Farming through the lockdown – Graham Smith

Strange how life can be thrown a curve ball by a bug. We went from planning a holiday to hunkering down on the farm and making face masks!

The Waikato Times ran an article from the French Embassy about travellers stranded in NZ. We replied to their request for help and then received a large number of replies from French tourists. The first group to reply got our accommodation, and they needed it. They were a family of seven camping in the South Island. They managed to catch the last ferry during lockdown and were a bedraggled and weary lot when they arrived. They stayed for the next three weeks and we accepted them into our bubble. They were keen to work to offset costs and we did a lot of firewood that I was just making no progress on. Now this year’s supply is in the shed as well as some of next year’s. Their eldest son, aged 14, was into photography and he and Tess connected. Tess lent him a camera, gave him lessons and they compared notes. When he left, he had bought the camera and I am sure that they will continue to share photos. The eldest daughter, aged 12, was an early riser and she appeared at the shed every morning to help me milk. By the end of three weeks she was helping shift the stock and feeding the dogs and ducks, and any stock work, she was there. She wishes to come back and do a calving with me, but that is for the future. The three youngest, aged 8, 10, and 11, spent their days roaming the farm, having fun as kids do. It has been a long time since my kids did that, so it was great to see them enjoying the environment.

GS French family May20

The French tourists: Aurelia, Ysee, Florian, Yris, Ylan, Yoen, and Yael.

Their parents were good company and Tess cooked them some great meals and in return they did French cooking for us. Of course, it made for great conversation around a glass of red wine. We made some good friends and have been invited to go and stay with them in the south of France. So, isolation has been enjoyable for us.

I dried the cows off on the 20th April, after a long slog juggling available feed. The paulownia prunings fed the cows for all of February and the silage was fed from the start of March to mid-April. Murphy’s Law says things go wrong when you can’t fix them. So, it was with the silage, when, with only four days of feeding left, the bearing collapsed in the wagon and I was unable to get it fixed because of lockdown. Luckily, my neighbour lent me his wagon and things got back into gear. We got some rain and then it was grass and PKE until dry off.

The season finished 14% behind last year and considering the move to OAD and the drought I have to be satisfied with that.

Currently, the cows are on an 84-day round on all grass. Average cover is 1850 kg DM/ha with growth rates at 50 kg DM/day. Condition score is about 4.8 on the cows. The heifers have been tagged and the next job is the rubberwear in the shed.

The yearlings have come through the drought in pretty good condition and it is good to be able to watch over them full time in a hard year like this. People are talking about the ’08 drought as a comparison, but I liken this to the ’77/’78 drought for harshness and length of time without rain. This drought is not quite as bad, but I certainly don’t want to see any worse!

One big job completed was pushing up and stacking all the prunings for burning, and there are some big heaps. One job for the future is to fence up the next planting strips as I have about 150 sapling paulownias to plant out. Planting will happen in June once the trees become dormant. This year only 150 to plant, but next year should be up to 500. I have started a new nursery which will supply the extra trees. Starting the new nursery was a big effort due to the drought making it difficult to establish cuttings. About 50% fried in the sun and I had to replant in April when it had cooled down. Even with irrigation the little plants struggled, but survival rates are better now. I had quite a few inquiries about planting seedlings, but few people had the right conditions to grow good trees for timber. A number of inquiries were for the ornamental types which are better sourced from commercial nurseries.

GS paulownia prunings May20

I planted 220 seedling macrocarpa in late spring and although I have released them twice there will be some grass and weed maintenance required to stop them being smothered. Also, some winter pruning will be needed for the black walnuts. Right now, I have a pruner in who has just finished giving the 6 year old pines their second lift, and is now lifting the eucalypts for the third time. I don’t look at this as an expense, but an investment for the future. I thought I could do some of that pruning myself, but there are only so many hours in the day, and to maintain the quality of the stand it needs to be done on time.

Demand for timber peaked during lockdown as people decided to build a surfboard while they had the time. Unfortunately, I was unable to supply for the very same reasons. So, frustration on both sides. At the time of writing I can now ship commercial quantities but the smaller lines I move are still restricted until Post Shop gets back into action. Still, it is good to be back in business and keeping the commercial guys supplied and their staff in jobs. Fortunately, I have plenty of timber in stock and in my drying stacks to keep everyone happy.

With tourism dying for the time being Tess and I are looking at renting our accommodation so that it gets some use. That will change the dynamics on the farm, and we will have to roll with that as it happens.

Tess has been unable to work so all her cooking skills have come to the fore. Jams, sauces, breads, and she is currently learning how to make sourdough. I, on the other hand, have to work hard to justify eating all that great tucker!!!

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.

2019 begins – Brian Frost

It’s been a long time between blogs and lots has been happening. The rain has been wonderful and is keeping the grass growing at exponential rates, which is a wonderful change for this time of the year.

The end of 2018 was busy with normal farming life but also Mrs. Frostie took on a few other jobs like: receptionist, part-time chairside assistant for an orthodontist, and project manager for a build and shift of an engineering company, all while continuing with DairyNZ, being busy on various committees, and doing some farm work where needed. The younger two Frosties had their study leave and exams, so needless to say, we were all ready for a break so all ended up taking turns milking the cows over Christmas and New Year. We are all back at our other jobs now so no time for the beach this year! Frostie has had the opportunity to go fishing a few times (yum!!) and there have been trips to the lake for skiing.

bf water skiing jan19

On the farm

On the farm front there are 361 cows on the milking platform and the run off and production to date is 91,401 kg MS, compared with 82,116 kg MS at the same time last year. Current production is 8.5 – 8.9 kg MS/ha/day and 1.75 – 1.85 kg MS/cow/day. Cow condition is lifting at 4.2 – 4.3.

Magnesium, sodium and calcium are still being added with the meal and the trace mineral mix is also going through the water.

Feed

We have been trying the SPACE pasture cover readings but for the last few months these have been reading very low compared to the reality of what is on farm, so we haven’t been relying on these reports. The pasture cover targets are 2,600 – 2,700 kg DM/ha in late January.

Crops

The 24 ha of maize at the run off looks great.

Also, 7 – 8 paddocks were put into grass silage at the run off on 22nd November and we have another four paddocks currently shut up and ready to harvest.

The first grazing of chicory started on 5th December and when the turnips start (about now), the chicory will be added as a replacement for the pasture area to feed with the turnips. At this feeding rate we expect the cows to get around 5 kg DM/cow/day of turnips and the crops to last through to late March.

bf calves jan19

Spring mating

The bulls came out of the heifers on 11th December. AB started for the cows on 23rd October and finished on 4th December. 259 cows (94%) were mated in 21 days and 100% by the end of mating. 108 cows returned to AB meaning 61% didn’t return. Pregnancy testing is booked in for 22nd January.

Keeping on top of the grass – Graham Smith

Mating this year has been a little better than in the past due to the great weather. Submission would be classed on the low side, at 85% after three weeks. I put nine cows on once a day and that certainly got them cycling. I have one cow not cycling now, so in all I am happy with that.

GS cow calf2 small Nov18

Currently production is 1.7 kg per day, down on last season, which was a record season, but I am using a lot less PKE due to the great grass growth. In the season to date I am 4% behind last year, but still happy with where I am at. I have already made two cuts of silage from my leases and brought the heifers home to clean up any surplus. The last cut was very heavy, and my small pit just managed to take it all.

All this great growth has necessitated mowing ahead of the cows to maintain residuals, and the quality of the next rotation will give a production response, I hope. Average cover is 2300 with all my leases locked up for another cut.

It went from very wet to a little too dry. Right now, there has been a series of thunderstorms passing through, but we have missed the heavy rain and have had just a few light sprinklings. That has been enough to get the annual fertiliser working.

The calves are doing very well on a daily shift ahead of the cows.

Once the weather fined up, I got a lot of metal spread. Having a four-wheel drive tractor for the first time has meant even the steep tracks are in great shape. Having a cab has also meant not worrying about taking a raincoat and leggings, and I have never done so much work in such comfort!!! The starlings also thought the new (secondhand) tractor was a great place to nest, and it has been a battle of wits trying to stop them getting in. I used rolled up wire netting, and after the fourth attempt I managed to exclude them from getting under the bonnet.

GS Feeding out time small Nov18

During Labour weekend my eldest son, Chris, got married to Nadia on the farm. It was timed to coincide with the Paulownia flowering and the farm looked a picture. The weather was good, and the wedding took place on top of our central hill in a natural amphitheatre. We built a walking track up the hill through the trees and the rock face. It is a pleasant walk, and will eventually link in with the other walking track we are building. Having all the family gathered was a bonus and we all enjoyed each other’s company.

The track started by our French guests was further extended by two more French couples during November. Benjamin and Enis, and Charlile and Marissa, went to it with a will. The track now extends to the top of the hill, with some nice views on the way. We also discovered a new site of glow worms in a cave on the farm and they enjoyed viewing them. They were further wowed when I called up the moreporks and they called back!

Digging for treasure – Graham Smith

The sun is shining as I write this, and that certainly has made life easier. In spite of the mud calving has gone really well with one cow to go, and one milk fever. The girls are currently producing 2.27 kg per day, with grass a little short they are also getting 3 kg silage and 4 kg PKE/ tapioca blend. For the first time in many years I had surplus AB heifers and managed to sell 7. The rotation length is currently 23 days and I went there quite early to minimise the mud, being on my fastest round by the 25th August. This meant a lot more silage being fed to maintain decent residuals. I went into this winter with good covers of 2200 kg/ha. But growth as low as 5 kg/day and no higher than 12 forced an early start to silage feeding, and even so my cover got down to just below 1800.

Having had the digger in during winter, with some drainage and track forming done, it is only now that I have been able to lay metal and stabilise the work. This compromised access to some paddocks to the extent that only the cows could get in, and I was pleased to have keen dogs who saved me a considerable slog through the mud.

Due to the neighbours’ bull getting in with my heifers the vet came out to give that magic disappearing injection. Whilst he was here I got him to DNA test a calf with dubious parentage and send off the sample. Genemark (LIC) sent it back saying they don’t accept samples taken with a Zeetag sampler. It had to be with an Allflex sampler. Pity neither the vet nor myself were informed of this fact. I had been in touch with them for the paperwork and no one saw fit to inform me then and it was not in the written “how to” instructions. So, all be warned, LIC don’t accept Zeetag!! Needless to say I had to get hold of an appropriate sampler and go through the process again.

Being part of the NZ Farm Forestry Assoc. means you meet interesting people. I had an American forester stay for a month in July. He expected to do some pruning in lieu of board but I was in the process of planting my nursery Paulownia saplings. So, he learnt how to dig them out and then how to plant them, with only the fencing left to go. Russell was from New Hampshire and had no knowledge of Paulownias, but it was fair to say that after a month his knowledge was as good as mine. He had also been a nurseryman in another life and I learnt a lot from him. We had some very good discussions about how to run the world!

GS visitors

Our accommodation was also used by three young French men who came to stay for free in return for working on the farm. They enjoyed calving and milking the cows, and really got into the project we set them. We have set aside about one hectare that is slowly being planted with native trees. It is situated below the cliffs and we wanted a walking track for our guests. The lads got stuck in with a will, and we now have the first section of track built and metalled. They also, with Russell, got taken to Waitomo caves and the Kiwi house, and we introduced all of them to the iconic kiwi pie, which they very quickly became addicted to! We hope they all pass their business management degrees and come back with their families one day.

GS Track-1

The digger was not here just to titivate the farm. Some time ago I got in a contractor with ground penetrating radar to survey two paddocks for buried logs. I pegged all 180 spots he found in two paddocks. The digger went down on these pegs, but turned up nothing. So I gave him free rein to cast around for logs and he immediately found a couple that could be milled. After half a day we had three logs and a churned up paddock. So, I decided to cut my losses and tasked him with extracting metal in an adjoining paddock. He immediately hit a reasonable sized matai log, which took a bit of work to extract. Soon after he retrieved another log, and then he needed to drain encroaching water. Whilst digging a shallow drain he hit the biggest log yet. This was only 1 metre under the soil but took some strenuous efforts by the 20 tonne digger to move it. Our estimates are that this tree took approximately 1000 years to grow to this size, remembering that it also had been buried for 1800 years after the Taupo eruption. When you look at the photo (below) remember that all the sap wood has rotted off leaving only valuable heart. This tree has existed through a lot of our recent, recorded history.

GS buried matai

Matai sells for about $3000/m3, and is used in windows and flooring because of its hard-wearing traits. I intend to save a slab as a bar top. The rest will be milled to suit flooring, and the sale of the timber will easily offset the costs of all the digger’s work on the farm. Milling native timber salvaged in this way is legal. There is a form to fill in, and a photo must be taken of each log. Finally, a registered native timber miller must be employed. The application to mill costs nothing. When I bought this farm I had no inkling that this was possible, so this has become an exciting sideline to dairying. I will try not to enjoy myself too much!!!

New grass and silage stacks – Brian Frost

BF silage stack Mar18The summer rain has kept coming to grow the feed; however, with this has come the weeds, and the heat has certainly been making it difficult for the cows to reach the production levels we would have liked.

We have had major weed problems, especially in the new grass paddocks that have been flooded many times over the last year.

The maize silage has been harvested in the last two days and covered by the wonderful high school children who are raising funds for a missions trip to Thailand – they are becoming pros at throwing tyres.

On the farm

Currently we have 340 cows on farm – all grazing 1 ha/day (60 – 70 day round). 313 milkers are grazing 1 ha/day, plus 7 kg/cow/day of meal, 6 litres/cow/day of P8 and 6 kg DM/cow/day of maize silage. There are 18 sick/colostrum cows, 7 dry springers, 2 dry spring calvers and 13 new autumn calves. All the autumn calvers are now back on farm.

Production to date is 126,672 kg MS compared with 135,734 kg MS at the same time last year. Current production is 5.4 – 5.6 kg MS/ha/day and 1.3 – 1.35 kg MS/cow/day.

Cow condition is 4.5 – 4.6.

The cows are getting causmag, lime flour and salt on the maize, minerals in the meal and zinc is going through the water.

Feed

The average pasture cover is now over 2,575 kg DM/ha (on the winter plate meter equation). The pasture cover targets for the next 8 weeks are 2,100 – 2,200 kg DM/ha in late March and 2,100 – 2,200 kg DM/ha in late April. The cows went to a longer grazing round last week to try and eat out the summer grasses and weeds while also giving the new grasses more time to establish before grazing again. As the cows start to be dried off in late May/June, we plan to extend the round again for the winter.

Our battle has been the new grass paddocks. The chicory paddocks look great – but the Bealey is hard to find! Two of these will be undersown in Tama after this next grazing and two will be sown into Tabu+ to see how this goes. Hogan ryegrass has also been ordered to drill after the maize has been harvested.

Fertiliser

3.6 t of urea/SustaiN has been applied at 75 kg urea/ha (2.6 t in February and 1 t in March so far) we will keep following behind the cows now for the next two months at least.

Run off

126 R2 heifers (planning to sell 60 surplus) and 133 calves are at the run off. Two of the chicory paddocks will be sown into Tama and two into Tabu+. A full round of nitrogen has also been applied to all of the run off paddocks. The 17 ha of maize came off yesterday. Unfortunately there is no spot market for it so it has been stacked on the dairy farm, with about 150 t DM at the runoff.

BF silage stack combined Mar18

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.

 

Roll on Christmas and holidays – Brian Frost

 

Well summer has arrived with a bang. It felt like yesterday we were saying “Please stop the rain” and now we are crying for it to return (just not in the volumes it has come during the rest of the year – farmers are never satisfied).

On the farm

Currently we have 330 cows on farm – all grazing 3 ha/day (18 – 19 day round), plus 7.5 kg/cow/day of meal, 10 – 15 litres/c/day of P8. Production to date is 85,248 kg MS, compared with 88,693 kg MS at the same time last year. Current production is 7.4 – 7.5 kg MS/ha/day and 1.7 kg MS/cow/day. Cow condition is still 4.2 – 4.3.

Feed

The average pasture cover is 2,505 kg DM/ha. Our pasture cover targets for the next eight weeks are 2,200 – 2,300 kg DM/ha in late December and 2,700 – 2,800 kg DM/ha in late January.

Fertiliser

4.5 tonne of urea (SustaiN) has been applied at 80 – 90 kg urea/ha. We will have a break for a full round when this round is finished.

Cropping

Unfortunately with the last lot of flooding we have had to re-sow a couple of the paddocks, that were originally sown in turnips, into Bealey.

Mating

The bulls came out of the heifer mob on 4th December.

AB started for the cows on 22nd October and finished on 4th December, before the bulls went in.

280 cows (88%) were mated in 3 weeks, 304 cows (95%) in 4 weeks and 99% in total to 6 weeks of AB. The bulls have just come out to give 8 weeks of mating.

Run off

At the run off we have 22 dry cows and 126 R2 yr heifers grazing 2 – 3 days per paddock. 133 calves are getting 6 days/paddock, putting the stock on the run off on a 30(ish) day round.

Cropping

17 ha of maize was sown on 15th November and has had nitrogen applied. The crop is looking amazing considering the late planting – the warm weather has certainly helped and the run off did get a small amount of rain a couple of weeks back.

The chicory/annual paddocks were sown into a Bealey (22 – 25 kg/ha), chicory (3 kg/ha) and clover (4 kg/ha) mix on 13th October and are being grazed for the second time.

Silage

We were able to make 30 bales of silage off 4.5 paddocks on 23 – 25th November, nothing like what we were able to get done last year, but better than nothing.

This is a much shorter blog, with no pictures (sorry) as we are off for 3 weeks – Israel, Jordan, and Hong Kong on the way home. This has been a long time in the planning, and even with Trump’s comments trying to stir things up we are still going – 18 of the family members are going so it’s going to be the trip of a lifetime.

Rain, rain go away. Come again mid-summer! Brian Frost

BF biscuiting Nov blogIt feels like all we talk about each month is the rain, but the reality is it has been extremely detrimental to our farm this year. We so need the sunshine, the wet weather has continued to keep coming back to hurt our farm, and has been compounded by the extreme lack of R&M done by the council for many, many years – we are over it. Trying to keep our chin up has not been easy for anyone and the rain is wearing thin! Our manager has done an amazing job to get through the wet so well and has pulled himself up when the weather has been so depressing.

It also feels like the end of the year is rushing towards us with Christmas decorations in the shops, the bbq and patio heater coming out (not that we have had the chance to use them) and children on study leave with exams starting this week! Our children are also so desperate for the weather to get better that the first day we had weather that was better than continual rain they got the boat out and went for a ski (Frostie dragged them around, Mrs Frostie sat in the van watching, and the dog thought it was Christmas already – running in and out of the water!).

BF water skiing Nov17

On the farm

There are currently 339 cows on farm – all grazing 3 ha/day (20 – 21 day round). Production to date is 61,586 kg MS, compared with 62,974 kg MS at the same time last year, current production is 7.9 – 8 kg MS/ha/day and 1.75 – 1.85 kg MS/cow/day. The cows’ BCS is 4.2 – 4.3. The calves are going to the runoff as soon as they have been weaned. At the runoff 22 dry cows + 126 R 2 yr heifers are grazing 2 – 3 days per paddock.

Feed

The average pasture cover is 2,359 kg DM/ha. Our pasture cover targets for the next eight weeks are 2,400 – 2,500 kg DM/ha in late November and 2,600 – 2,700 kg DM/ha in late December.

Because of the terrible wet weather we have been feeding more in the shed at times. The mix is still 85% PKE, 12% soya hull and 3% minerals, and the aim is to hold this at around 7 kg/cow/day through the next two months.

Fertiliser

We will apply urea following behind the stock on the runoff over the next full grazing round before skipping the following round. Two tonne has been applied on the milking platform at 90 kg urea/ha. We will keep applying urea at 75 – 90 kg/ha through the rest of the grazing round and then miss the following grazing round.

Cropping/new pasture

With the flooding we have had to shuffle our cropping plans around a little. Some paddocks were sown in turnips but with the flooding there are very few turnips coming through. These paddocks will be power harrowed again and drilled into 30 kg/ha of Bealey, with different paddocks now to be put into turnips instead.

17 ha at the runoff is to go into maize – hopefully it will be planted soon!

The chicory/annual paddocks have been sprayed out and sown into a Bealey (22 – 25 kg/ha), chicory (3 kg/ha) and clover (4 kg/ha) mix on 13th October.

4.5 paddocks are shut for silage and should be ready to cut in the next two weeks.

Mating

The heifers were pregnancy tested on 1st November; 120 of them were in calf. The cows started AB on 22nd October and will go for 8 weeks – finishing before Christmas.

We keep telling ourselves that the sunshine will turn up soon, but now with the snow arriving in the South Island again yesterday the sunshine might still be a way off.