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.

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