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.

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!!

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!

Honeymooning – Noldy Rust

NR Hayley milking.JPGThe sun is shining, daylight saving is here, Winston is keeping us guessing, and Sam is now happily married to Alice! Plus, I had a birthday, Bev had a birthday, growth rates are well over 60-70 kg/ha/day, Mr Pig is almost ready to go, and our Fonterra loan is partly repaid!

Welcome to my mid-October blog, which I am writing on this sunny Saturday afternoon, even though I should be milking the cows. As luck would have it, middle daughter Hayley enjoys milking and offered to complete the task for me so that I could put a few words to paper. Good on her I say, one out of three ain’t bad, as Meatloaf would say.

As I mentioned earlier, Sam and Alice got married a week or so ago, and are still away on honeymoon. Young fellows these days, I dunno, if it’s not bad enough getting married when it’s mating time on the farm, they have weddings on Fridays these days too! I thought Saturdays were for weddings…oh well what’s another work day off?? Then they asked for the weekend off AND a week for a honeymoon as well! Lucky for me that middle daughter can step in when needed, and lucky for Sam that I agreed to all this time off! Can’t wait till he’s back, imagine the amount of work we’ll be getting done after he’s had such a break…

The continuous rain we have been experiencing over the past six months or so seems to be easing somewhat. Thank goodness for that! However, the ground is so waterlogged that any rain we get turns everything boggy again in no time. The saving grace has been the warm air and soil temperatures which have kept growth rates reasonable. Utilisation has been the issue for all of us, with treading damage likely to cause an ongoing effect this season with more weedy pastures and less grass available. However, the forecast looks promising going forward and some fine days will soon put the horrors of the relentless wet behind us.

NR pasture underutilised.JPG

Our cows are cycling well, not that Sam knows mind you, as he is on honeymoon as mentioned previously…. we are hitting above our target numbers for AI daily, and I’m led to believe from talking to other farmers that this seems to be case this year?? In our case, we have fed more maize and PKE than usual to date, trying to minimise pasture damage and keep intakes up to where they need to be. This has helped keep cow condition good and I’m sure it will have a positive effect on in-calf rates. We metrichecked the whole herd as per usual and found 8% that needed treating. How does this compare to others?? The teaser bull is working flat out but needs a break every few days owing to the high workload!! I am really looking forward to the time when we PD the heifers to find out the in-calf rates to our CIDR programme.

I called the helicopter in the other day to put some spring fert on. I did think we could do it with the groundspread guys once it dried out a bit more, but when I got stuck in a gateway the other day on the quad, I thought to myself that I may be dreaming! Plus, I would have had to go around and open the gates, as Sam is away on honeymoon….did I already mention that?? So, I called big Al and it was done in no time! I need to catch up with him though to see how many paddocks he got done, as I have realised now that you can’t tell by the wheel marks……

NR helicopter

The maize paddocks have been sprayed out, we are planning to plant with no-tillage again this year. Eighty percent of the calves are weaned and gone, up the road at Phil’s place where they are living in paradise, eating lush grass, and getting copious amounts of meal as they go through the transition to all grass feeding. Oh, I almost forgot, I need to mention my Shogun paddocks. I think I said back in July that we had open, weedy pastures, so we did quite a bit of undersowing with Shogun. The results have been great, we are very impressed and looking forward to seeing how long it sticks around. I was on another farm the other day and the guy showed me his four year old paddock of Shogun. It looked very impressive I must say.

That’s pretty much it for now, I better go and check that there’s a cold beer in the fridge for my competent and able relief milking middle daughter. Did I mention that she’s milking because Sam is away on honeymoon….??

I’ll catch you all next month, where I’ll share some of Sam’s stories from his honeymoon, if he’s back that is!!

A reason to smile – Brian Frost

Frost wedding Jul17Frost wedding2 Jul17Ella and Mitch got hitched! The last few months have been leading up to our eldest son, Mitchel, getting married to his beautiful wife. We had a wonderful day celebrating with friends and family, heaps of talking and laughter – great speeches and amazing food, and to top it off the rain held off for most of the day! This day was a fabulous reminder of the wonderful blessings in our life. Mr. and Mrs. Frostie scrubbed up ok as well – some wanted to take a photo of Frostie just to prove he could get dressed up and wear something other than shorts and jandals!

On the farm

Unfortunately, the water lying around our area shows how vulnerable we will be to the wet weather over the next few months with the water table still very high. Managing the wet conditions is going to play a major role in the success of this season.

Currently we have 227 milkers on farm on a 100 – 110 day round. 194 milkers are grazing 0.6 ha pasture, 7 – 8 kg/cow meal, ½ – 1 kg/cow molasses, 6.5 kg DM/cow of maize silage and 0.7 kg DM/cow of grass silage per day. 33 springing heifers are grazing 0.06 ha pasture, ¼ bale of silage and some maize per day. The production to date is 9,130 kg MS, compared with 5,498 kg MS at the same time last year, with current production 2.7 – 2.8 kg MS/ha/day and 1.1 – 1.2 kg MS/cow/day. The BCS is 5+.

The average pasture cover is 2,162 kg DM/ha. The pasture cover targets for the next 8 weeks are 2,000 – 2,100 kg DM/ha in late July and 1,900 – 2,000 kg DM/ha in late August.

Fertiliser

5.2 tonne of PhaSedN was applied in May at 120 – 130 kg/ha. 0.9 t on 26th May, 0.9 t on 3rd June and 2.3 t on 30th June. Now that the last round of PhaSedN has finished, we will keep following behind the cows with SustaiN at 85 – 90 kg/ha through July and August.

Mating

Winter mating started on 25th May and finished on 6th July. 53 cows have been mated once and there were 20 returns (including 5 short returns).

The early calving for the heifers worked well and will continue again next year – so spring mating will start around 25th August.

Season review

Below is our season review table. We have compared the last three seasons along with the 2011 / 2012 season, which is often regarded as the Waikato’s best growing season over the last 10 years or so.

Season review 2011/12 2014/2015 2015/2016 2016/2017
Total MS (kg) 162,300 168,606 169,813 167,426
MS/cow (kg) 519 505 492 488
MS/ha (kg) 2,193 2,278 2,295 2,263
Pasture eaten/ha 15.1 13 12.8 13.8
Feed conversion efficiency 11.4 11.5 11.6 11.6
6 week in-calf rate (%) 81 67 73 63
MS to 31st Dec (kg) 88,820 93,457 98,539 98,926

These results show a rarity for this season – a nice lift in pasture and crop eaten – which considering the flooding and difficulty over the last 4 months is an excellent result. This also probably reflects what we suspected, that the previous two years were very disappointing, with the pasture persistence and growth that was discovered in time to make things right before last season.