Looking forward – Brian Frost

Last season was a good one to get behind us.

Things were tough for a lot of the season, with too many floods and water sitting on the farm for too long leading to regrassing some areas six times.  This meant we have taken a big production and financial hit.

Also, council have come back with their decision, after five years of negotiation. They have decided to do nothing regarding the drainage issues in our area – this unfortunately does not help us at all, so we are now looking at building a feed pad/herd home and a stop bank to mitigate the effects the council drain has on our farm.

BF drainage3 Jul18.jpg

Life on farm has been busy; calving and then AB, shifting stock from the milking platform to the run off, and now sending soon to calve cows back to the farm.

Grant and Leigh are with us for another season, which is great, and they were able to have a bit of time off at the beginning of June, so it was all hands on deck for us.

The target cow numbers to peak milk is 350 and there are now 366, either on farm or the run off, so we still have 16 cows to drop out over the next 6 – 8 weeks.

On the farm

On farm we currently have 158 cows milking – all grazing 0.5 ha/day (150 day round), plus 6 kg/cow/day of meal, 1 kg/cow/day of molasses, 5 – 6 kg DM/cow/day of maize silage.

The cows are getting causmag, lime flour and salt on the maize at full rates and nothing in the water at the moment.

Production to date is 6,953 kg MS. Current production is 3.3 – 3.4 kg MS/ha/day and 1.3 – 1.35 kg MS/cow/day. BCS is 4.2 – 4.3.

Feed

The pasture cover targets for the next 8 weeks are 2,200 – 2,300 kg DM/ha in late July and 2,300 – 2,400 kg DM/ha in late August.

Fertiliser

1.3 tonne of PhaSedN was applied in June at 150 kg urea/ha, there is 40 – 45 ha left to get this fertiliser over July.  Once the full round of PhaSedN has been applied, we’ll follow with urea, at 80 – 90 kg/ha for the next full grazing round.

Run off

Mitch has been helping Frostie with developing the run off during his uni break, heaps faster fencing with two people.

Currently at the run off there are 235 – 240 cows grazing the annual pasture and also getting 5 kg DM/cow/day of maize. The first lot of early calvers are going back to the dairy farm before starting to calve around 20th July. 128 calves are still on the run off.

BF Stafford Jul18.jpg

In other family news, Stafford, our 17 year old, is in Thailand on a mission trip with his school. He is getting to see a different culture as they help on local farms and work in villages with the community on self-sustaining projects, like fish tanks, pig pens and chicken coops. They will also work alongside youth in local schools and hospital/medical centres.

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New grass and silage stacks – Brian Frost

BF silage stack Mar18The summer rain has kept coming to grow the feed; however, with this has come the weeds, and the heat has certainly been making it difficult for the cows to reach the production levels we would have liked.

We have had major weed problems, especially in the new grass paddocks that have been flooded many times over the last year.

The maize silage has been harvested in the last two days and covered by the wonderful high school children who are raising funds for a missions trip to Thailand – they are becoming pros at throwing tyres.

On the farm

Currently we have 340 cows on farm – all grazing 1 ha/day (60 – 70 day round). 313 milkers are grazing 1 ha/day, plus 7 kg/cow/day of meal, 6 litres/cow/day of P8 and 6 kg DM/cow/day of maize silage. There are 18 sick/colostrum cows, 7 dry springers, 2 dry spring calvers and 13 new autumn calves. All the autumn calvers are now back on farm.

Production to date is 126,672 kg MS compared with 135,734 kg MS at the same time last year. Current production is 5.4 – 5.6 kg MS/ha/day and 1.3 – 1.35 kg MS/cow/day.

Cow condition is 4.5 – 4.6.

The cows are getting causmag, lime flour and salt on the maize, minerals in the meal and zinc is going through the water.

Feed

The average pasture cover is now over 2,575 kg DM/ha (on the winter plate meter equation). The pasture cover targets for the next 8 weeks are 2,100 – 2,200 kg DM/ha in late March and 2,100 – 2,200 kg DM/ha in late April. The cows went to a longer grazing round last week to try and eat out the summer grasses and weeds while also giving the new grasses more time to establish before grazing again. As the cows start to be dried off in late May/June, we plan to extend the round again for the winter.

Our battle has been the new grass paddocks. The chicory paddocks look great – but the Bealey is hard to find! Two of these will be undersown in Tama after this next grazing and two will be sown into Tabu+ to see how this goes. Hogan ryegrass has also been ordered to drill after the maize has been harvested.

Fertiliser

3.6 t of urea/SustaiN has been applied at 75 kg urea/ha (2.6 t in February and 1 t in March so far) we will keep following behind the cows now for the next two months at least.

Run off

126 R2 heifers (planning to sell 60 surplus) and 133 calves are at the run off. Two of the chicory paddocks will be sown into Tama and two into Tabu+. A full round of nitrogen has also been applied to all of the run off paddocks. The 17 ha of maize came off yesterday. Unfortunately there is no spot market for it so it has been stacked on the dairy farm, with about 150 t DM at the runoff.

BF silage stack combined Mar18

A new year – Brian Frost

2018 started with us flying from Israel to Hong Kong, so we were in the air for the New Year’s celebrations. On 16th December we flew to Israel with our extended family to enjoy a wonderful trip touring Israel, Palestine and Jordan, and then stopping in Hong Kong on the way back to NZ. This is a trip we had been planning for a long time and it definitely did not disappoint – so much to take in, learn and enjoy in these amazing countries. We had 18 in our group and feel very privileged to have enjoyed such a fabulous life experience together.

BF Middle East Feb18 resized.jpg

On the farm

Wow, 2018 has certainly been interesting so far, with droughts, floods and storms! Early January was incredibly dry, dust was everywhere and in everything, and then the rain came – nice, but it didn’t stop – again, so in came the flood – again! Thankfully not bad, as it brought great grass growth over the farm. Here’s hoping this is a sign that this year will be a better balance of all these things, compared to last year when it seemed we had 10 months of rain, then 2 months of dry.

Currently we have 311 cows on farm – all grazing 1.5 ha/day (38 – 40 day round), plus 5.5 kg/cow/day of meal, plus 5 – 10 litres/cow/day of P8. Nineteen autumn calvers have been dried off and taken to the run off.

A zinc mineral mix is going in the water and causmag plus salt are being added as well.

Production to date is 106,347 kg MS compared with 113,353 kg MS at the same time last year. Current production is 5.4 – 5.5 kg MS/ha/day and 1.6 – 1.65 kg MS/cow/day.

Cow condition is 4.2 – 4.3 – after the fatter autumn calvers have been dried off.

Feed

The average pasture cover is now over 4,000 kg DM/ha. It was 2,128 kg DM/ha in early January and 3,085 kg DM/ha around 20th January; this just shows the amazing response to the rain. The pasture cover targets for the next eight weeks are 3,100 – 3,200 kg DM/ha in late February and 2,300 – 2,400 kg DM/ha in late March.

We started the turnips at 5 m2/cow/day on 9th January. At this rate the crop will last through until mid- March.

Unfortunately, a lot of the paddocks are very weedy with summer grass so it seems the grass spray was done too early to get the kill that we would have liked.

The grazing round held at 18 – 20ish days through December and into the start of January. After the rain and the turnips started, the round was extended to 40 days where it will hold now through the next 2 – 3 months.

Mating

Mating finished for the heifers on 1st December and the cows on 15th December. A pregnancy test has shown just four heifers are empty (including two of the biggest) and there was a 21% empty rate in the herd (68 cows), this compares to 21% (71) last year, so there are less empty cows this year – just!

New grass

Our aim is to get the new permanent pasture sown as soon as possible after the turnips have finished. We are also targeting the paddocks that have had annual undersown into them. We are going to try a mix of Trojan (20 – 22 kg/ha), Kotare and Weka white clover (2 kg/ha each), plus 3 kg/ha of Puna 2 chicory this year. Finding the right pastures that will last is still a major problem and we are taking the advice of our farm advisor. Again we are undersowing any paddocks we will put into turnips.

Run off

At the run off we have 40 dry cows and 126 R2 heifers grazing together, and 133 calves. The grazing round is extended as the pasture keeps building in front of them.

The 17 ha of maize is looking amazing and should be ready for harvest in late March.

Some more photos of our trip

BF Middle East combined Feb18

Our children being the statues. Frostie on a camel at Petra.

BF Middle East combined2 Feb18

Slightly different style of farming to New Zealand.

 

Roll on Christmas and holidays – Brian Frost

 

Well summer has arrived with a bang. It felt like yesterday we were saying “Please stop the rain” and now we are crying for it to return (just not in the volumes it has come during the rest of the year – farmers are never satisfied).

On the farm

Currently we have 330 cows on farm – all grazing 3 ha/day (18 – 19 day round), plus 7.5 kg/cow/day of meal, 10 – 15 litres/c/day of P8. Production to date is 85,248 kg MS, compared with 88,693 kg MS at the same time last year. Current production is 7.4 – 7.5 kg MS/ha/day and 1.7 kg MS/cow/day. Cow condition is still 4.2 – 4.3.

Feed

The average pasture cover is 2,505 kg DM/ha. Our pasture cover targets for the next eight weeks are 2,200 – 2,300 kg DM/ha in late December and 2,700 – 2,800 kg DM/ha in late January.

Fertiliser

4.5 tonne of urea (SustaiN) has been applied at 80 – 90 kg urea/ha. We will have a break for a full round when this round is finished.

Cropping

Unfortunately with the last lot of flooding we have had to re-sow a couple of the paddocks, that were originally sown in turnips, into Bealey.

Mating

The bulls came out of the heifer mob on 4th December.

AB started for the cows on 22nd October and finished on 4th December, before the bulls went in.

280 cows (88%) were mated in 3 weeks, 304 cows (95%) in 4 weeks and 99% in total to 6 weeks of AB. The bulls have just come out to give 8 weeks of mating.

Run off

At the run off we have 22 dry cows and 126 R2 yr heifers grazing 2 – 3 days per paddock. 133 calves are getting 6 days/paddock, putting the stock on the run off on a 30(ish) day round.

Cropping

17 ha of maize was sown on 15th November and has had nitrogen applied. The crop is looking amazing considering the late planting – the warm weather has certainly helped and the run off did get a small amount of rain a couple of weeks back.

The chicory/annual paddocks were sown into a Bealey (22 – 25 kg/ha), chicory (3 kg/ha) and clover (4 kg/ha) mix on 13th October and are being grazed for the second time.

Silage

We were able to make 30 bales of silage off 4.5 paddocks on 23 – 25th November, nothing like what we were able to get done last year, but better than nothing.

This is a much shorter blog, with no pictures (sorry) as we are off for 3 weeks – Israel, Jordan, and Hong Kong on the way home. This has been a long time in the planning, and even with Trump’s comments trying to stir things up we are still going – 18 of the family members are going so it’s going to be the trip of a lifetime.

Rain, rain go away. Come again mid-summer! Brian Frost

BF biscuiting Nov blogIt feels like all we talk about each month is the rain, but the reality is it has been extremely detrimental to our farm this year. We so need the sunshine, the wet weather has continued to keep coming back to hurt our farm, and has been compounded by the extreme lack of R&M done by the council for many, many years – we are over it. Trying to keep our chin up has not been easy for anyone and the rain is wearing thin! Our manager has done an amazing job to get through the wet so well and has pulled himself up when the weather has been so depressing.

It also feels like the end of the year is rushing towards us with Christmas decorations in the shops, the bbq and patio heater coming out (not that we have had the chance to use them) and children on study leave with exams starting this week! Our children are also so desperate for the weather to get better that the first day we had weather that was better than continual rain they got the boat out and went for a ski (Frostie dragged them around, Mrs Frostie sat in the van watching, and the dog thought it was Christmas already – running in and out of the water!).

BF water skiing Nov17

On the farm

There are currently 339 cows on farm – all grazing 3 ha/day (20 – 21 day round). Production to date is 61,586 kg MS, compared with 62,974 kg MS at the same time last year, current production is 7.9 – 8 kg MS/ha/day and 1.75 – 1.85 kg MS/cow/day. The cows’ BCS is 4.2 – 4.3. The calves are going to the runoff as soon as they have been weaned. At the runoff 22 dry cows + 126 R 2 yr heifers are grazing 2 – 3 days per paddock.

Feed

The average pasture cover is 2,359 kg DM/ha. Our pasture cover targets for the next eight weeks are 2,400 – 2,500 kg DM/ha in late November and 2,600 – 2,700 kg DM/ha in late December.

Because of the terrible wet weather we have been feeding more in the shed at times. The mix is still 85% PKE, 12% soya hull and 3% minerals, and the aim is to hold this at around 7 kg/cow/day through the next two months.

Fertiliser

We will apply urea following behind the stock on the runoff over the next full grazing round before skipping the following round. Two tonne has been applied on the milking platform at 90 kg urea/ha. We will keep applying urea at 75 – 90 kg/ha through the rest of the grazing round and then miss the following grazing round.

Cropping/new pasture

With the flooding we have had to shuffle our cropping plans around a little. Some paddocks were sown in turnips but with the flooding there are very few turnips coming through. These paddocks will be power harrowed again and drilled into 30 kg/ha of Bealey, with different paddocks now to be put into turnips instead.

17 ha at the runoff is to go into maize – hopefully it will be planted soon!

The chicory/annual paddocks have been sprayed out and sown into a Bealey (22 – 25 kg/ha), chicory (3 kg/ha) and clover (4 kg/ha) mix on 13th October.

4.5 paddocks are shut for silage and should be ready to cut in the next two weeks.

Mating

The heifers were pregnancy tested on 1st November; 120 of them were in calf. The cows started AB on 22nd October and will go for 8 weeks – finishing before Christmas.

We keep telling ourselves that the sunshine will turn up soon, but now with the snow arriving in the South Island again yesterday the sunshine might still be a way off.

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

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