM/cow/day of maize silage.

Production to date is 5,429 kg MS compared with 3,967 kg MS at the same time last season. Cow condition is 4.5 – 4.6 for the milkers and 4.7 – 4.8 for the dry cows at the runoff. Causmag is going on the maize for the dry cows and the triple mix for the milkers. Causmag is also being dusted for the dry cows.

The average pasture cover is 2,555 kg DM/ha, an amazing turnaround from the 1,500 – 1,600 kg DM/ha that was around in early/mid May with the undersowing work coming through very strongly now. The pasture cover targets for the next 8 weeks are 2,300 – 2,400 kg DM/ha in late July and around 2,100 kg DM/ha in late August.

The grazing round has extended with the spring cows starting to be dried off. The spring rotation planner is the key to grazing management from the start of calving so we hold to the target grazing areas over the next 3 months.

With all the stock on the farm, grazing no more than:

  • 1/70th of the farm/day on 1st August = 1.06 ha/day in total for all stock.
  • 1/60th of the farm/day on 10th August = 1.23 ha/day.
  • 1/50th of the farm/day on 20th August = 1.48 ha/day.
  • 1/40th of the farm/day on 1st September = 1.85 ha/day.
  • 1/30th of the farm/day on 10th September = 2.47 ha/day.

To reach these goals, we try to keep to the following grazing areas:

  • Springers –hold at 20 m2/cow/day + hay.
  • Milkers – aim at 40 – 45 m2/cow/day until 20th On 20th August, these can lift to 50 m2/cow/day and up again to 55m2/cow/day on 1st September. On 10th September lift up to the 30ish day round.

A load of hay is coming to use for the springers when the maize stops.

The maize silage feeding level dropped from 4 kg DM/cow/day down to 2 kg DM/cow/day last week. With the pasture cover being so good, this will drop out over the next 1 – 2 weeks. This will leave around 100 t DM to have on hand for the milkers from February.

Run off

The run off continues to improve very quickly and is set up very well to grow a lot of spring pasture that will provide some really good silage for the dairy farm. 90 weaned 2015 calves are now getting 7 days/paddock + grass silage. 146 dry cows are getting 3 days/paddock + 3 – 4 kg DM/day of maize silage.

The plan is to graze the new grass and then shut this for silage. Over the next 3 – 4 weeks we will start thinking about other paddocks that can be left to cut for silage also. We will keep following with PhasedN over the whole block in the next 6 weeks.

In general

Over all, the farm is looking a picture with lots of grass and at the moment the sun is shining. We have had large amounts of rain over the last few weeks and the work that the council have done on the drains have so far keep the flood waters off the farm – so long may this last. Most of the heifers have calved and the cows have started calving so the fun of the new season has begun! The holiday is becoming a distant memory.

BF Canada2