Still more change! Brian Frost

Another house and a wedding on the horizon

The rain in February was amazing, but more amazing was the miracle that we didn’t flood. The council finally, after nearly ten years, cleaned the drain last season – what a difference it has made. Usually with that amount of rain we would have been well and truly under water and looking at lake views – but not this time.

We are still nomads at the moment. We had to shift from the home we were in but the place we are moving to is being redecorated and wasn’t ready so we have had the luxury of house-sitting a beautiful home for a friend. Unfortunately, the completion date has been extended so we are on the move again, to another relation’s house, to look after their place for a couple of weeks. We feel very blessed to have people who are happy to allow us to use their homes but we are also ready to be amongst our own things again and settled.

Other news in our family is our oldest son has got engaged to his wonderful girlfriend, so we are now celebrating and in wedding planning mode and all the fun that brings. Amongst the madness of the shifts we have also been madly picking and selling corn for child #3 to raise funds for his Duke of Edinburgh Gold award trip later this year.

On the farm

BF Mar17 following cowsThere are currently 309 cows on farm – all grazing 1.5 ha/day (40 – 45 day round), 6.5 kg/cow/day of meal, ½ kg/cow/day of molasses, 1.4 kg DM/cow/day of maize silage and 4 m3/cow/day of turnips. Production to date is 132,905 kg MS. Our current production is 6.6 – 6.7 kg MS/ha/day and 1.6 – 1.65 kg MS/cow/day. Cow condition is 4.6 – 4.7.

With the rain we have had over the last month there is a good opportunity now to keep more cows milking for longer through the autumn. Therefore we will just take out the problem cows – those being the low producers (cull cows doing less than 1 kg MS/day), high SCC or return mastitis cows; basically everything else should be able to keep going for another 1-2 months at least.

Winter mating

At this stage the plan is to do six weeks of mating, from 25th May – 5th July, this will give a calving period from early March to mid April.

Feed

BF Mar17 cowsThe average pasture cover is 2,373 kg DM/ha (winter equation), the pasture cover targets for the next eight weeks are 2,300 – 2,400 kg DM/ha in late March and 2,300 – 2,400 kg DM/ha in late April.

The 40(ish) day grazing round has worked perfectly this summer, helping to maintain excellent growth rates and pasture quality in front of and behind the cows. The aim is now to finish up the turnips as quickly as we can, the day paddock feed will be taken away and replaced with extra turnips. This will make the round longer but it should settle back to a paddock/day when the turnips finish.

Just zinc is still going through the water and causmag, lime flour and salt are going on the maize.

Fertiliser

3.2 tonne of urea (SustaiN) has been applied at 90 kg/ha; 2 tonne in February and 1.2 tonne in March so far. We will keep following behind the cows with SustaiN at 85 – 90 kg/ha through the autumn.

Crops and new grass

The maize is almost ready so when it’s off we will put this area into permanent pasture rather than an annual. Two paddocks which were in turnips have been sown into new pasture (Trojan, chicory, and clover) with the rest being done as soon as possible after the paddocks are ready. The plan is to undersow Tama into next year’s crop paddocks. The paddocks that had Asset sown in them last year need another top-up to get through the next two years and will have Bealey sown into them.

Runoff

130 R2 heifers and 13 dry cows and are back getting ½ paddock/day or even 3 days out of the paddocks on the house side.

Calves

The 120(ish) calves are getting six days/paddock of chicory. They will stay on the chicory paddocks through the next two months at least, this will put them on a 40-ish day round just on the chicory.

Check out the fabulous new yards at the runoff. It’s amazing how much more enjoyable it is when things work well!

BF Mar17 run off yards

Changes are in the wind – Brian Frost

The new year is in full swing. We were able to have a few days away at the end of January, which was great when the summer weather finally arrived. The household is getting back into the routine of school, uni, and working, but to mix things up we are also on the move. We need to shift from the house we are in and we are having fun finding that perfect place to host all of us – including the pets ☺.

On the farm

Summer so far is throwing up some pretty mixed weather. Not really enough moisture to keep things ticking along as we would like but temperatures not too hot most of the time so the cows and pastures are hanging in there for this time of year.

Currently we have 316 cows on farm – all grazing 1.5 ha/day (the grazing round extended out nicely when we started the summer crop to 40 – 45 day round), plus 6.5 – 7 kg/cow/day of meal (the current meal mix is 85% PKE + 15% soya hull), ½ kg/cow/day of molasses, 3.5 – 4.5 kg DM/cow/day of maize silage (started again on 13th January). The turnips started on 15th January and at current feeding rates should get us through to early April. Ten cows have been culled and another four will be culled next week. Production to date is 114,326 kg MS, compared with 115,000ish kg MS at the same time last year. Twenty cows have been running in a sick/mastitis herd over the last 4 – 6 weeks, partly causing the drop in production, most will be back in the herd this week so we should see a lift in production. Current production is 6.6 – 6.8 kg MS/ha/day and 1.65 – 1.7 kg MS/cow/day. Cow condition is 4.3 – 4.4.

Average pasture cover is 2,400 – 2,500 kg DM/ha (summer equation) with the pasture cover targets for the next eight weeks 2,400 – 2,500 kg DM/ha in late February and 1,800 – 1,900 kg DM/ha in late March (winter equation).

Pregnancy testing

A pregnancy test was done on 24th January and showed 71 (21%) empty cows with the 6 week in-calf rate 64% compared with 73% last year. Dave, our vet, suggested FE could be part of the reason why the empty rates this year are higher than we expected. Although this is not what most people would like to see, we want cows to put in the winter herd so overall this result is pretty good.

Fertilizer

4.5 tonne of urea (SustaiN) has been applied since late December, at 90 kg urea/ha, and we will keep following behind the cows with SustaiN at 85 – 90 kg/ha (with moisture) through February and March.

Lactation length and culling

The plan from here is to try and keep as many cows milking through into the autumn as possible. Any cows not expected to be in the herd next year, doing less than 1 kg MS/cow/day, might drop out in the next month. These cows will include any empties, once they are identified, as well as any other old culls.

Run off

At the run off we have 130 R2 heifers, 13 dry cows and 120 calves. Twenty big bales of hay came back to the dairy farm in late December. The 14.9 ha of maize looks really good and will hopefully be ready in good time. We started grazing the 8 – 10 ha of chicory in early January; the paddocks seem to need a full month to get to full length again before grazing.

To keep some sort of sanity and happiness in the family it’s always good to get to the water. Frostie is feeling rather tired and sore from the amount of times he has been pulling the skis etc lately but the offspring and all their mates are very happy!!

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bf-water-skiing