Getting ready for the calving rush – Noldy Rust

I was aiming to write this blog on the shortest day, but that was on the 22nd of June, and it came and went before I knew it. We are now two weeks past that already! Wow, two weeks past the shortest day, which means only 84 days to go until daylight saving kicks in. 84 days! Doesn’t seem like very long does it, but it will be 84 days of busy, busy and more busyness for most dairy farmers as calving looms or indeed is already underway for some. As I write this, I see Sam with his coat on following half a dozen cows to the dairy for milking. Yep, it seems to have started here. But more on that later.

I can’t speak for everyone, but the long, dry summer/autumn and sustained poor growth right through until early May had us worried about feed cover going into winter. Well, so much for that. Why worry, it doesn’t change anything, and often what we fear doesn’t happen anyway. We often get good growth after a long dry spell, with nitrogen build-up in the soil etc etc, but this year, at our place at least, it has been extreme. We have had good May growth in other years, but the growth right through May and June this year was phenomenal. A kind winter to date has certainly set most of us up for calving, with stock in good condition and plenty of cover on hand. And what about the ease of farming? Cows haven’t been stood off many times at all so far, which is such a contrast to last year. However, things can, and will, change, most of us think that winter is still coming, but no point in worrying about it is there??

Out on the farm, it’s been pretty much business as usual, with the normal winter maintenance jobs being carried out, plus a few extra little projects. The favourable June meant some of the planned digger work that was due was able to be carried out with ease and little mess. Our cows used to have to cross the tanker loop to graze two paddocks and new regulations meant that this was no longer acceptable, meaning a new track had to be formed to enable the cows to bypass the tanker circle. Fair enough, rules are rules, we better get that done…. But we all know, diggers are such an asset on a farm, I’m sure we’re all the same when we get one onsite for a day’s work….four days later, and a heap of jobs done that weren’t planned. I mean, I should have stayed away and turned my phone off, instead of taking a call every few hours from Sam saying things like “While he’s here, can we just ….”

And all the carnage the digger creates just leads to more things to do! I mean, I thought our little storage shed was fine…..ok it was a bit old and the door didn’t shut, and it had been hit by trucks and knocked off it’s foundations and was full of rats, but the roof didn’t leak cos the moss on it was so dense, and it owed me nothing! However, it was deemed to be an eyesore by everyone that was asked, so the digger driver didn’t have to be asked twice to become a demolition expert and crushed our little icon in no time. Ok, now what? We needed a new one of course! Mind you that was the fun part. Sam and I spent some time at the fieldays looking at options and finally agreed on a replacement which will be sited in a better position, away from trucks and rats and moss and things!

Speaking of fieldays, I don’t know about all of you guys, but I think it’s such a neat event, wouldn’t miss it for the world! Such a great avenue to check out new things, have breakfast with the bank, catch up with people, get new info, catch up with more people, have lunch with another bank, and come back the next day for food from another bank, and a pie from Ballance, not to mention a muffin from FMG…the list goes on. I had to go there for three days this year as I didn’t want to miss the breakfast at Swap’s, plus I still had to go the Good George tent to watch the tractor pull, although this wasn’t straight after breakfast I might add!

Back on the farm, we’re looking at putting rubber on our feedpad for cow comfort. We checked this out at the fieldays as well! We still put the old carpet in the yard which really helps, but rubber on the feedpad will be an extra level of care for animal welfare. Anyone I’ve talked to that has rubber on their concrete has said that they have no regrets. However, we scrape our pad, so now are also looking at floodwash options using green water. Got our info from Agfirst about this at the fieldays as well (in between banks!).

So now, day by day, it’s pretty much the calm before the storm, organising all the things needed for calving. Wood chip is in, calf feeders are cleaned, we’re putting water troughs in all our calf pens and buying whole grain calf meal (info sourced from SMASH fielday at Top Notch calves). Metabolic supplies are on hand, which we hope not to use as mag has been fed all winter, calving gear is sorted and the big bonus this year is….our lube pump! Can’t wait to help a cow to calve this year! The bonus of having an ‘interested vet with a big dog move to Wellington and take your daughter with him’ (see previous blogs) is that he left some of his stuff here for us to utilise. The broken-down motorcycle, the disused hut, the decrepit camping gear, well they’re not much chop. However, the LUBE PUMP, that’s another story! Both Sam and I are pretty excited about that! Those calves will pop out like a cork from a champagne bottle!

I wish you all well in the days ahead as we get into a new milking season. Enjoy the miracle of new birth and may the last calf that is born be as precious to you as the first one. It’s a bit like your kids…. The first one is really exciting but you sort of get used to it the more you have! This leads perfectly into my closing comment. Our youngest daughter happens to be a teacher who is now happier as they got a pay rise. But that’s another story. The Principal at her school is leaving this term after many years. He gave them all a parting gift which was lovely. They all got a bag with the school logo on! Her one was personalised….(see photo)

Nga mihi tin koto. Toru Wha.

Autumn Celebrations – Noldy Rust

My calendar seems in a bit of disarray at the moment as we work ourselves through 2 weeks of days on, days off, days on, days off, causing me to struggle a bit trying to remember what day it is. I do know that it’s ANZAC day today as this is such a well-advertised and poignant time in the life of our nation, and Easter has just been and gone, as is evident by the ever-diminishing basket of Easter eggs sitting in the middle of our dining room table. I am also aware that today is our wedding anniversary, many years of wedded bliss behind us now, the number a bit too scary to mention! I look back with a certain amount of smugness however, as the day we picked to get married is always going to be a national holiday, which is great in itself, but the real advantage in having an ANZAC day wedding is that it’s virtually impossible to forget our wedding anniversary. Haven’t forgotten yet, and long may it continue! To date, Bev has never missed out on being showered with all sorts of reminders of that memorable day, many years ago!! She certainly is a lucky woman!

As I wrote my last blog, we were celebrating some much-needed rainfall and looking forward to positive growth rates, and, if I remember correctly, I may have mentioned autumn silage, bloat, and the absence of facial eczema. I was right on one count, but one count only. Fortunately, we have seen no evidence of eczema to date which is great news. However, growth has been slow as the rain was sporadic at best, and only in the last few days have we seen some really decent rain, and this, coupled with cooler days, is giving us hope that we still have time to lift covers going into winter while we carry on milking. No sign of bloat, which is great, but certainly no surplus grass to even think of autumn silage.

We were discussing milking frequency in my last blog as well. I wasn’t sure whether to consider 16-hour milking, or even once a day, and I was thinking that I must bring this up with Sam at some stage. That ‘some stage’ actually eventuated rather quickly owing to Sam reading my blog and front-footing the conversation! At least it means he reads it I guess! After much discussion, we decided that the only way of finding out is by trying, so we bit the bullet and went onto once a day milking. Now this is a big decision for me as we don’t normally do this until we are drying off. However, the cows were down to about 1.15 kg MS/cow/day so we thought that we wouldn’t lose much. I heeded some great advice I heard years ago from Pete Morgan. They always go onto OAD milking sometime in December, but they time it with a period that the cows go into really good grass, usually silage paddocks or the like. This gave me the confidence to make the decision, as we had been on basically a non-grass diet for a month or so but were just speeding up the round again as we had reasonable cover in front of us. Feeding grass again, plus maize and a PKE blend with a bit of canola, seemed to do the trick. We’ve been on OAD about a month now and although there was an initial drop in production, they did lift again and are still doing over 1 kg MS/cow/day. And boy are they in good condition! And is Sam happy! He’s got a bit more time to do other things on and off the farm now, and that’s got to be a good thing. We’re sitting on about a 65 day round and still feeding plenty of maize while we try and build the cover some more in anticipation of the heifers coming home shortly.

The long dry has resulted in a scarcity of winter grazing so we made the decision to buy a bit more maize in, as the heifers will be home earlier than usual and there may be more cows on at home prior to calving. We already had 250 tonnes of maize silage on hand after the harvest but another 50 tonnes came up nearby, so I just couldn’t resist. Maize on hand is like money in the bank, you can never have too much! And I don’t even work for Pioneer anymore! We used to always bring in some grass silage in spring but with the extra maize now I’m thinking that this won’t happen this year.

On the home front, we had an impending wedding when I wrote my last blog. I can happily say that this is now behind us and we have a happily married couple that were so fortunate to have a fantastic wedding day with all going extremely well. A big tick for that day to all involved.

Two down, one to go, although the ‘one to go’ has just today made the big move and left the nest for the second time, heading down to Wellington as she follows the ‘interested vet with the big dog’ (see previous blogs) and begins a new life down there. Never a dull moment in life especially when you have kids, no matter what age! Speaking of kids, daughter number one is about to produce grandchild number two, so it’s all a bit of a waiting game as to when this will happen. Nana is on standby for childminding and meals and all that stuff that nanas do, and I’ve made sure there’s a beer in the fridge, and a tipple in the cupboard, for when the need arises to celebrate the arrival of junior!

On that happy note, it’s about that time now, as the shadows lengthen and dusk draws near, for us to consider our plans for the evening. Seeing as I brought her a coffee in bed accompanied with an Easter egg, I’m guessing that my loving wife will no doubt have plans to take me out to dinner to celebrate and commemorate, both the ANZACs and our wedding day.

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!

Rain, the good and the bad – John van der Goes

Howdy all,

This is my first attempt to produce a blog on schedule. So, what’s been happening? Well, it seems to be the same old. The routine continues. I have managed to sneak out for one fishing trip, having decided one evening that the weather the next day was just too good to pass up and that there was nothing that I couldn’t put off (I seem to have that move pretty down pat). I have also managed to get out for a few bike rides, but not regularly.

JVG fish

I see I had a senior moment and said that I would do a whole herd preg test in mid-July when I meant March. I had the vets come in and preg test last week. The results were pleasing, 13 empties including the cows I sent earlier. This works out to be around 8%. Still shy of my target which is to have the number of cows in single figures.

The recent wet weather, although much needed, has brought a few problems.

Firstly, we have had a run of mastitis cows. I think it may be due to the mud in the fodder beet paddock. I had cultures done on their milk to find they were all environmental bugs. Funny how all the infections seem to be in the same quarter; this year it’s the left back.

For the first time in a couple of years I emptied the effluent pond and had the stirrer in to mix up all the solids. Of course the rain came and filled it up again.

JVG effluent

And I’m trying to get the first fodder beet paddock planted so I sprayed the paddock with glyphosate. The rain came and now I need to spray it again. I’m now waiting for the correct seed to arrive – hopefully early next week.

Since the start of the new year I have decided that I have four seasons of milking left in me. So now we are going through the options we have for when the time comes. Not sure whether I will make it that far but it’s a line in the sand. I think that we may have compliance issues that will force us out before then.

Our cows have done really well on the fodder beet so now we have nearly caught up with last year’s production to date. We lost about 2000 solids over the peak. We are now, like most farms, starting to cut down on supplements to keep up with the grass that’s growing.

JVG fodder beet Mar17

We weighed our young stock in early February when we put zinc bullets in. We found that the bullets I bought were too small because most of the heifers were over 400 kg. Pleasing to have them in such good shape but meant that we had to put in the bigger bullets this month.

Looking forward to getting away for a couple of weeks soon as feel I’m overdue for a mental health break. Hope you are all going well.

On the up – Noldy Rust

The big wet that seemed to go on relentlessly through the end of September right until mid-October certainly seemed worse than ever before. Contractors couldn’t get silage off; groundwork in preparation for cropping was extremely difficult, if not impossible, in most cases; and feed utilisation on farm was a real challenge. However, a few weeks down the track the sound of rain on the roof doesn’t make me cringe as it did earlier, quite the opposite in fact!! A bit of rain would be nice to soften the surface as the ground has gone rock hard on top in most places, and walking across a paddock is similar to walking across a dry, rocky riverbed, being ever so careful not to break an ankle!

Yay for November, it’s so good to get the busyness of spring largely behind us. AI is now into its fourth week, meaning the non-cyclers that we ran separately for three weeks are now together in the herd again and the bulls are having a well-earned break. It also means that our technician has less cows to inseminate on a daily basis and his 7.25 arrival time is creeping forward to closer to 7.15 every morning. Keeps Sam on his toes anyway, nothing like a strict timetable to stay disciplined! Most farmers I have talked to have said mating is going ok, which is a relief after a tough spring. We achieved our 90% submission target in three weeks after just running the non-cyclers with bulls for three weeks and using plenty of tailpaint. We have a vet flatting with our daughter in our other house and she was watching with interest to see how many in this mob were coming on heat as they grazed the paddocks around her house. As we got nearer to the three weeks being up, we took the liberty of applying some orange tailpaint to most of the cows, even if they hadn’t cycled, just to convince her that our strategy was working…..didn’t want to have to listen to “I told ya so” from her!!

Growth rates are in the 60s to 70s now, after an ammo application over the whole farm. Covers are lifting, so spraying out the maize paddocks has helped keep the pressure on the rest of the farm. Sam is mowing in front of the cows. We figured it’s a small cost and we have a lot to gain by keeping those residuals spot on. Nitrogen will be applied at 25-30 kg N/ha to help boost the regrowth.

nr-cut-grass2

We closed the maize pit down yesterday as we are only feeding a small amount and the big face of the stack meant we couldn’t get across it fast enough to avoid mould growing. We will open up the bagged maize now as this has a much smaller face and is ideal when only feeding small amounts. The feed inventory is still good, with about half a ton of feed on hand per cow going forward, plus a PKE contract to fill any gaps and as a backup for what the weather may throw at us. Owing to having this maize and PKE on hand, I opted to sell our grass silage from the maize block. No cost to bring it home and money in the bank from the sale….will this decision come to haunt me later in summer?????

Nothing major or exciting planned from now through to year’s end. The calves are gone and looking good at grazing, the heifers are looking fantastic up there too. The maize should be planted this afternoon if all goes according to plan. We are trying direct drilling this year so still looking for a bit more rain this morning to soften the ground before the planter gets here. The paddocks have been sprayed out for close to a month to try and get rid of the trash and the bugs prior to planting. However, slug bait will be a must as I don’t want these eating my valuable maize…..they can stay in the garden where they belong!

Nice to see a good lift in the auction today. We managed to lower our costs considerably last year, but not all the savings are sustainable so there will be a bit of inevitable catch-up spending this year. I shouted Sam a new seat for the quad the other day, so he doesn’t have to wear his wet weather trousers in fine weather any more. The high pressure pump at the dairy was replaced last week so no more jokes about hosing or peeing! However, with all the extra pressure, Sam needs to remember to brace himself again as he turns the tap on to avoid being flung around like a deflating balloon! We will also need to get a digger in to attack a few springs around the place that have appeared and to tidy up some races. We will stay very cost focused though and try and farm as efficiently as possible going forward, keeping one eye on production and two eyes on costs.

nr-sam-hose-new-seat

Summer, swimming, Christmas and holidays are all looming. What great time of year! Till next time.

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!!