Our season so far – Brian Frost

It’s been a long time between blogs for the Frosties – one daughter has been to the US to be a camp counselor with camp America and is now back, working hard to save for uni next year. One son has finished his degree this week! The other son has been studying with YWAM in Queenstown, been to Samoa and PNG on mission trips and is now back in Queenstown studying some more with YWAM. Our youngest is studying hard for her exams and last year at school. Mrs. Frostie’s dad got married after 4½ years of being a widower – very exciting and very happy. Mrs. Frostie has spent a few months working at 3 different companies while also trying (not overly successfully) to keep up with things on the farm, while Frostie has kept everything ticking over on the farm and on the home front – he is amazing!!

On the farm we are very grateful to have the same amazing staff stay on for another season. So nice to have stability, and people who know the farm well and are great with the animals.

The project for the moment is the feedpad. We had a feedpad made of rotten rock which has been unused for at least the last 10 years and so have decided to concrete this and get it usable again.

Things on farm have been going well with no significant flooding over the winter and so far this spring, which has made things a lot less stressful.

We are in a critical part of the season as we have many paddocks out with turnips and chicory, and we are in the middle of getting cows in calf and keeping them fed and producing well.

On the farm

There are currently 370 cows grazing 2.25 ha/day (28 – 30 day round), plus each cow is getting 6 kg meal and 3½ kg P8. Sixty calves are also on farm (28 have already gone to the runoff).

Production to date is 68,058 kg MS (compared with 59,195 kg MS at the same time last year). Current production is 9.5 – 9.7 kg MS/ha/day and 2 – 2.1 kg MS/cow/day. The cow condition is 4.4 – 4.5.

Feed

The average pasture cover is 2,355 kg DM/ha, with the pasture cover targets for the next two months of 2,400 – 2,500 kg DM/ha in late November and 2,600 – 2,700 kg DM/ha in late December. We will aim to hold to a consistent grazing area through the next two months, while the cows are trying to hit their peak production and get back into calf again. Then we will look to lengthen the round from early December onwards when the chicory will be ready to add to the ‘normal’ grazing round.

Fertiliser

SustaiN (urea) has been applied as follows: 1.3 tonne in August, 3.6 tonne in September and 2.7 tonne in October (so far) at 85 kg urea/ha. The next lot of nitrogen will be due from late November/early December onwards at 85 – 90 kg/ha to push some good pasture growth and quality into the summer.

The Runoff

All the young stock and in-calf heifers are at the runoff (mating went from 3rd to 10th October with all the heifers mated in this time – the bulls went in on 10th and will come out in late December).

Urea has been applied behind the stock at 85 kg/ha over the last six weeks.

70 – 80 t DM of grass silage that has been made and stacked on the runoff and 24 ha has been sprayed and ready to sow for maize cropping ASAP (14 ha of P1636 and 10 ha of Corson F71F1).

Mr and Mrs Frostie are off to Queenstown next week to see Stafford and catch up with other friends so we are very much looking forward to some time away (although only for four days).

Drought is Broken – Brian Frost

It’s been a long time coming but finally the rain has arrived, hopefully not too late as we are very short of grass. With a bit of luck we can still see a pretty good finish to this season – we do need some good growing conditions over the next two months to set up well for the winter, so here’s hoping things go to plan.

It’s been a couple of months since the last blog, so there is a bit to catch up on. Frostie has been working hard on the runoff and the main farm with fencing, drainage, maize silage, and many other things. Mrs. Frostie has been working close to full time in various jobs. Stafford (18) has been working and saving hard. Now he has headed off to Queenstown to DTS (Discipleship Training School) run by YWAM (Youth with a Mission). He will be studying for three months (and enjoying all Queenstown has to offer, like bungy jumping and snow, while he’s there) and then spending three months on a mission somewhere in the Asia/Pacific region (not sure where yet). Siobhan (20) is in the process of deciding on a placement for Camp America. Devon (16) is working hard and fundraising for a school mission trip to Fiji in July. Ella (daughter-in-law) graduated as a registered nurse and has started her new job at the hospital. Mrs. Frostie’s dad is getting married again (very exciting). Frostie, Mrs. Frostie, and Devon are off to Oz on Monday for a visit with family and to visit the farms we have interests in. And that’s just a few of the things happening and changes going on!

On the Farm

There are currently 376 cows on the farm and runoff – all grazing 1 – 1.2 ha/day (55-65 day round). 320 milkers are grazing ⅓ paddock at night and ⅓ paddock during the day (1 ha/day), plus each cow is getting 6 kg meal, ½ kg molasses, and 5 kg DM maize silage. 44 dry cows are also on farm getting maize. A zinc mineral mix is going through the water.

Production to date is 156,312 kg MS compared with 139,626 kg MS at the same time last year. Current production is 6.3 – 6.5 kg MS/ha/day and 1.45 – 1.55 kg MS/cow/day. The cow condition is 4.6 – 4.7 for the milkers and 5.5+ for the dry cows.

71 autumn cows have calved so far – with not many issues – just a little milk fever last week. There are just 44 cows left to calve over the next five weeks.

The continued dry weather means we are planning on dropping out some cows. In early May we will cull 15 – 20 and all the low producing cows will be dried off and sent to the run off.

Feed

The grazing round extended a little as soon as the turnips finished and the maize was increased. The plan is to be around 60 days going through May and a 74 day round when all the new grass paddocks are back in the grazing round. We are starting the grass silage to help get the residuals lifting ASAP.

The average pasture cover is around 1,600 kg DM/ha – on the ‘normal’ winter equation. The pasture cover targets for the next six weeks are 1,600 – 1,700 kg DM/ha in late April and 2,000 – 2,100 kg DM/ha in late May.

Supplements

  • P8: 765,000 litres in total so far this season. We have had the last delivery for the season so have changed to molasses now.
  • Molasses: 15 tonnes arrived on 16th April and will be fed at ½ kg/cow/day through the next 2 – 3 months – until the P8 becomes available again.
  • Meal: 624 tonnes so far this season. The mix is still 90% PKE and 10% tapioca. The feeding rate got up to 7 kg/cow/day while the P8 was being fed, but at the moment, with the change to molasses, the cows are eating a bit less.
  • The maize started on 27th March at 3 kg DM/cow/day and built up to 5 kg DM/cow/day when the turnips finished.

Cropping / new grass

The turnips finished on 2nd April and all of the turnip paddocks were sown into new grass on 12th April. Some of these paddocks also had drainage work done. The chicory paddocks have been undersown, with just two paddocks left to get done, and there is one more paddock for cropping next spring that needs to be undersown.

Fertiliser

Two tonnes of SustaiN (urea) was applied in March and 0.6 tonne in April. The aim is to finish the whole farm with urea before starting a round of PhaSedN (120 – 150 kg/ha) through May and June.

On the run off

Currently on the run off 102 spring 2017 heifers, 1 dry cow, 3 beefies and 4 older extras are getting maize plus pasture (70 of these have been sold and leave in early May). 4 empty spring 2017 heifers, 16 autumn calves, and 111 spring calves are also getting maize and pasture.

No fertiliser has been applied since December. PhaSedN will get applied over this block through May at 120 – 150 kg/ha.

All of the new grass has been sown – with the permanent paddocks getting a top-up as the continued dry weather caused a huge loss of pasture. 2 ha of annual is left to be done in next spring paddocks and 3 more paddocks will be undersown with cheap seed. There is still heaps of maize on hand so this will be used to balance out the pasture – hopefully holding the round to get the pasture building as quickly as possible.

Finally, some rain! Noldy Rust

I feel in rather a buoyant mood today for several reasons including, but not limited to: autumn rain, maize, bacon, craft beer and boys…..Often we put ourselves under pressure by having a list of things we need to do, but can’t find time to do, or maybe don’t want to do; or things we want to have, and can’t have; or things we know are coming, but just won’t get here. That sounds like a bit of a mouthful, but it’s been a bit like that over the past month for yours truly.

How buoyant do you feel, when after months of hot, dry weather, the autumn rains turn up? With the countryside looking similar to the deserts of the Sahara, minus the camels, and nomads, and all that other stuff you get over there (I haven’t been there yet), the welcome relief of 26 ml can’t help but lighten the mood. This in turn inspires enthusiasm for those tasks that have been on standby for some time, such as blog writing, household repairs, and general catching up on things that are long overdue. As a result, these wonderful rains, coupled with the fact that the maize has just been harvested, the bacon’s on its way (thanks to the sacrifice of Mr and Mrs Piggy), and the impending wedding of daughter number three, necessitating a girls’ hen weekend away, have led to a general feeling of euphoria as once the chores are done, there will be time for unimpeded boys’ activities, including, at the very least, rugby, craft beer, and general scornful disarray in the next 24 hours or so.

Ok, enough of the planning ahead, let’s get back to the situation prior to the rains. After a summer to beat all summers last year, I guess we all kind of guessed that she’d be a bit tough this year. When you think of the copious amount of rain that fell throughout November and December, it’s not a surprise that once it stopped raining, it stopped for good. Unlike the big dry in 2008/09, this year saw most of us go into the dry with good stocks of supplements. For us it’s just been a case of storing up supplements, enjoying not feeding out throughout January and early February, then getting into it with a vengeance once the farm had been chewed out. We identified two paddocks that needed regrassing and decided these were the standoff sacrifice paddocks to use in order to avoid overgrazing the rest of the farm. Consequently, Sam has had the cows on a 300 plus day round for almost a month now, only using about .15 ha per day. The clean break was really just to feed out on. Feeding out four times a day is a little time consuming, but should be worth the effort, as pastures will be in a good state to fully rejuvenate now that they’ve had a drink. Plus, Sam loves his job, enjoys driving the tractor, and is especially pleased that we don’t have cab tractors as this would slow down his getting on and off. I always knew that he’d see my logic sooner or later!

Grass silage, with PKE and canola in the mix, plus some maize, and 7.5 m2 per cow of Sahara-type pasture is a diet to behold, and I’m sure the envy of many a cow….. well, they seem happy enough. The FEI is an interesting one though. No worries feeding 3-4 kg of PKE in spring with lots of grass, but things change a bit when the diet is made up of less grass and lots of silage and maize. There were times that we had to cut right back, even stop feeding PKE for a day, just to bring the FEI back on track. The canola does help to dilute the mix a bit and adds some protein.

Going forward, it’s the big debate of milking times. We traditionally stay twice a day because I don’t have to milk (hang on, did I say that?), no, I mean because of SCC challenges, cows drying themselves off early etc etc. Plus, what would Sam do with all his time? I guess he could feed out another couple of times…. Seriously, I’m thinking that once we have a bit of grass and the high SCC cows are gone (there aren’t many) we may look at options of three times in two days, or once a day milking. I guess the decision will be made easier if I get called in to do some relief milking…

When planning ahead in the autumn profit is at the forefront of our thinking (as it should always be) so we are always thinking about the cost of feed, the level of payout, and other factors, such as cow condition and the cost of weddings. As mentioned earlier, daughter number three is to be married in a few weeks so this adds another dimension to the need for profit – as weddings are a joy to behold, but very costly! However, the investment in the wedding of daughter number one a few years back has paid dividends, as they are enjoying the benefits of married life, and have provided us with one beautiful granddaughter to date plus another baby is on the way (and he’s a mechanic and we all have cars that need looking after). An investment in a fruitful marriage is well worth the money, even if it involves hens’ parties, and things like that, that us blokes struggle to understand. Speaking of which, my valuable boy time in the absence of the female friends is slipping on by and even though I am feeling buoyant, my commitment to writing is fading as my mind strays towards rugby and craft beer. And to add a bit more pressure, I have just taken a call from a prospective purchaser, wanting to view a property that I’ve listed. Oh, the joys of real estate. With this in mind now, I have totally switched off from the farm and all things to do with cows as I focus on rugby, craft beer and real estate, but not in that order! I need to sign off in order to meet my prospective buyer at the appropriate time, after which I will be able to regain some buoyancy as I concentrate on the plans for the rest of the afternoon that involve craft beer and rugby!

I’ll be back in touch in a few weeks talking about autumn surpluses, bloat, no facial eczema and two down, one to go….but that’s another story!!

Travel tales – Graham Smith

February has brought plenty of heat to our operation, and any areas with a stone or sand base are now dead. Even my lucerne block is wilting and with growth rates at 4 kg/day silage has become the order of the day. With a 36 day round, I still have a little deferred grass, but it is all crispy. Production is around 0.95 kg MS/cow, and is down 23% for the month. Admittedly, last season was one out of the box here with record production, and I fed PKE right through until April last year. So, stopping PKE in September depressed production by 3% and the dry has done the rest. In the season to date I am down 8%, but so are my expenses.

Fortunately, a very good spring has seen four cuts off my leases for silage, with the first three into the pit and the last cut into bales. Cow condition is good at 4.7, but the empty rate at 14% is not. Still, empties are less than last year, and this gives me some leeway to set up for next season. The plan is to go whole season OAD, and with no cows with a cell count over 170,000, and nothing due to calve in September, all things point to a good start. How the cows respond is another story.

Lately, travel has been on the itinerary. Tess and I went to Canada in early January for a wedding, and decided to make a trip of it. We flew direct to Chicago and then hopped to Toronto. A visit to Niagara Falls was a highlight, and then it was on to Québec City for the wedding. It was cold, -16°C, but picturesque. On the third day a storm hit, and it went down to minus -33°C, now that was cold! We ventured out and found it survivable with the right clothing. The locals were even complaining, but it was noticeable that business continued.

We then flew to Vancouver to stay with family and enjoyed ice-skating (a first for Tess), and snow-shoeing, a first for both of us. Mountain views were outstanding and even up on the mountains it was noticeably warmer than the east coast. Also there were things still growing due to the better climate.

Then on to San Francisco: the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and Muir Park redwoods. These trees were 500 years old, tall, and well looked after. We also visited Fisherman’s Wharf, enjoyed the market, and witnessed a large pro-life march down the main street. This was interesting to us for its size and the number of police on duty.Onwards to Las Vegas, which bedazzled us with its wealth and exorbitance. We enjoyed one of the shows, had a good look around, and toured to see the Grand Canyon (and grand it is), and the Hoover Dam. It was also the only time on the trip we saw any livestock. These were horned sheep, which in truth looked like goats to us. Las Vegas is in the desert, so the motorways, instead of having shrubs and plantings on their edges, used concrete walls or various colours and grades of metal. The desert itself had plenty of hardy shrubs growing and there was a sprinkling of homes throughout, with the odd village clustered around a spring.

Lastly, Hawaii on the way home, where we visited Pearl Harbour, the Lyon Arboretum, and Waikiki Beach. We felt that we could have spent more time in each of those places and seen more, still, that gives us the excuse to do it again!!

Finally, I was asked by SMASH to go to the South Island and visit Takaka and Karamea to talk about diversification; its potential and how that is affecting my operation. Succession also was on the agenda, and I found a lot of people in the same situation of “what next?”. I really enjoyed their hospitality and sharing experiences. Talking of experiences, the flight from Wellington to Takaka and on to Karamea was in a small 7-seater plane. We wore earphones that enabled us to follow the pilot talking to the control tower and hear how many other planes were also in the air. The weather was stable and it made for an enjoyable flight over the Sounds and upper South Island.

Rants and raves – Graham Smith

GS 4X4 Tour1

Hi all. As usual at this time of year, the emphasis is on setting up for next year.

For me that means using grass silage to lengthen the round from 36 to 72 days. The girls are still putting in the effort, but you can tell they are looking forward to a rest. They are currently producing 1 kg MS, after empties and culls have been sold.

Lime has been applied to the whole farm at 2 tonne/ha, and SustaiN is now going on at 70 kg to keep the cover going into winter.

As you read in the last blog, we featured on Country Calendar and this has put pressure on my timber business. Following the programme, I had 170,000 hits on my website. Business has been booming ever since, and I have had to increase the throughput of timber fourfold. I have had numerous offers of trees to buy, of people wishing to grow timber for me, and of course sales have increased because people know about Paulownia now. There have been more visitors to see the operation on farm and I have many new friends.

I said I would talk about the growing of Paulownia in this issue, but events have overtaken me a little. So instead I am going to have a rant and a rave.

First the rant. Some time ago we all became aware that we could claim our fuel tax back, and there are companies out there to do it for us. I contracted one of those companies, they duly delivered and every three months I received some cash back. Great!

Then, out of the blue, I received an email saying they were increasing my fee structure because I don’t use enough fuel. They already took a percentage commission, but on top of this they felt it necessary to take what worked out to be about 20% of the refund I got after their commission. My fuel usage was about 200 litres a quarter. Not a lot, but then this is not a big farm.

They, of course, were depending on inertia. That is, I wouldn’t be bothered to do anything about this because I was too busy, or not confident enough to do it myself. Their effort to earn the commission was little once I was in their database, and if you think about big fuel users their share of the commission must be pretty good for the same amount of work. Anyway I saw red, and googled up NZTA, eyeballed the forms, and decided that I would do it myself. My first payment is on the way, NZTA were very helpful, and I make more money. Of course this made me think about insurance, so after investigation I changed companies. Then I did the same with the power company and presto! Saved enough for a holiday!!!

So, bugger inertia, have a close look at things you have let slide, you never know where it may get you.

Now the rave. We took a four wheel drive holiday with NZ Adventures in the South Island, seven days through the central high country. Fabulous views, learnt some new skills with a four wheel drive vehicle, and met some great people. We were well looked after, getting very well fed and very good accommodation. The mountains and their management were a revelation and it was interesting to meet the farmers who were running these big stations. Safety was paramount, and although some of the farm tracks were rugged there were no mishaps, which was a credit to how the trek was managed. Erosion, hieracium, matagouri and rabbits were in evidence everywhere. Some erosion was natural, but quite a bit was man-induced, and it was noticeable that retired areas were making a good comeback from the ravages of stock and man. Apparently, a lot of this country was covered in beech forest originally, but it was rare to see any on the trip, and the only growth that beat the conditions was wilding pines. Makes one wonder if the current thrust to plant trees should be directed at this fragile land.

The tour ended in Wanaka, just in time for Warbirds over Wanaka. We saw two days of old planes re-enacting their glory days. It was truly amazing to see these planes still flying, and we enjoyed it immensely. We also took the opportunity to look up old friends in both islands as we passed through.

After a couple of weeks away I was pleased to be home, if only to catch up with all the deferred work!

GS 4X4 Tour2

Photo credit: thanks to Tess Smith, Te Awamutu Camera Club.

A new year – Brian Frost

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

BF Middle East Feb18 resized.jpg

On the farm

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

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

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

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

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

Feed

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

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

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

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

Mating

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

New grass

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

Run off

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

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

Some more photos of our trip

BF Middle East combined Feb18

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

BF Middle East combined2 Feb18

Slightly different style of farming to New Zealand.

 

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.