A new season begins – Noldy Rust

It’s June 1st, the start of the new dairy season. It’s an exciting time on the farm for many as cows are generally dried off by now in spring calving herds, farms change hands, sharemilkers move, staff changes occur, and we say goodbye to the last season and look forward to a brand new season ahead, wondering what the big influences on our farming business will be this year. Will it be a wet spring, or a dry spring? Will we get a summer drought? Will the payout be as good as early indications are? Will we have animal health challenges above the norm? Do we contract PKE now or wait and hope that the price comes down a bit????? So many things to look forward to, both opportunities and challenges. So many unknowns ahead. For me, this is one of the thrills of being involved in this great industry. Roll on 2018/19!

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On that note, this is the first day for us employing a contract milker. Uncharted territory for us all as Sam has earned his stripes, so to speak, and been employed as a contract milker in partnership with his wife, Alice. The transition has been reasonably seamless as basically nothing has changed so far, seeing as he has done his apprenticeship here for the last couple of seasons. The main difference to date is in the cashflow going forward, as we have cancelled his fortnightly pay, owing to Fonterra taking over that responsibility and paying him on the 20th of each month….just not the first month or two that’s all!

NR new grass Jun18The couple of months since my last blog have been one of those periods that we need to remember with gratitude when things are a bit difficult in the future. Last year in autumn it didn’t stop raining. What a contrast to this year! We experienced such lovely warm weather, punctuated by the odd spell of warm rain, so that in many cases growth exceeded what we experienced in spring! Our new grass, both annual and perennial, just leapt out of the ground and has been grazed three times already. This unprecedented autumn growth, along with copious quantities of maize silage, meant we could feed our cows to the level they needed to keep them milking right to the end of May and still gain weight in order to hit condition score targets. Sam had a month off overseas and, try as I might, I couldn’t justify going on once a day, let alone drying off, while he was away! I had to rise to the challenge and keep everything ticking along; but there was no way he was coming back from extended leave to dry off straight away. Karma occurred as he had to milk for 10 more days in frosty conditions upon his return……

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Our dry cow treatment policy is to use penicillin and a teat sealant on any cows that have had a SCC over 150 throughout the year, and just a teat sealant on the rest. The ones with just teat sealant make me nervous. Even though we wiped each teat meticulously and took all due care, did we introduce bugs up the teat? It seems that if we use penicillin as well as teat sealant there is more tolerance for error. I always wonder if it is worth the risk of getting sick cows by not using penicillin on the cows that don’t need it, or should we just use a combo to be safe and defy best practice? Is best practice minimising penicillin use or is it using penicillin as insurance against sickness? I think that weather conditions play a huge part. We had fine frosty weather over our drying off time, so the cows were relatively clean to start with, plus we didn’t have to stand cows off to avoid pasture damage during and after the drying off process. And last, but not least, I put my glasses on while we were doing the job, which meant I could see a bit more clearly!

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Going forward, the focus now is on maintaining covers and cow condition, plus getting all those pre-calving chores done, such as organising machine checks, going on holiday, getting calf sheds ready, going on holiday, winter farm maintenance, going on holiday…… Unfortunately, Sam has had his holiday already so I guess it’s up to me to fulfil that part and he can do the rest. Sounds like a good plan to me!

I look forward to calving and seeing the results of our mating programme coming to fruition. Sexed semen heifer calves, more beef calves, Wagyu calves and AI calves from the heifers. Our record keeping and calf identification will need to be top notch. Roll on spring, let’s hope it’s a good one. I know Sam can’t wait to get started as well, although I suspect the main reason is not because he loves getting up early, but because that’s when he’ll start getting paid again!

Enjoy the season, have some time away, get to the fieldays, watch a bit of rugby when you can! I know I will be doing all of the above as time allows! See you!

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Has the Easter Bunny passed away? – Noldy Rust

It’s Good Friday, the start of the Easter break. The sun’s still shining, the grass is still growing, and the cows are still milking. Pretty exciting huh? That part is great. I am a bit concerned, though, about one thing.

The Easter Bunny and his mates had been living in the maize paddock not too far from the house. I know this because I often saw them in the evenings, frolicking in the open paddock nearby, hopping across the driveway and even digging holes in our lawn. That maize has now been harvested and replaced by a light green hue of Governor ryegrass. The question remains though: what happened to the Easter Bunny and his mates?? No more evidence of them anywhere…did they translocate, did they join another colony elsewhere, or, heaven forbid, did they fall victim to the gaping jaws of the maize chopper and add to the maize yield?? My fear is, come Easter Sunday morning there will be no little baskets or caches of Easter eggs anywhere and my worst fears may be realized…. the Easter Bunny is no longer, driven to his fate by our need to harvest his dwelling place!

What a different autumn this is compared to last year! Far out, the maize is in, the new grass is in and up, ready for spraying with Thistrol Plus or Tribal Gold. Undersowing has taken place, the effluent pond has been pumped out and solids dug out, a new race has been formed and sanded, and paddock 7a has had the digger through it to dry out the wet areas. All this work comes at a price though…. The odd broken strainer and cut waterline from diggers and maize trucks seems inevitable in the frantic rush of getting things done!

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This time last year I think the third cyclone was about to hit and the whole farm was as wet as can be. The maize couldn’t be harvested, and new grass certainly couldn’t be planted. So far this year has been one out of the box. I guess, however, there has been the odd challenge. Low ME pasture, owing to high levels of summer grass, has meant  production seems to have struggled on most farms. It seems to be coming right now as the weather cools a bit and more ryegrass appears, taking the place of all the summer grass rubbish. The infestation of yellow bristle grass is certainly a lot worse than normal. What a shocker! We are taking note of the worst patches and aim to spray it in November/December with Puma S.

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NR Steve vet Apr18Unfortunately, our empty rate was 12%, which is still higher than I would like. This is lower than the 15% we had last year and I put this down firmly to Steph, our de facto daughter, ex-tenant vet, who did our scanning last year, moving away to work in Ireland and getting Steve to do the scanning this year. Steve is such a nice boy…… It seems that there are a huge range of results after talking with the vets. I think there is such a myriad of little things that must line up in most cases to keep the empty rate down. Yes, it was very, very wet during the mating period, but we were feeding copious amounts of feed on the pad. The cows certainly weren’t hungry at mating time. Maybe there was too much maize in the diet, or not enough protein, or the the pasture ME was too low, or the grass was too watery, or not enough sunshine, or our detection wasn’t up to speed? Or maybe they were just milking too well, or not well enough?? I do know that we followed the rules as best we could. We treated any dirty cows with Metricure, we ran a teaser, we used scratchies, we had enough bulls, we rotated the bulls etc etc. On the bright side, our 6 week in-calf rate was a pleasing 77% so that part was ok. It just seems such a waste to have to cull or carryover good, empty cows, when those ugly, niggly, low BW, 3 titted, “always s…t in the shed” ones get in calf early, year after year. Grrrrrrrrrrrr.

So, going forward, we have two months left of this season. Sam, our manager, who I introduced in earlier blogs (yes, the one that got married at mating time) won the award for “most promising new entrant” in the recent Dairy Industry Awards. This award has given me confidence for two reasons.

Firstly, even though he missed some of the mating period, winning an award such as he did MUST prove that he knows what he is doing, so the empty rate can’t have anything to do with any lack of skill from him. Just thinking about it, it may actually have been a bit to do with my lack of skill seeing as I was responsible for picking bulling cows in the early stages of mating whilst he was on his honeymoon. However, I would never own up to that.

Secondly, the award of the most promising new entrant has given me the confidence to employ him next year as a contract milker. He has proven himself now and I feel confident to be able to give him more responsibility. Yes, come June 1st he will be self-employed and getting paid on a milksolids basis. However, prior to that, he is off on his big OE with his wife to psych himself up for the rigours of contract milking. The farm will be in the capable hands of yours truly for around a month, so that should be an interesting experience for me (luckily, it’s not mating time at present!). I’m picking I’ll do a drive around farm walk on the day he leaves, decide the cover is too low and then put the cows on once a day. Milking twice a day for a month seems a bit daunting!! Unless there is a reader out there who is looking for some milkings???

Time to sign off now, I need to ensure that Sam has all the sprays, waterpipes, strainers, posts, tools, and whatnot to get all his chores done before I take over as operations manager for a month. I am having a practice run milking on Easter Sunday morning. By coincidence the timing is perfect as daylight saving ends and I will need to stay in bed for an extra hour!! Funny how it worked out that way!!….. Oh, the bliss.

Footnote: It is now Easter Sunday and after a refreshing sleep in of one hour, I can report that as per the photo below, the Easter Bunny is obviously alive and well as he has delivered his wares to our place. Phew!

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Epic grass growth – Noldy Rust

Waitangi Day, 2018. Yet another day off! Yay!

The long, lazy, hot days of January have been and gone, along with the bliss of social holiday gatherings with food and drink, day trips and holidays with food and drink, unstructured and unplanned days around the pool with food and drink, family gatherings with…… And so the list goes on.

Yes, the thing I love about the Christmas/January period is that it provides a chance to be less driven by time commitments, agendas and appointments, and more able to follow a whim. Crosswords, swimming, reading, games……so the list goes on. I love my bumper new year’s crossword from the Waikato Times. Gives me hours of pleasure and learning. By the way, did you know that in 18th century Ireland a potato was called a pratie? And a baby eel is called an elver? And if you jump into a pool a certain way it is called a manu?? I didn’t know that! Had to ask the kids that one – it was one of the few they knew….

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A manu.

In December we were all facing an uncertain summer with extremely dry conditions. Crops were struggling, cows were overgrazing in some cases, and the soil moisture deficit was severe. I wrote in my last blog that we had seen conditions like this before but usually had some decent rain early in the new year. I must say that I was getting a tad nervous as we got into January and no rain was in sight. Fortunately cyclone “what’s his name” came along on the 4th bringing some much needed respite in the way of 80 odd ml of rain. Since then we have had several other rain events that have kept the grass growing at epic proportions for the last few weeks. When cyclone “what’s his name” came along, we went out to an 80+ day round for two weeks to give the grass a chance to recover, as learnt from our friend Will Henson from Agriseeds. Will has told us, at several fieldays, that new shoots grow from root reserves, and if we nip these off too early (prior to more leaves growing), we risk the demise of the ryegrass plant. I have a graphic image in my mind of Will sharing this at our SMASH fielday late last year in Tatuanui. And I quote (in a South African accent…..) “The poor little plant sends out a shoot and is trying to grow. Next minute, the farmer comes along, opens the gate and lets in a whole herd of big, hungry cows that nip the little shoots off, thus severely restricting, if not murdering the poor little ryegrass plant”. We fed heaps of grass silage and no more than 4 kg PKE per cow to keep the cows content over this period and I believe it paid off.

The heat has been a challenge to man and beast. Thankfully, since we got to February it has eased back a bit. The cows just eat so much less when it’s hot. We try to give them most of their pasture at night in these conditions and only give them a small break during the morning, after which we bring them onto the pad for silage and PKE before putting them into the standoff shade paddock for the afternoon. I was on cow duty during some of this time while Sam was away, so it was a case of getting the cows to the shade before I could go do a big manu into the pool…. Lucky I learnt that word!

Sam has entered the Dairy Industry awards in the Farm Manager category. This is a super way of him being able to articulate our farming system and the reasons that we do things. He has put a lot of hard work into getting his presentation prepared, not to mention getting the dairy floors scrubbed (they’re so clean you could eat your dinner off them!), the dairy diary up to date, and catching up on all those “nice to do” aesthetic chores that are sometimes difficult to get to…..imagine if he gets to the second round and the judges come back again… our place will be eligible to be listed on “TripAdvisor” as a place you must visit!

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Clean enough to dine off.

 

Current on farm challenges include pasture management and getting the feed balance right. I am tempted to close the silage stack as we are only feeding a small amount out now. We are struggling to get across the face fast enough to avoid heating, which is causing me concern. Could this lead to a thermoduric grade? What about the waste and decline in feed quality? The forecast looks like there is more rain to come, it may be cyclone “what’s her name” this time so we can probably bank on consistent growth going forward. If we close it up we can always feed a bale or two in time if needed, as we wait for the maize harvest in about a month’s time. We started our undersowing programme last week, aiming to get a head start repairing and rejuvenating paddocks from the aftermath of the terribly wet winter/spring. I know it’s early, but moisture seems to be no issue now so I figured it was worth a go.

It’s now 25 deg and the cows are looking for shade, so I will sign off and go and open the gate. They will appreciate the shade, and I will relish the opportunity to go and relax by the pool with a beer and maybe some pratie chips before I do a few manus into the pool prior to milking. Hope there’s no elvers in there! Yep, food, drink and relaxation, after all, it is still summer!!!

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R ‘n R

Enjoying the festive season – Noldy Rust

December 21st, it’s the longest day of the year as far as my limited knowledge on this subject goes. And I must say, I’m really pleased that it is because it means that I finally get a chance to sit at my computer and type a few bloggy words. Kinda makes sense doesn’t it? These last few weeks have been reasonably busy, as I’m sure they have for everyone, so it takes the longest day to come around to give us the chance to catch up on where we should be. We need as many hours as we can get to get by these days!!

It’s now 8.30 pm and the sun is still casting a glow on us from the west. I have had a chance this evening to go and watch Hayze play touch, not before time might I add, as it’s his last game of the season. Phew, that was close. And once I finish writing this I will go and wash the house down and do my Christmas shopping. That WAS my plan……however, a few days ago Bev could see that the writing was on the wall, so to speak, as was all the dust, bird poo, slime and mould…consequently she gave up waiting for me to clean the house down in preparation for the influx of Christmas visitors and invited Chemwash to come and do the job, which they quite efficiently did I must say. What is it with wives? I said I’d do it, but oh no, she has to go and call in the experts!

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And I bet if I go and ask her now, she’s probably done the Christmas shopping too!! Wait there, be back in a minute…. (1 minute later)… yep as I suspected, all the shopping has also been done, except my gift to her, although she just yelled out that she will take care of that as well, as long as I give her my credit card so she can get to the jeweler at some stage tomorrow! Well, that won’t be happening I can assure you! Seeing as I have left the purchase of her gift to the last minute (through no fault of mine of course) I may execute my emergency gift buying plan and login to the Farmsource dollars rewards website at the end of this ramble to order some fancy cheese, or vouchers, or the like. Now that’s what I call efficiency in shopping, doing it from the comfort of your computer screen and not having to hand over any cash!!

NR weather Dec17 resize.jpgConditions on the farm are a stark contrast to where we were a mere couple of months ago. I’m sure it’s the same for most of you? I remember my mum baking when I was a kid. She would mix up all this stuff in a bowl and have a big runny mess, then pour it into a big flat dish, chuck it in the oven, then half an hour later we had a dark brown crisp dish of chocolate slice or something similar. Well, I’m no chef as you may gather, but I do see a similarity with baking food and farming. We had a wet, sloppy mess of a farm for around 6 months, then the sun came out and baked everything to a dry brown crisp! In a matter of a few weeks! It was certainly pleasant for a while not having to wear wet weather gear or worry about pugging paddocks, but this prolonged dry is getting a bit extreme don’t you think? The last decent rain we had was on November 5th, 70 odd ml falling in a day. Now the tap has turned off and we’ve had very little lately. Our situation is not too dire yet as we got a good cut of silage off the maize block and have contracted PKE for around $215/t landed. We still have maize silage on hand that will see us right for a couple of months yet.

Speaking of maize, it would be remiss of me not to mention the fantastic looking crops around. The last few weeks have been so well suited for maize growth. Warm soils, moisture early on and then heat. And it’s not just me that’s noticing all the great crops. People from all walks of life are commenting on the rapid growth and dark green leaves waving in the breeze. Mind you, even maize needs a drink from time-to-time, so some rainfall in the near future would be very welcome for the maize, as well as the pastures and other crops.

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Our mating went well, we did five weeks AI this year, then another four with bulls, and now we are inseminating any late returns with short gestation AI bulls again. We didn’t want to risk putting up cows that may not be on heat so opted to put scratchies on all the cows again. Seems a bit over the top, but I suspect we may have put a few up last year that weren’t on heat and this may have resulted in these cows aborting. Our empty rate last year was higher than normal so we wanted to eliminate this risk. Any thoughts on this? The challenge now is when to stop mating all together?? We have had 5 on in the last 3 days, so worth mating them. I guess when I’m giving Sam some much needed time off over Christmas it may be a good time to give up, although a short gestation mated cow on Christmas day will still calve in late September. Depends how tight we want our calving to be I guess.

Looking forward, now that the longest day is almost over we can say winter is coming! Sam has worked hard to get the cows out to a 30-day round and I’m pleased to say it has certainly helped push grass ahead. What will January and February bring? I remember in 1994, 2004 and 2010 (and I’m sure there were others), we had very dry conditions pre-Christmas, but the rains came early in the new year resulting in very good late summer/autumn growth. Will this season be the same? Who knows? All I know is that just as the extreme wet passed eventually, this period of dry too will pass.

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We need to stay positive and make sure we get some rest and recreation off the farm. Get away from it all and recharge the batteries. It may be wise for us to emulate the humble maize crop. Just as a maize plant reaches down far into the soil with its roots in order to get all the energy and sustenance it needs, we should also reach out to get all the energy and sustenance we need. We mustn’t be afraid to reach out to others if we need help or advice. Family, friends, faith or food; whatever it is that gives us the energy and encouragement that we need to stay positive and enjoy the abundance, the pleasures and also cope with the challenges.

Have a great festive season and enjoy some time away. Enjoy your family and all the thrills of being a dairy farmer, whether it’s  wet or dry. And remember, if you still need some Christmas gifts, Farmsource dollars offer some simple solutions. In saying that, I wonder if I can use my Farmsource dollars to get jewellery shop vouchers….now there’s a thought!! Gotta go!! Now, what’s that website??? http://www.fonterra.co.nz?? or is it fencepost.com???

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Honeymooning – Noldy Rust

NR Hayley milking.JPGThe sun is shining, daylight saving is here, Winston is keeping us guessing, and Sam is now happily married to Alice! Plus, I had a birthday, Bev had a birthday, growth rates are well over 60-70 kg/ha/day, Mr Pig is almost ready to go, and our Fonterra loan is partly repaid!

Welcome to my mid-October blog, which I am writing on this sunny Saturday afternoon, even though I should be milking the cows. As luck would have it, middle daughter Hayley enjoys milking and offered to complete the task for me so that I could put a few words to paper. Good on her I say, one out of three ain’t bad, as Meatloaf would say.

As I mentioned earlier, Sam and Alice got married a week or so ago, and are still away on honeymoon. Young fellows these days, I dunno, if it’s not bad enough getting married when it’s mating time on the farm, they have weddings on Fridays these days too! I thought Saturdays were for weddings…oh well what’s another work day off?? Then they asked for the weekend off AND a week for a honeymoon as well! Lucky for me that middle daughter can step in when needed, and lucky for Sam that I agreed to all this time off! Can’t wait till he’s back, imagine the amount of work we’ll be getting done after he’s had such a break…

The continuous rain we have been experiencing over the past six months or so seems to be easing somewhat. Thank goodness for that! However, the ground is so waterlogged that any rain we get turns everything boggy again in no time. The saving grace has been the warm air and soil temperatures which have kept growth rates reasonable. Utilisation has been the issue for all of us, with treading damage likely to cause an ongoing effect this season with more weedy pastures and less grass available. However, the forecast looks promising going forward and some fine days will soon put the horrors of the relentless wet behind us.

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Our cows are cycling well, not that Sam knows mind you, as he is on honeymoon as mentioned previously…. we are hitting above our target numbers for AI daily, and I’m led to believe from talking to other farmers that this seems to be case this year?? In our case, we have fed more maize and PKE than usual to date, trying to minimise pasture damage and keep intakes up to where they need to be. This has helped keep cow condition good and I’m sure it will have a positive effect on in-calf rates. We metrichecked the whole herd as per usual and found 8% that needed treating. How does this compare to others?? The teaser bull is working flat out but needs a break every few days owing to the high workload!! I am really looking forward to the time when we PD the heifers to find out the in-calf rates to our CIDR programme.

I called the helicopter in the other day to put some spring fert on. I did think we could do it with the groundspread guys once it dried out a bit more, but when I got stuck in a gateway the other day on the quad, I thought to myself that I may be dreaming! Plus, I would have had to go around and open the gates, as Sam is away on honeymoon….did I already mention that?? So, I called big Al and it was done in no time! I need to catch up with him though to see how many paddocks he got done, as I have realised now that you can’t tell by the wheel marks……

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The maize paddocks have been sprayed out, we are planning to plant with no-tillage again this year. Eighty percent of the calves are weaned and gone, up the road at Phil’s place where they are living in paradise, eating lush grass, and getting copious amounts of meal as they go through the transition to all grass feeding. Oh, I almost forgot, I need to mention my Shogun paddocks. I think I said back in July that we had open, weedy pastures, so we did quite a bit of undersowing with Shogun. The results have been great, we are very impressed and looking forward to seeing how long it sticks around. I was on another farm the other day and the guy showed me his four year old paddock of Shogun. It looked very impressive I must say.

That’s pretty much it for now, I better go and check that there’s a cold beer in the fridge for my competent and able relief milking middle daughter. Did I mention that she’s milking because Sam is away on honeymoon….??

I’ll catch you all next month, where I’ll share some of Sam’s stories from his honeymoon, if he’s back that is!!

Happy Father’s Day – Noldy Rust

Sunday evening, another Father’s Day as good as done and dusted. It’s been a wee while since my last blog, I guess it’s been kinda busy this spring! I always had the option up my sleeve of making some time to write this on Father’s Day, as this is the one day in the year that fathers get to be no 1 and do what they like. What better way to spend an hour or two on this poignant day than to put a few words on paper?? I must admit, it is later in the day, I can hear the moreporks and see the moon, which in itself is a good sign as it means it’s not raining. What a thrill that is!

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I hope all you dads out there had a great day, as I did? I got to have lunch with one daughter, spent some time with my dad, had dinner and drinks with family, and also got some yummy treats from all the kids. Unsurprisingly, the eldest daughter, the one with the baking skills, made some yummy brownie, a real delight to the taste buds! The younger two had a big box wrapped up which made a sort of clinking sound when I picked it up. No, not wind chimes as they helpfully suggested, but an interesting selection of craft beer from the Epic range. They know my tastes and have a great way of getting to my heart, even though I can see through their cunning plan as they will no doubt take part in the consumption of it all!!

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And, to top it all off, our de facto, part time, foster daughter Steph, who flats with daughter Hayley in our other house, has just turned up with a new-born orphan lamb, Frankie, saved from certain death on her parents’ sheep farm. “Happy Father’s Day Noldy, got any milk?” she asked. I happily obliged with some fresh colostrum from a newly calved cow. Glad to help. Trouble is, Frankie’s gonna need feeding every day and Steph is leaving her job at Vetora in a few weeks as she heads off to Ireland, and I suspect little Frankie won’t be going with her. Who’s going to care for and feed this little delight then??

It’s so good to be in September now. Days are longer, calving is as good as done, and daylight saving starts in three weeks. The rainfall for the past, dare I say it, year has been unbelievable. However, I’m not going to go on about that, as we all know how difficult this has made life on the farm. Limiting pasture damage is a real challenge. Thank goodness that, in general, growth rates have been above average and in our case feeding maize and PKE on the pad has helped to reduce time spent on the paddock and meant that cows have been well-fed even though pasture utilisation has been lower than ideal. I must say, some paddocks look terrible when the cows have been in and out several times, and it breaks your heart to see it, but on the whole, they have been recovering quite well, especially with some N applied. We are following the cows whenever possible with urea and plan to get some sulphur in the mix with our spring fert once we get to October.

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Mating is looming once again and we have been looking at our options. I have been challenged in many ways by several “one off” comments from people, or articles I have read, that have made me consider how to get the best out of our mating programme. The sexed frozen semen trial from LIC, the demand for Wagyu calves, the high price paid for beef calves once again this year, and also a comment from our local DairyNZ CO about zero bobby calves, made me consider ways to get more dollars from calf sales. All these things, along with Hayley, our animal lover daughter who thinks all bobby calves should be allowed to live (no, she isn’t a member of the Greens as far as I know), has made me decide to try a few different (for us that is) things in our mating programme. Synchronising and mating our heifers to easy calving Kiwicross and Jersey bulls, ordering some Wagyu and Hereford semen for the lower BW cows, and using some sexed semen on the remainder of the herd, should minimise bobby calf numbers substantially and not only keep Hayley happy but increase our net calf income. Small bobby calves only fetch around $6-7, not much future in that is there? We have leased Hereford bulls again to tail off the cows as they always seem to sell really well. I guess we’ve seen all this demand for beef calves and Wagyus before, we’ll see how long the demand stays high. If too many do it, the price may crash, as with most things I guess.

Sam is getting excited as his wedding day looms in just over a month. Keeping him on task and focused for the next few weeks will be a challenge. I have brought the mating date forward this year as he gets married on the day that we normally start AI. It’s only fair that he gets to help put scratchies on and gets involved in the first few days of mating. Maybe we’ll even put the bulls out for the few days that he’s away on honeymoon…just to ensure that the bulls work of course and are fit for purpose. And if Sam dares to grizzle when he has cows calving NR brownie cropearlier than usual next year, I’ll need to remind him about who chose the date!!

Father’s Day is well and truly ending now. Must be time to sign off. I might even get a whole night’s sleep without hearing rain on the roof. I hope that little Frankie had a good feed of colostrum earlier as I don’t want the sound of rain on the roof to be replaced by a bleating little lamb, wishing he was back home looking for his mum!! Cherish any moment of sunshine you may experience in the days ahead, and if it does rain, try to capture and store it…..we may all be paying tax on this abundant resource after Sept the 23rd!

July is here – Noldy Rust

July is here, that means the shortest day has been and gone and summer is coming. Wonder if it’s going to get dry?? Well, at this stage, I kind of hope it does!! Hmmm, maybe I shouldn’t say that sort of thing, but it’s funny how when things are wet, we think “a drought is always better”, and when we’re in a drought we think “anything is better than this”. Or maybe it’s just me??

We’re pretty fortunate I think that after such a wet summer/autumn period, June has been reasonably kind. Growth over June was better than May which is quite unusual. In saying that, the last few summers have been dry to very dry and so I guess May growth in those years was a reflection of low growth during the dry period. Not so when it continues to grow relentlessly as it did this summer. Our big challenge was pastures opening up and becoming clover and weed bound. This happened quite late in the autumn, although it may have been evident earlier but the solid growth may have hidden the problem. Black beetle and grass grub look to be the obvious culprits once again.

We did a reasonable amount of undersowing, primarily with Shogun, on the worst affected areas. The results have been good, but the challenge in managing these pastures in winter is real…trying to let the new shoots get past the pulling out stage whilst not letting the existing pasture shade them out too much, and all the time trying to maintain a long rotation and only grazing the undersown paddocks lightly!!

Sam has been getting on with the winter pasture spraying on some paddocks also and this has highlighted the amount of weeds, particularly creeping yellow cress, that have now died and left some quite open pastures. As we get further into July we will monitor soil temps and commence applications of urea or ammo to try and thicken up the sward and encourage new tillers.

NR weeds dying Jul17

We were fortunate to have the heifers off the farm until mid-June, and also have a few cows off as is the norm. This reduced stocking rate has helped get the round out and enabled us to lift covers to a reasonable level, utilising copious amounts of maize in the process. Thank goodness for a feedpad is all I can say. I would struggle to feed anything on the paddocks in these soft soil conditions. We will start feeding PKE to the dry cows as well to try and help slow down the rate of maize usage. We haven’t fed PKE to drys before but anything to keep the round out and encourage grass to grow is a safe bet this season.

NR feedpad Jul17

Sam has been busy on a bit of catch-up maintenance around the place. It sure is the time to do it and with a bit more money coming in it’s prudent to spend money where it’s most needed. The races are finally getting shaped and rubble applied, a job that has been deferred for the past couple of years. Hopefully this will help in the battle against lameness.

NR race maintenance Jul17

What a great season for sport, the auld mug is coming home and the Lions tour is a beauty as far as I’m concerned. The hordes of Lions supporters boosting the economy are a sight to behold, with such a sea of red at each Lions game making each game a real spectacle. There is always plenty of action off the farm in so many ways, I think it’s prudent to get to a rugby game, or have a few days away with the family. I’m looking forward to longer days and milk in the vat, enabling us to lift our profits once again with the likelihood of a higher payout for a year or two…or three or four hopefully!

I made the mistake of hopping on a few new tractors at the fieldays, which got Sam quite excited. I had to calm him down with a Good George in the hospitality tent before generously buying him a new set of wet weather gear and headlamp for those early mornings. I could tell by the look on his face that he was overcome with my generosity and would be doubling his efforts to have no dead cows this season, remain grade free, lift production and lower our farm working costs!! Watch this space!!

Happy July.