Some good rain – Trent Guy

Pregnancy testing

It’s always a nervous time when the vet turns up to do our annual preg test. However, I thought mating had gone extremely well and I had observed very few cows cycling since the bulls were pulled out. I had to keep telling myself though that it isn’t a done deal till the last row is scanned.

But when we got the cows in as the rows flowed through my grin got bigger and bigger. With the last row done it was time for the count up and work out the percentage in calf. A quick calculation and, it’s unbelievable: 95% in calf for the MA cows! Then off to the grazier’s to scan the R2s and that was an even better result: 100% in calf………. Time to celebrate with a drink I think!!!

Development

When we planted our summer crop it was decided that a new lane would be put in for better access to the front half of the farm and to also reduce some of the walks by over 1 km and hopefully reduce lameness. So over the last few weeks we have started the major job of removing a stand of large poplar trees and creating a cutting down a terrace, below are some progress photos!

TG race5

TG race

TG race2

TG race3

Rain Rain Rain

Well, one wouldn’t believe it, after only 20 ml in December January hit and so did the rain and we haven’t had to irrigate since. It’s been fantastic and looks like we might end up making some baleage in February, also the summer crops have bolted away giving some impressive yields. Our rape crop has reached 1.25 m tall and we have 4 ha of that still to get through.

Don’t forget

Make sure you bring yourselves along to the SMASH field day here on the 9th March at 353 Wilson Rd, Parakao. Dairy Number 13317. The topic for the day will be regrassing coming out of cropping, with some expert speakers and plenty of time for all your questions and lots of discussion, plus there will be farmer health checks, morning tea and lunch provided!

SAFE and media hype – Trent Guy

Animal cruelty

Well, the Sunday TVNZ show was disgusting: the way the media/SAFE have portrayed all of us in our industry as animal abusers. I have a few points to make about this:

  1. WE ARE NOT ALL LIKE THIS!! What was shown is 1% of the industry, and as far as I’m concerned they need to piss off out of our industry (that also goes for the livestock transport and meat processing industry)!
  2. I think the industry body, along with MPI, needs to be more vigilant in stomping out this sort of behaviour in the industries. We already all pay enough levies for this to happen without additional cost to the industry.
  3. The media have breached broadcasting standards and should take responsibility and be held accountable.
  4. And, most importantly, our industry needs to stand united regardless of the company we supply. I also think that the other dairy companies need to make a stand rather than letting Fonterra front it all.

Farm update

Mating

Mating has gone well. We had a 93% submission rate and the bulls are now out doing their part, they will be out till the 18th December, giving us a 9.5 week mating. This year we have run nine bulls in groups of three and we rotate them every second day (bull power is a key factor to getting late cows in calf).

Cropping

This year we have planted 10 ha of maize and 7 ha of brassicas (4ha HT rape and 3ha HT turnips). These crops are all doing well and have just had their nitrogen application. I let our Farmsource and PGGWrightson reps check these regularly and try to follow best practice in terms of their management.

TG maize DecTG turnip

Irrigation

We had been irrigating between rain events till about mid-November, but now that things have turned windy and dry it’s a full time job, at least until the next big rain event, or river flows cut us off.

The cows

The cows are still on OAD and we have decided to do that till the end of the season. Currently we are on track to get to our production target of 100,000 kgMS, at this stage because of the low payout and the cost of shares we will be limiting our production to this.

My new hobby

I have always wanted to have a go at beekeeping, so recently I decided to purchase my first hive. So far I have only been stung once but I think there will be plenty more to come.

I’m finding it very interesting, fascinating and exciting. I am wondering if I should diversify and go into a small scale commercial beekeeping operation within my 65 ha bush block. I would like to hear your thoughts on this one!!

TG beehives and suit

Field day

We are having a SMASH field day here on March 9th so put it in your calendars.

More details about this will be in my next blog, so stay tuned!

A change of plans – Trent Guy

Mating

TG AIWell, we are 6 days into mating and the cows are cycling like crazy. We have mated 128 of 290 so far but I have a wee confession to make….. The last blog I said we were going to milk the 2 and 3yr cows on OAD, but spring never came so we put the whole herd on OAD, and I think it’s the best thing we could have done considering the payout and the lack of grass to feed. We have also done a double PG program on the R2s and AI’d, so hopefully we will get some nice replacements from them next spring. And just to make me even more time poor my AI run is starting to get busy!

Cropping

We have also made changes to the cropping. We were going to grow 5ha of Spitfire rape, but have changed that to HT rape, and we are also adding 3ha of HT bulb turnips. Hopefully the extra area cropped will get us through the predicted drought. We are also still putting the normal area into maize, with 8ha going into Pioneer P0891 and 2ha of HSR Maximus. I would like to grow more but can only afford to take so much out of the dairy platform.

Calf weaning

Calf weaning is well under way, we are trying to weigh once a week and are weaning on weight. We are rearing 80 calves and have weaned 33 off milk thus far. We will keep them on meal until they head off to grazing in late December/early January.

TG calf club

Looking forward to mating and cropping – Trent Guy

Well, with the end of calving in sight, and the days starting to get longer, we are looking forward to mating and making sure things are on track for it.

For us this year things are going to be a little different. We have decided that we are going to milk all our 2 and 3 year old cows OAD. There are a few reasons behind this move, we want to:

  1. Reduce feed demand and therefore reduce the need for extra brought in feed.
  2. Improve their mating and eliminate the need for pre-mating intervention.
  3. Reduce our time in the shed in the afternoons.

So we are doing this for both lifestyle and economic reasons.

I would like to hear your thoughts on this.

The other thing, I touched on this in my earlier blog, is a change in our mating plans. We are going to use all polled A2A2 Jersey bulls. Yip, I can see you all thinking we are mad. Well, we are, LOL!

The reasons we are doing this are:

  1. I hate dehorning calves.
  2. I foresee our markets putting pressure on us to do so. For example, McDonalds’ shift to buying only free-range eggs. How long will it be before our markets say, “We only want milk from polled dairy cows”? There have already been some noises made in the USA about this.
  3. It’s one less cost to us.

I would be keen to hear your thoughts on this too.

The other thing we start thinking about around mating is cropping. I’ve heard lots of farmers saying that due to the low payout they aren’t going to grow as much maize on farm. For us this will not change, maize grown on farm is our cheapest form of supplement. If you don’t grow it what will you fill the gap with? It also fits in with our regrassing program. Plus, with a looming drought, we are going to plant an extra 4ha of summer crop; we are currently looking at using Spitfire rape.

Last, but not least, during these tough financial times talk to your neighbours and look after each other. If there is something wrong get help…….. we are all in this together!!

Calving time – Trent Guy

Well calving is in full swing now and I can look back and contemplate if winter milking was/is worth it. The conclusion I have come to is yes, it is, as on a cash flow basis it’s great to have a milk cheque coming in still. But if I was to look at it from a work/life balance point of view I might say differently; although we did manage to squeeze in a week away on the Gold Coast.

Anyway, this time of year is one of the busiest, but also one of the best. One reason is the school holidays and spending quality family time on farm.

TG Sophie with mixer TG Damien with calves

It’s also the time of year we get to see how the matings we selected last spring turned out, and I must say that we have some very nice heifers hitting the ground, as well as some beautiful R2s coming into the shed. Which reminds me, I’ve been pondering our next mating and which bulls we will use, I’ve made the decision to use A2A2 polled Jersey bulls, but I will talk more about this in the next blog. To date, we have 60 cows calved and approximately 28 heifer calves in the shed. This is almost a 50% heifer/bull ratio, which is miles better than the 15% heifers we got last year.

We have some challenging times ahead over the next few months as grass growth has really slowed down, I blame the South Island for sending Jack Frost to visit three days in a row.

TG friggen frost

So currently we are holding the cows a little tighter than we like. Hopefully the 70 kg/ha of Ammo going on this week will speed up the growth a bit, and Philip Duncan from Weather Watch has got my good weather booked in (his forecasts are the only ones I trust).

Well on that note I better help with getting the kids ready for bed. Happy calving everybody!!

Young stock mineral trial – Trent Guy

Five months ago we had a friendly call from our local Agritrade rep Shannon Patterson wanting to know if we were interested in taking part in a mineral trial in our young stock, knowing that we should be doing more monitoring and trying to grow our young stock better we decided to give it a go.

So for starters the calves were divided into 3 random groups. Group 1 was the control, Group 2 was given a long acting selenium jab and Group 3 was given a mineral bolus containing cobalt, selenium and iodine. All the calves were weighed and an equal portion of each group had a blue button tag put in and bloods taken – these same calves will have bloods taken every month throughout the trial.

TG heifers May blog

So far the trial is going well. It is too early to give definite results but there is a slight trend towards Group 3 being the best option. We have also noticed that Group 2 (that was given the long acting Se jab) are a lot less settled when handled in the yards (read as mad as maggots), so however the trial turns out we will not ever be using that again.

The other upside of doing this trial is that every month we are weighing and monitoring the calves better than we have in the past….. the downside is we need to lift our weight gain performances.

Given what we now know we have decided that after the trial is over we are going to keep weighing our young stock, and also are looking at adding weight gain bonuses into our heifer grazing contract. As for the trial I will post all the results up here when the trial is finished, so watch this space!

Farm updateTG new grass2 May blog

In one of my previous blogs I talked about planting fescue and clover as a new option for us to combat the dry summers, so to date we have planted 10ha of fescue clover mix. Early next week we are getting the weeds sprayed out of it and won’t be far off its first grazing, so far so good. The other thing that I have done is plant a paddock of rye clover mix so we have something to compare it to, so will have to keep you updated on this to.

So currently we are still milking 100 cows and are doing 1.2kgMS/cow and have/ will be slowly drying cows off according to calving date. We have been taking part in DairyNZ’s free body condition scoring, and the cows are currently sitting at an average of 4.7, so not too much work is required to get them up to calving condition. We still plan on milking the empties and lates right through as we need the cash flow.

TG new grass May blog

Big changes on farm – Trent Guy

Well, since my last blog things on farm have had a bit of a shake-up. Mainly because my 2IC has resigned and finished work on the 30th March due to family health issues and the distance between our farm and the hospital. We wish him and his family all the best for the future.

So we had to sit down and make some big decisions. Should we replace the outgoing staff, or should Aimee to finish up work and come work full time on the farm, and should we rent out the staff accommodation?

With the low forcasted milk price we decided that Aimee would finish up and come work full time on farm but this won’t be without risk……… the dreaded marital spat….. can we work together day in day out…. and we still have to find time for ourselves and most of all the kids.

We have also decided to rent out the 4 bedroom staff house, and as it happens a local who can work some weekends has approached us, so it all seems to be falling into place.

I’ll let you all know in the middle of calving if this has been a wise decision!

Effluent, effluent, effluent

A month or so ago we received a lovely letter from the Northland Regional Council…….. as you guessed it was not one I wished to receive. As it turns out when we put the two farms together and started milking all the cows through one shed it put a slight overload on the existing ponds and effluent system. But, with a few phone calls and a meeting on farm with the lovely compliance team from the regional council we came up with two options:

Option 1: Pipe the effluent from the existing pond down to the ponds at the old cow shed, the cost involved would be 1000m of 90mm effluent pipe and the trenching. Or there was

Option 2: This is to construct a new pond beside the three existing ponds which can hold at least 1912m3, the cost would be a 12 ton digger for approx 5 days.

So after pricing the two options we decided to go with option 2 and we also decided to future proof things a little and expanded the new pond to 3000m3, now all that’s left to do is re-fence the ponds and carry on with the more important stuff of cows grass and milk!

SONY DSC

Mitigating the big dry – Trent Guy

It seems that every year we are having big dry spells through summer, so my thoughts more and more often go to what can we do to mitigate it. Do we grow more summer crops, more maize, or do we look at alternative pasture species?

Generally, with summer crops if you have a good summer you get great yields and a dry summer you get poor yields, so for me that rules that one out.

More maize is one of the options we are using, this season we doubled the area grown and will add slightly more area next season.

Now, with autumn regrassing fast approaching, we have decided to take more of a look at pasture species. This autumn we are taking a jump outside the box and are going to plant 10ha of Tower tall fescue and clover mix. This may not be the silver bullet, but it may be one of the tools we use to mitigate the dry.

Season update

So currently the cows are doing 1.34kgMS/cow and are being fed 3kgDM maize and 0.5kgDM baleage. Our current pasture cover is 1900kgDM/ha and the round length has been pushed to 40 days. Our production is currently sitting 7% behind last season, with 20 less cows and a lot less supplement being fed, we are hoping to gain some of this production back through April and May.

Maize paddock ready for spraying out, then sowing with fescue.

Maize paddock ready for spraying out, then sowing with fescue.

Battling high SCC – Trent Guy

Unfortunately after my little Christmas getaway I came back to a rapidly rising SCC and after stripping the herd and pulling 8 clinical mastitis cows out we still saw little change in the bulk SCC.

So we needed a plan. We talked to our local vets (Kamo Vets) and we decided do a machine check, bring our next herd test forward and then look at the high SCC cows. The plan was implemented and LIC was called to see if it could be done ASAP. Fortunately they could do one in 3 days’ time, which luckily for me happened to be when my father was coming to visit……yeah, free labour! A machine check was done revealing that the shed was running perfectly!

So the three days rocked around very quickly and we got the herd test out of the way. Then the waiting game!

So we got the results and they weren’t that flash – there were 30 cows in the millionaires club… not a club that we want to have cows in. We then decided to pull the top 60 cows out on SCC and run them as a separate herd, thus hopefully reducing any spread to otherwise healthy cows and to monitor the 60 cows and take further action as needed.

The other plan was to scan the herd and then look at biffing out any high SCC empties while the works price is still up. We have six on that list so far and we have managed to get the SCC down to the high 200s, so still a lot of progress to be made. I also think heat stress may be having a big influence on our SCC!

The difference between our irrigated and non-irrigated land.

The difference between our irrigated and non-irrigated land.

Cow selection for milking through

So our plans are: to milk as many empty and late calving cows as possible through the winter to maximise the assets we have, reduce the wastage of good cows and, most of all, to create good cash flow.

We did our first scan on the 15th January and from the 280 cows in milk we have 45 rechecks. Hopefully at least 10 of those are just late calvers, so now we are starting to look at the criteria for what to keep.cu

Most people would look at age, SCC, production, udder and feet, but for me it’s a little different. First of all we look at SCC and production, then udder and feet, and then we only look at age if we have too many to milk through. I can’t see the point in cutting the head off an old cow if she has a low SCC, is producing well and has a good udder and feet – and she can always be culled in the spring after putting $$ in the bank all winter!

Mating, holidays and season overview – Trent Guy

I hope everyone has had a merry Christmas and is about to have an enjoyable New Year!

Mating

Well, I will take you back a month or two to mating… I think my mating has gone very well this year with a 90+% SR at 21days – with a little intervention. We did a CIDR synchronization on our 54 R2 heifers, so to get best value out of the CIDRs we then used them in the non-cycling cows. The other thing we did this year is used a single shot PG program on cows that had cycled between 14 to 7 days and 7 to 1 days pre-PSM, thus short cycling them to be mated in week one and two of mating. With zero inductions and the plan to milk empty and late calvers through the winter we decided to reduce our mating from 12 weeks down to 9.5 weeks, with 5 weeks of AB and then tailed off with bulls. We used 9 bulls separated into 3 groups, with one group in with the cows and the groups rotated every two days. I find this gives us great results as the bulls are not overworked and it reduces the risk of bulls going lame. The bulls were sent to the works on the last day of mating this year making good money. Now, back to the point I made above on milking the empties and late cows through, we are doing this for a number of reasons:

  1. We want to maximize the days in milk.
  2. We want to reduce the wastage of good cows.
  3. We want to utilise Northland’s winter growth.
  4. We have a fantastic covered feed pad to use
  5. It increases cash flow through the early spring.

TG feedpad Dec blog

Overview of the season to date

So far this season we are about 2% behind last season. I put this down to a reduction in cows and the very wet spring (1 metre in 3 months), with good growth from then till mid-November, when we started to get dry. So on with the irrigation for 4 weeks till mid-December when the sky opened and over a week approximately 190ml fell. Not really what we wanted, with the river getting right to the top of its banks and almost flooding and me becoming very worried that the 8ha of maize on the river flats was going to be wiped out. However, it’s a small risk for the 30t/ha crops we grow. TG Ngawi sunset Dec blog With that threat passing it was time for some family time and a bit of R&R so off to Ngawi, Cape Palliser we went for Christmas and a spot of fishing and diving. It was good to get away, but as always it is great to be home again and back in control. Remember, we all need to get off farm and have some stress relief, especially in a low payout season!! Currently the cows are doing 1.65MS/cow and we are feeding a mix of 2kgDM bread/potatoes, 0.65kgDM balage and 1.4kgDM PKE per cow on the feed pad.