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!

Heating up – John van der Goes

At the moment I’m sitting in a motel in Queenstown on holiday. We have been to the Catlins for a memorial dedication to my sister and then visited friends who farm in Southland. The days were hot and sunny, although their grass doesn’t seem to have gone as stalky as ours. Everybody was saying how unusual it was much the same as at home. They seem to have had a dream spring down here with a lot of dry weather.

JVG holiday Dec17.jpg

So, what’s been happening at home? The wet weather finally went away, but not before having an impact on production. The cows, like last season, didn’t peak very well. But overall production is up a little. We have just finished AB, and the bulls are out, so now we are able to return to smooth milkings and get into routines. AB has gone not too badly, but the submission rate is down on normal. It looks like our conception rates are ok, with normal numbers returning and cows still coming on heat. Once again the cost of putting on the heat patches was well worth it.

JVG cow sunhat.jpg

All the fodder beet has been planted and is up and growing well. The later plantings seem to have got away really well this year. The first cut of silage has been made from the runoff and fert put on, ready for a second cut hopefully. We only managed to get ten bales from the home farm as there has been very little surplus. The ground has dried out and now we are looking for rain. Typical – farmers are never happy. Now the grass has gone all stalky and the quality is not too good. I have been putting extra nitrogen on as I think the wet weather has taken most of what was in the soil away. The lack of nitrogen is also making the grass go stalky.

JVG baleage Nov17.jpg

I got the digger in to do some drainage work on a fodder beet paddock, then a digger to play in myself for a couple of days. I cleaned out drains that have been put off for the last few years. I also had them in to repair the track up the back of the runoff, which was getting to the stage where the tractor could hardly get up it. I feel sorry for the contractor, trying to please everybody doing deferred maintenance.

JVG digger.jpg

It seems to have been a really busy time, rushing to get everything done. I don’t know if it’s me slowing down, or just lots to do. I only manage to get the basics done, if that, most of the time. Meaning that any other jobs needing doing get missed out, which is a bit disappointing and frustrating.

JVG bathroom.jpg

One of those jobs is renovating the bathroom. We decided to start during the winter to get it done before calving. As normally happens we only got part way through before calving started so now need to get back into it. May even have it done before the New Year. Not holding my breath.

I went to Clevedon to fly the flag for SMASH at their A&P show. Interesting that a lot of people thought we milked small cows.

JVG Clevedon A&P2.jpg

We managed to get a break away before mating, which was nice, and now this one, so hopefully we will survive the summer. We have quite a few trips away planned for later in the season so need to be on top of essential jobs before we go.

Hope all is well with everybody…

Autumn catch up – John van der Goes

Once again I’m slow writing this blog. I must be getting old as time just seems to fly by.

Nothing much seems to have happened since my last blog but I guess a lot of the day is taken up doing routine stuff.

We have been fortunate to have had reasonable rain fall so pasture covers and growth have been good. This, plus the fodder beet we have left, means we are able to carry on milking. We have just dried off the lightest cows to give them time to reach their target condition score by calving – as the season has been a lot better than the predictions there were only forty that needed drying off. I am still milking most of my empties as well to help with eating all the fodder beet.

In the last month I have been able to get some fencing done at the runoff. This has been on the list for at least five years. All the fences were post and batten with no barb wire and no electric wires either. This meant that all the battens ended up together and the heifers every year would learn to push through.

JVG old fence combined

This usually ended up with broken posts and lots of bad language. We have now removed the battens on most of the fences and put electric wires in their place. Only two more fence lines left to fix and then they are all done.

JVG fence heifers combined

The next job on the list is to resurface the races. I was meant to start during the summer but my grader blade needed a ram repaired, this took ages and it only came back a couple of weeks ago. I was busy with the fencing and wanted to finish the job before starting a new one (a very rare occurrence). Hopefully the weather will continue to play ball and allow me to get this job done.

JVG race combined

Hope all is well with you guys out there as well.