It’s June 1st, the start of the new dairy season. It’s an exciting time on the farm for many as cows are generally dried off by now in spring calving herds, farms change hands, sharemilkers move, staff changes occur, and we say goodbye to the last season and look forward to a brand new season ahead, wondering what the big influences on our farming business will be this year. Will it be a wet spring, or a dry spring? Will we get a summer drought? Will the payout be as good as early indications are? Will we have animal health challenges above the norm? Do we contract PKE now or wait and hope that the price comes down a bit????? So many things to look forward to, both opportunities and challenges. So many unknowns ahead. For me, this is one of the thrills of being involved in this great industry. Roll on 2018/19!
On that note, this is the first day for us employing a contract milker. Uncharted territory for us all as Sam has earned his stripes, so to speak, and been employed as a contract milker in partnership with his wife, Alice. The transition has been reasonably seamless as basically nothing has changed so far, seeing as he has done his apprenticeship here for the last couple of seasons. The main difference to date is in the cashflow going forward, as we have cancelled his fortnightly pay, owing to Fonterra taking over that responsibility and paying him on the 20th of each month….just not the first month or two that’s all!
The couple of months since my last blog have been one of those periods that we need to remember with gratitude when things are a bit difficult in the future. Last year in autumn it didn’t stop raining. What a contrast to this year! We experienced such lovely warm weather, punctuated by the odd spell of warm rain, so that in many cases growth exceeded what we experienced in spring! Our new grass, both annual and perennial, just leapt out of the ground and has been grazed three times already. This unprecedented autumn growth, along with copious quantities of maize silage, meant we could feed our cows to the level they needed to keep them milking right to the end of May and still gain weight in order to hit condition score targets. Sam had a month off overseas and, try as I might, I couldn’t justify going on once a day, let alone drying off, while he was away! I had to rise to the challenge and keep everything ticking along; but there was no way he was coming back from extended leave to dry off straight away. Karma occurred as he had to milk for 10 more days in frosty conditions upon his return……
Our dry cow treatment policy is to use penicillin and a teat sealant on any cows that have had a SCC over 150 throughout the year, and just a teat sealant on the rest. The ones with just teat sealant make me nervous. Even though we wiped each teat meticulously and took all due care, did we introduce bugs up the teat? It seems that if we use penicillin as well as teat sealant there is more tolerance for error. I always wonder if it is worth the risk of getting sick cows by not using penicillin on the cows that don’t need it, or should we just use a combo to be safe and defy best practice? Is best practice minimising penicillin use or is it using penicillin as insurance against sickness? I think that weather conditions play a huge part. We had fine frosty weather over our drying off time, so the cows were relatively clean to start with, plus we didn’t have to stand cows off to avoid pasture damage during and after the drying off process. And last, but not least, I put my glasses on while we were doing the job, which meant I could see a bit more clearly!
Going forward, the focus now is on maintaining covers and cow condition, plus getting all those pre-calving chores done, such as organising machine checks, going on holiday, getting calf sheds ready, going on holiday, winter farm maintenance, going on holiday…… Unfortunately, Sam has had his holiday already so I guess it’s up to me to fulfil that part and he can do the rest. Sounds like a good plan to me!
I look forward to calving and seeing the results of our mating programme coming to fruition. Sexed semen heifer calves, more beef calves, Wagyu calves and AI calves from the heifers. Our record keeping and calf identification will need to be top notch. Roll on spring, let’s hope it’s a good one. I know Sam can’t wait to get started as well, although I suspect the main reason is not because he loves getting up early, but because that’s when he’ll start getting paid again!
Enjoy the season, have some time away, get to the fieldays, watch a bit of rugby when you can! I know I will be doing all of the above as time allows! See you!