Bula, bula – Noldy Rust

It’s 6.NR resort pool30 am, a quiet, relaxed morning, 24 degrees on a cloudless day, with the promise of the temperature rising to the low 30s. No sound of cows, dogs, milking machines, or magpies, although I do hear the quiet humming of air-con units and the sound of waves lapping onto the shore. Yes, this blog is coming to you from a different part of the world, namely the beautiful Sofitel Resort on Denarau Island, Fiji. So bula, bula! You may wonder why I am writing my blog from a slice of paradise such as this?  Well, the fact is that I finished my book, I’ve had a swim, Bev’s still asleep, and it’s too early to go to the bar….

As we only had short stints away over the summer I thought it may be appropriate to book a week away in late April for a couple of reasons. Firstly, this week coincided with a significant wedding anniversary for Bev and I, so the timing for that was spot on, and secondly, it would be getting cooler back home at this time, so a week of sunshine would be good for body and soul, although as it turns out, maybe not so good for body as the sun’s rays penetrated every layer of sunblock that was applied.

NR Bev FijiIt has certainly been great to get away to such a slice of paradise – made all the more exciting, and daunting to be fair, by the fact that Bev didn’t know where we were going until we got to the airport. Lots of deceit and laying false trails led to a suspense packed few weeks before departure as I attempted to keep the surprise alive right till the very end. Fortunately, it worked, although it did cause some difficulties for Bev on arrival…. I mean when I told her to pack for any eventuality, I think she deduced that Taupo, Queenstown, or by the looks of it, even Scott Base, might have been the destination. Shoes, boots, coats, jackets; yep plenty of winter attire was in the suitcase, but unfortunately not too much appropriate clothing for 30 deg days! I think she felt quite smug when we pulled into the domestic terminal in Auckland as that confirmed the likelihood of Queenstown as the destination, however that was short-lived as we carried on driving and headed to the international terminal.

However, all this deceit comes at a cost, the first destination after unpacking the bags at the resort were the Tapoo and Jack’s department stores in Nadi to purchase some summer clothes! Now, this may seem logical, but the other half of the plan of lies and deceit was the fact that the kids were coming over two days later and I had them all sorted to bring some summer clothes. But I couldn’t let on!! Oh, the anguish, I was torn, do I give up on the surprise and save some money, or do I carry through with it and support the local economy by allowing my wife to purchase summer clothing? In the end I decided to ride it out and try and limit the number of items that she purchased. Well, have you ever taken a kid to a candy store just to look?? Need I say more?? The second surprise went as planned, the kids and friends turned up two days later and crept into our room as we sat on the porch and gave Bev the biggest fright of all. Unfortunately, the baby got a big fright too when they all shouted “surprise” and I got quite a beating as well, resulting in a nappy change needed and having to book in for a massage and a facial to try and recover…..the nappy change was for the baby, just to clarify!!

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Anyway, um right, um farming….the sugar cane crops look good and the maize is all off. Stocking rates here appear to be about 3 hectares to the cow and average covers are in the vicinity of 4500 kg DM/ha. Annual production can’t be too good as we are eating Kapiti cheese and NZ Natural icecream.

NR Fiji grand daughterAs for on the farm back home, all was well when I left, new grass was up, rotation was out to 40 days, cows were in great condition, and the river flats had reappeared after the flooding. Sam has kept in touch during the last week with mixed news including: a dead cow on Tuesday, undersowing on Wednesday, a dead calf on Thursday, some culls gone on Friday, and a burst tractor radiator hose on Saturday. I’m not sure if I wanted to know all those things!! I guess he was thinking about keeping a safe distance when sharing the not so good news.

The positive is that a holiday of this nature costs a wee bit more than a weekend at Whangamata, so it’s nice to see a little more flexibility in the overdraft in order to have some quality time away. So, for those of you who out of necessity in the big downturn have minimised your time off farm, good on you, but I do thoroughly recommend you put some time off on the agenda as soon as you are able.

I’m now looking forward to getting back into the daily routine back home, having re-energised and re-evaluated all the good things we have in Godzone. The blessings we enjoy in our country became way more obvious after a visit to a Fijian local who lost his whole house and few meager possessions in cyclone Winston last year. His new “house” is made from materials he scavenged from the rubbish dump…bits of iron, plywood and carpet, and is around 10 m2. The likelihood of him building something more substantial in the near future look remote, as he earns just $2.50 per hour. However, together with his wife and daughter, they are happy and content. They say they could be worse off! I guess this highlights to me once more that even though we go through tough times, there are always many that are worse off.

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Time for breakfast, here’s to a warm, dry-ish May. Back home for us soon.

Look out for Blood Brothers, the stage show starting in Te Awamutu on May 6th. Should be a goodie!

Winning or losing? It’s all in the eye of the beholder – Noldy Rust

There are winners and losers in every situation, we all know that. This thought comes to mind this morning as I sit here and tap away at the keys. I guess it depends on how you define “winning and losing”. Am I winning today because I am sitting in my office and I’m not on milking duty this fresh Sunday morning in autumn? Was I losing yesterday because I was milking? Is Sam winning today as he is on milking duty, or does he wish he was winning this morning by still being tucked up in bed?? As far as I can tell, I think he must be winning as there is no audible admonishment towards cows and dog, but I do hear traces of music wafting through the air, picked up and carried by the slight breeze in the air. All must be well.

However, the big winner that comes to mind this morning is my effluent pumping man who has just turned up to pump our pond out once again. We have a storage pond off the end of our feedpad and get this pumped out by a contractor on a regular basis, whenever it reaches the “full” indicator….No, not when it starts seeping into the paddock, but when it hits the bottom leaf of the strategically planted flax bush on the edge of the pond. In the last few years we haven’t seen Mark, the pumping man, from early January until around May, but this year, oh boy, we’re becoming best buddies! I don’t know how he made any money in the dry summers we experienced over the past few years, but this year, man oh man, he must be rolling in it! The rainfall we have had since January has certainly helped keep Mark’s bank balance in the positive and put a dent in mine! We even set up an automatic payment to pay him! The fact that he’s here pumping early on a Sunday morning is an indicator of how busy he must be! Wonder where his winter holiday will be this year??? I guess I’ll get a postcard from some exotic location from way across the world somewhere, funded partially by me! Unless he invites us along as well of course!!??

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Fantastic autumn growth is helping to keep the cows milking. Regular rainfall, albeit too much at times, and warm conditions are such a plus this year, especially when I think back to previous autumns. Unfortunately, a slight negative has been a later maize harvest, but we can’t have it all ways. Our maize is now all stacked and bagged and the new grass should be poking it’s head out any day now. As I speak, it looks like Finch Contracting are also flat out, heading down to my neighbour’s place to harvest his maize at this bright early hour.

NR maize harvest

I attended a SMASH seminar back in November where Emma Cuttance spoke on the topic of facial eczema. We have always used zinc hepta in the water via our Dosatron, starting early January and going right through until May. In times of severe challenge, we also added some oxide to the maize. Now, according to Emma, this method of prevention can be dubious and erroneous at best. I disagreed, saying that we don’t get eczema. Long story short, we agreed that maybe we do get it but see no obvious signs. “Right”, I thought to myself. “I’ll prove her wrong”. Emma spoke of a zinc level needing to be 20 plus in the blood during the course of zinc dosing, so this year I decided to blood test several cows and prove to her that we are protected. I also decided that we would add zinc oxide into the feed every day to further lift the levels. I waited in anticipation for Steph the vet to get my blood test results to me to prove that my levels are ok. To my dismay we only averaged around a level of 14, which is below the “safe” zone! I argued the case with Steph the vet as I reckon she did it all wrong…..But then again how could you get it wrong? As a result, I have to eat humble pie (yuk, I hate that!) and admit that maybe our zinc dosing needs more scrutiny! Unless of course Steph mixed my blood tests up with some other farmer who may not be onto it as much as I am….. yeah, could well be the case! But then to top it off, I had a young cow suddenly dry off and get all skinny for some reason…She got in the drain twice too (through the fence of course) as if she was wanting to cool off. Then she died. Grrr, is this an eczema case from last year that may have got a touch again this year?? I must say, it does look a bit that way. Blast, I had to make the $30 phone call to J D Wallace. I still blame Steph the vet though, she lives in the other house on the farm, the least she could do is keep a close eye on my cows when they’re grazing around her house!!

NR Steph the vet

On a positive note, the season end is looming and all looks to be well set up for next season. Winter grazing is organised, feed budget in place, autumn soil test is about to happen to get an idea of where we may be deficient, and Sam is staying on for another season. By the way, Sam is now engaged and getting married to Alice in October. October?? What?? To make matters worse, the day before mating starts, to be exact. Coincidental I’m sure!! It’s pretty cool though and we’re really happy for them both. I expect him to be of a happy and cheery disposition well into the future as a result!!

Happy autumn, may the sun shine, the grass keep growing and the effluent that is constantly being pumped give some return in the extra feed that it grows!

Autumn already?! – Noldy Rust

As I stumbled my way to the dairy this morning in the dark (no, not owing to a big night or anything like that!!) I lamented the fact that the spotlight was out of action and low cloud cover meant any hope of a glimmer of light to illuminate the way was sadly just wishful thinking. Along with a bit of a cooler feel in the air, this reminded me that we are indeed now into the autumn period of the season and before we know it winter will be upon us. However, autumn has only just kicked in and we have several weeks ahead of us to enjoy cooling temperatures, falling leaves and Super rugby.

I’ve heard many comments around the place, comments that I must agree with to be honest, asking how autumn can be here when summer hardly turned up? I mean, how much rain were we fortunate enough to get over the last three months? Most of us expected, with a little trepidation, that after the bucket-loads of rain that fell over the winter/spring period, we would be in for a rather dry summer……and rightly so. Well, thankfully, that wasn’t the case around our neck of the woods. I realise that there was a lot of variation in rainfall amounts, even across our region, but we must have had close to 200 ml in the last two months, and a lot less heat that normal.

This certainly kept our pastures in good shape, with good covers going forward and minimal summer grasses invading our nice ryegrass and clover swards. Clover growth has been particularly strong this summer with lots of those lovely little white flowers dotted all through the paddocks. Following several years of dry to extremely dry summer/autumn months, this year has been exceptional.

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What a relief!! Thankfully, the decision to sell surplus grass silage from the maize block back in spring turned out to be a good one as I would never have lived it down if we had run out of supplements owing to a dry summer. I could tell by the way Sam looked at me when I said that we wouldn’t be bringing any grass silage home that he thought I must have lost the plot. On the contrary, we now have had the opportunity to empty the bunker of 3-year-old grass silage (which was still in top condition might I add) and have plenty of room to store the maize when it arrives.

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Speaking of maize, a topic never too difficult to discuss, I guess if there’s one downfall of a cooler and wetter summer it’s the fact that the harvest will be later than normal. The only impact of any consequence at our place is that the regrassing of these paddocks will be a bit later than normal. However, I still expect to have the maize off and the new grass in by the end of March at the latest; I can live with that. We aren’t looking for any maize in a hurry as we still have around 50 tonnes on hand which will last well into April. We plan to get stuck in and do any other regrassing shortly, taking advantage of higher than usual moisture levels, so at least these paddocks will be growing strongly by the time winter arrives. Next year’s maize paddocks will get undersown with an annual, such as Hogan or Winter Star, and we have identified another couple of paddocks that will be sprayed out and replanted with a perennial diploid, such as Alto, Trojan, or the like.

My ‘no-till’ maize is looking good, and at this stage I have no reason to rule out using the ‘no-till’ method again next year. We do have a higher than usual weed burden in the crop, mainly grasses, which I put down to the length of time the crop took to canopy. This is due to cooler soil and air temperatures, so the plan next year will be to consider a post-emergence spray as late as possible to deal to any grasses and flat weeds that appear. Our maize has been grown in effluent paddocks again this year, so no fertiliser was applied as a base dressing. However, I was ‘challenged’ at our recent discussion group as to whether a side dressing of nitrogen may help lift the yield. Consequently, we did a deep N test (or should I say that Marty from Ballance did a deep N test!) and we found that our N levels were indeed adequate, so applying any more N would probably make no difference. But I was curious now so we did anyway! We flew 200 kg of SustaiN onto half of the paddock and will do a yield cut at harvest. I sure am looking forward to the outcome as I’m pretty sure we had a bet on it at discussion group!! Roll on next group I say!!

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I’ve heard from other farmers that empty rates are higher than usual, so I have delayed scanning for as long as possible. I don’t know that this delay will help, but ignorance is bliss… However, I think Sam has booked a vet for later next week so I guess we will know before too long.

I must be going on a bit as my computer tells me that I’m now onto page two! Sorry about that, it must be time to end! Oh, just one more thing, what is everyone doing about bobby calf loading this year?? We need to follow the rules and no longer have our bobby pen on the roadside, so now we need to look at options that comply with the new regulations. Many of us smaller farmers don’t have many bobbies, what with doing AI for a long period of time and having beef bulls over the herd. Is it wise spending thousands of dollars on loading facilities just to load 30-40 calves a year? What can we do to get around this? I might go see the neighbour who has lots of Jersey calves and put mine with his. It will get his average up!!!! Maybe do a bit of bartering and swap each calf for a nice bottle of Pinot Noir or a six pack of ‘Panhead’? Any ideas welcome!!

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Anyway, enough is enough, may the days stay warm, the rain turn up regularly, the Chiefs keep up their winning form, and may we all remain enthusiastic about the challenges and opportunities that dairy farming has to offer.

 

Time for a holiday – Noldy Rust

Don’t you just love January?? All the joys and pressures of the Christmas period have passed, New Year celebrations have been and gone, and the month that usually has the least amount of “things to do” plastered all over the calendar has arrived! I guess, at our place anyway, one of the major reasons that the January calendar doesn’t have too many “things to do” plastered all over it is because the December page is the last one in last year’s calendar, and there’s nowhere to write down stuff to do in January until the new one goes up!! And the new calendar can’t go up until January or else it’s bad luck, isn’t it?? Plus, which calendar do you put where?? I mean, the “Jock” calendar from “Farmline” was in the toilet last year so it should really go in the kitchen this year with the “John Austin” one having it’s turn in the toilet, and the Finch Contracting one going in the office, or should that one go the dairy shed and we bring the LIC one over to the house?? But do you really need one in the toilet? I mean, what’s the point?? Plus the “John Austin” calendar is very big and the toilet room is quite small…

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But doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun? It’s fair to say that much of January has already whizzed by and we’re all staring in the face of getting down to seriously disciplined living again. School starting, meetings, fieldays, farm work…..you name it, it will begin…..The casual nature of life in January, not only in the farming calendar but in life in general, is something to enjoy and embrace.

Sam had time away over Christmas/New Year which was really nice for him, and I must say enjoyable for me also; getting in the routine again of milking and daily chores around the farm. However, it was nice to see Sam return and take the helm again, enabling me to get out on my bike for the odd ride and catch up on a few of those long overdue chores. It was great to get back to my Pioneer job also and see how the crops had advanced over the days I had off.

This cooler January that we are experiencing, coupled with some reasonable amounts of rainfall from time to time, has meant that life on the farm has been fairly relaxed. Feeding out has been minimal with even a little silage made on farm a couple of weeks back. Weed spraying has taken a bit of a priority for Sam since his return from 10 days away. I thought it was better to give any spraying a miss while I was in charge as I might have mixed the spray up wrong, sprayed the weeds he was saving to spray himself, or done him out of a job when he returned!! I could tell he was deeply touched by my thoughtfulness as he would have hated to not have had any weeds to spray in the last few weeks!

Production is ahead on a daily basis compared to last year, but we are still only gaining on last year’s production at an agonizingly slow pace. It seems it’s so easy to drop behind in spring but oh so hard to catch up…. A bit like what the cricketers experience when the required run rate gets further and further out of reach!!

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However, enough about the farm, this is January and I am happy to say that I am fortunate enough to have a few days off this week. Bev and I shot up to Coromandel for a couple of days and now are off to Whangamata, where the boot is on the other foot for a change as she will be working in the Mavis & Mick “pop up” shoe shop and I will be having a holiday…nice change, she works and I spend…..

noldy-bloggingOf course, as you can see, my commitment is to the fore. I have my laptop with me, so in between some reading, bush walks, exploring, eating, the odd drink, walking, eating, the odd drink, sleeping, eating, the odd drink, and lots of other “holiday stuff”, I am busy keeping up with the other duties that can be done whilst on holiday, such as blogging! The good thing about blogging is that I can multitask and still do some of the other “holiday” stuff at the same time, although it’s fair to say maybe not the walking, exploring or sleeping!

I need to go now, I have a book to finish and then a very important meeting with a waiter at a lovely little dining place where I intend to offer my services sampling some of his culinary delights. I hope you’ve had a chance to do the same. Holidays and breaks away are very important and really good to get the mind off things, but perhaps not too good on the condition score aspect of one’s life!

How many sleeps till Christmas?! – Noldy Rust

nr-new-bbqLast month I wrote about the joys of getting to November and being over the big rush on the farm, with calving, mating and cropping being behind us, leading to a much more carefree and relaxed period in the farming calendar. I also wrote of summer coming, and swimming and bbqs looming. Hmmm, as I sit here in my cosy little office I think it’s safe to say that summer is still coming as it seems quite cold again this morning and my feet seem a few degrees above frozen! The new bbq hasn’t been put to the test yet, and the pool has had all the frogs and the dead hedgehogs removed but hasn’t had any white bodies of all shapes and sizes plunging in to date! As to the rush on the farm being over…..well yeah, maybe so, but we seem to replace one rush with another. It always bemuses me that while we are in November things are relaxed and there’s no rush to get too much done because it’s not December yet. Then suddenly, December turns up and “oh my gosh”! All you hear on the radio is Jingle Bells and Snoopy’s Christmas, “only so many more sleeps till Christmas”, and “have you done your Christmas shopping yet?” and suddenly you do the maths and somehow you got it wrong and all that you had planned to do before the big day isn’t gonna fit!! To top it off, every second email you get is from someone wanting something done by yesterday, blog included!! Welcome to December!!

However, in saying that, things are looking pretty positive at the moment. After a sustained period of low income, I’m certainly looking forward to a bit more money going into the bank this coming 20th. This is certainly the start of getting the bank balance “righter” again (if there is such a word!). Recent rain has been great, the cows aren’t suffering from heat stress yet and I attended a SMASH facial eczema presentation last week so now have all the tools to make sure we prevent this scourge from decimating our herd this coming summer. The no till maize is growing well, I can’t see any weeds on the farm, the cows are doing better on a daily basis than last year (finally!), and Sam is whistling as he works, thankfully he hasn’t broken into song yet! He is feeling a bit chirpy no doubt as Christmas is coming for him as well, which includes time away to visit his girlfriend’s family down south.

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How good is the maize at the moment… really?

On a sadder note, Mr and Mr Piggy have succumbed to the rapid growth they sustained from vast amounts of mastitis milk, leftover lemon meringue pie, soft tomatoes, and other bits and pieces of food which ended up in the piggy trough after somehow missing the probing eye of the one remaining young’un we have at home as he searched for his next snack. Bigger fools them I say, they were the authors of their own demise. I just missed a call from the butcher, caller id indicated that it was him ringing, no doubt wanting to find out what choice cuts of bacon, ham, pork steaks or chops we would like to adorn our Christmas dinner table with. I didn’t bother to answer as the one who will be serving this delicious meal is still dreaming of a white Christmas, or something similar!

nr-calvesOur young stock are looking good, the calves have grown so well and the heifers look a picture. I am heading up there shortly to meet the vet for the second lepto vaccination plus monthly drench. I had the pleasure of moving them daily while the grazier was away and enjoyed the chance to watch them grow, getting the best tucker on the farm with the heifers following about 10 days behind. The cows are happy, mating is all but over with the bulls gone and just short gestation AI happening again, probably until the day that Sam goes away for Christmas. It always seems to work out this way, it’s just the right date to stop doing AI again, with the moon, stars, planets, air pressure and evapotranspiration, coupled with my lack of enthusiasm, all lining up to indicate that any cow that cycles from there on in is destined for the same place as Mr and Mr Piggy!

Gotta go, we have the discussion group here today. As I mentioned earlier, it seemed like December was a long way off and the discussion group at our place would be a nice, relaxing way to spend a day, 12 days out from Christmas. Pressure’s on, has Sam got the cows in the right paddock?? We all have a discussion group paddock don’t we??? Did he scrub the walls?? Hide the sick cow in the gully? Get the milk dockets out of sight?? Ensure the effluent’s not ponding?? No, seriously, discussion group is a great way to get locals together to share and learn. Looking forward to having an informative day with maybe a cold beer and a bbq afterwards. So here goes, the first big chance to use the new bbq! Yay! Crikey, I need to fill the gas bottle!!

Merry Christmas.

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On the up – Noldy Rust

The big wet that seemed to go on relentlessly through the end of September right until mid-October certainly seemed worse than ever before. Contractors couldn’t get silage off; groundwork in preparation for cropping was extremely difficult, if not impossible, in most cases; and feed utilisation on farm was a real challenge. However, a few weeks down the track the sound of rain on the roof doesn’t make me cringe as it did earlier, quite the opposite in fact!! A bit of rain would be nice to soften the surface as the ground has gone rock hard on top in most places, and walking across a paddock is similar to walking across a dry, rocky riverbed, being ever so careful not to break an ankle!

Yay for November, it’s so good to get the busyness of spring largely behind us. AI is now into its fourth week, meaning the non-cyclers that we ran separately for three weeks are now together in the herd again and the bulls are having a well-earned break. It also means that our technician has less cows to inseminate on a daily basis and his 7.25 arrival time is creeping forward to closer to 7.15 every morning. Keeps Sam on his toes anyway, nothing like a strict timetable to stay disciplined! Most farmers I have talked to have said mating is going ok, which is a relief after a tough spring. We achieved our 90% submission target in three weeks after just running the non-cyclers with bulls for three weeks and using plenty of tailpaint. We have a vet flatting with our daughter in our other house and she was watching with interest to see how many in this mob were coming on heat as they grazed the paddocks around her house. As we got nearer to the three weeks being up, we took the liberty of applying some orange tailpaint to most of the cows, even if they hadn’t cycled, just to convince her that our strategy was working…..didn’t want to have to listen to “I told ya so” from her!!

Growth rates are in the 60s to 70s now, after an ammo application over the whole farm. Covers are lifting, so spraying out the maize paddocks has helped keep the pressure on the rest of the farm. Sam is mowing in front of the cows. We figured it’s a small cost and we have a lot to gain by keeping those residuals spot on. Nitrogen will be applied at 25-30 kg N/ha to help boost the regrowth.

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We closed the maize pit down yesterday as we are only feeding a small amount and the big face of the stack meant we couldn’t get across it fast enough to avoid mould growing. We will open up the bagged maize now as this has a much smaller face and is ideal when only feeding small amounts. The feed inventory is still good, with about half a ton of feed on hand per cow going forward, plus a PKE contract to fill any gaps and as a backup for what the weather may throw at us. Owing to having this maize and PKE on hand, I opted to sell our grass silage from the maize block. No cost to bring it home and money in the bank from the sale….will this decision come to haunt me later in summer?????

Nothing major or exciting planned from now through to year’s end. The calves are gone and looking good at grazing, the heifers are looking fantastic up there too. The maize should be planted this afternoon if all goes according to plan. We are trying direct drilling this year so still looking for a bit more rain this morning to soften the ground before the planter gets here. The paddocks have been sprayed out for close to a month to try and get rid of the trash and the bugs prior to planting. However, slug bait will be a must as I don’t want these eating my valuable maize…..they can stay in the garden where they belong!

Nice to see a good lift in the auction today. We managed to lower our costs considerably last year, but not all the savings are sustainable so there will be a bit of inevitable catch-up spending this year. I shouted Sam a new seat for the quad the other day, so he doesn’t have to wear his wet weather trousers in fine weather any more. The high pressure pump at the dairy was replaced last week so no more jokes about hosing or peeing! However, with all the extra pressure, Sam needs to remember to brace himself again as he turns the tap on to avoid being flung around like a deflating balloon! We will also need to get a digger in to attack a few springs around the place that have appeared and to tidy up some races. We will stay very cost focused though and try and farm as efficiently as possible going forward, keeping one eye on production and two eyes on costs.

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Summer, swimming, Christmas and holidays are all looming. What great time of year! Till next time.

Springing forward – Noldy Rust

“Time heals every wound, don’t give up too soon”. These words come to mind from a song I remember singing along to back in the 80s, maybe 90s, as I hooned around in my Datsun 1600 or my Mazda 929. Yes, time has healed the wounds to a certain extent for all of us as we head into more settled and warmer spring weather. The horrors of a really tough winter period are fading, as are the rest of the words of the aforementioned song!

Growth rates have picked up and we have seen good responses to the nitrogen we have applied. Isn’t it so good to be able to let the cows go straight to the paddock instead of having to hold them up so they all get an equal share of pasture? Seeing a pile of reels and standards ready to be stored away for a few months also warms the heart as this indicates that the rotation length has decreased. We can confidently give our cows a larger area in the full knowledge that the days are getting longer and warmer, growth rates should be more in line with cow demand, and the likelihood of any serious feed deficit has waned.

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However, in our case, we are still feeding the cows maize and PKE (no more than 3 kg of course) as our stocking rate demands constant growth rates in the 70s, which we are a still a fair way away from. It’s fair to say that the only certainty in spring is that growth is erratic, so even if the grass really takes off things can change fairly quickly. Keeping a close watch on residuals is a necessity so adjustments can be made to the amount of supplements fed daily. Maybe that’s why Sam didn’t start milking until daylight today….Checking the residuals in the light of day???? Wouldn’t have had anything to do with the fact that it’s Saturday morning and he had a late night last night?? That’s dedication for you I guess!!

After speaking to other farmers around the area it is evident that in spite of the trying weather we all experienced, animal health and calving issues were minimal in most cases this year. We have only had a small number of mastitis cases, and lameness issues have been less than other years. Only a handful of cows needed calving assistance and downer cows could be counted on one hand. Is this the case on your farm too?? It always astounds me that trends like this seem to be widespread in general. Why is that?? Each farm is different?? Maybe we have all become better educated and more diligent with our prevention strategies, having non-negotiable policies of always using dry cow or a teat sealant, vaccinating our cows against rotavirus etc, and realising the value of ‘first milk colostrum’ in the rearing of our calves.

Speaking oNR milk powder.JPGf calves, I am amazed at how much the price of milk powder has dropped over the last few years. Even working on a milk price of $4.25 there is a saving in feeding calves on milk powder, and the added bonus of tasting a sample of the delicious powdery stuff is the icing on the cake, so to speak! Quality control is important but care needs to be taken that there isn’t any residue from the sampling left stuck to the facial hair!! In saying that, I do have a bit of it on my chin now that no amount of scrubbing seems to be able to remove….real sticky stuff this milk powder!!

Going forward, mating is looming. Premating tail paint has been applied in order to identify any non-cyclers and get an indication of the number cycling. Since we built the feedpad, applying tail paint has become so much less of a chore. Sneaking around behind them while they eat and vigorously brushing some paint over the tail before they know what has happened, means the job gets done in record time and there’s no disruption to milking. If only we could inseminate them this way too!! Metrichecking will happen shortly also. We have just purchased one of those thingys that you put up inside the cow’s thingy to detect if any pus is present. Doing this job ourselves will save a bit of money, although a big part of the cost is the actual treatment. In saying that, the cost of treatment is nothing compared to having dirty cows that won’t get in calf.

Our teaser bull is due here next week and the beef bulls have been ordered to run with the non-cyclers initially and then tail off the herd. I opted to lease two and buy two this year and will be interested to see if there are any financial advantages either way. Lease bulls have a fixed cost and can be replaced if something goes wrong. Purchased bulls are more risky as far as that goes but depending on the schedule may not cost as much. What are all you guys doing? Leasing or buying? Or only AI?? I did consider no bulls if we had opted to use ‘Flashmates’ but decided against this for this season.

Going nr-lambback to my last blog, I finished with all the things we had to look forward to. Happily, most of these have occurred now which is so exciting! Wee Ainsley was born three weeks ago and is paying back her mum for the sleepless nights she caused us 26 years ago!! She is doing well though, and in her case milk powder is the more expensive option…. Ali Baba, the stage show extraordinaire, only runs two more times, so by the time you read this it will be all over, and thirdly, spring has sprung and we have a lamb!! A real cutey too. Last lamb for Ag day as Hayze is off to College next year. He is also off to a family event this weekend so the lamb feeding has been delegated to whoever can’t stand the bleating, which at the moment is me! I don’t see how some other members of this family can continue sleeping through all the ba ba ba that’s going on! I obviously will need to move him closer to the house and under a certain bedroom window!! Better go feed him before he starves to death! Till next time, happy farming, grab a break before mating, and enjoy the season no matter what it brings!

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