Monday, 16 November 2020


Week ending 16-11-20 farm notes:

Data 16-11-20

Wedge 17-11-20

 

FARM PERFORMANCE

With 60 t DM silage harvested off 25 ha this weekend we have dropped average pasture cover (APC) down to 2010 kg DM/ha.  As these silage paddocks were not too long they haven’t suffered a huge growth check and average pasture growth was 75 kg DM/ha for the week.

Using the pasture prediction model in Pasture Coach we can apply a pasture growth rate (PGR) of 70 across all paddocks which shows that we have a block of feed in 10 to 14 days’ time that may be under pre-graze target. We are on a 23-day rotation with all silage paddocks back in the grazing round so we will be ensuring cows clean up the longer paddocks available now to buy some time for the silage paddocks to return to the rotation and fill the gap.  This situation will be assessed again next week.

Chicory crops continue to grow well; we are two weeks away from starting the calves up on the chicory block.

Turnips received their 1 L/ha of Sequence for grass weeds, along with Kaiso and Sparta for cutworm, springtail and leaf-miner.

 

ANIMAL WELLBEING

On Sunday we carried out herd testing and BCS to gather information in preparation for milking frequency changes and potential culling lists. The herd average BCS was 4.5. Heifers were at 4.7, which is down 0.2 since the pre-mating scoring.   The MA cows dropped 0.4 since the start of mating.  It is likely that if we continue offering 18-19 kg DM in good grazing conditions, these girls doing 1.75 kg MS/cow/day will be starting to put on weight.

At the moment we have 12 cows on OAD, and the condition scoring identified six more that we will put on OAD, due to their BCS being between 3.5 and 4.

With only 4 weeks of mating to go, the weekly tail paint touch-up is still important.

We met with our vet, Bill from Cambridge Vet Services, to put together our animal health plan for calves.  As this is the first time growing them on farm over summer, we want to get it right. We have planned their Lepto booster and 5 in 1 vaccination as soon as possible, and a drench with Arrest C (combination drench) shortly after weaning before going on to the chicory.  Once on the chicory, we don’t plan to drench again unless they graze back on the milking platform or we see any health indications. They will receive a pour-on for lice at the end of the season and a BVD vaccination in May 2021. We also discussed zinc boluses for the calves in mid-February and again 1st April to protect against facial eczema.  Using Faceguard over 12 weeks would cost approximately $12/calf.  We will monitor the diet and spore exposure to determine the risk closer to the time.

We also discussed the milking herd; as a result, we have removed copper from the dosatron and decreased MgCl to one bag/day - about 7 g Mg/cow/day.

 

BUSINESS HEALTH

We are getting some early indications on performance last season with a good payout and challenging dry summer.  We aim to be in the top 20% of operating profit.  These benchmarks will be available closer to the end of the year.  But we can already see that we performed above average (Operating Profit $2,405 vs $1,940 for the Waikato Owner/Operator benchmark).  We had above-average production and revenue, but average expenses.  We know that significant investment in races and change in semen use will bring us returns this season, however it is a timely reminder of how important cost management is relative to your system.  Now is a good time to share your DairyBase results with your business partners and rural lenders and utilise their expertise when revising budgets for the second half of the season.

 

HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT

Nothing to report

 

QUALITY WORKPLACE

Planning is under way for the summer.  Last year we used a 3-in-2-days milking frequency that fitted our crop feeding system and allowed a reduction in work hours, along with fewer milkings in the heat of the day.  This year we are considering a 10-in-7 change after mating.  We have been following Paul Edwards’ Flexible Milking project (DairyNZ) and information from Brent Boyce to discuss the options with our Farm Management Committee in early December.

We are also working through the options to get one of our team members home again this Autumn as they were unable to travel overseas to be with family during the lockdown.  This is quite a complicated undertaking, so we are seeking professional support to link flights, MIQ and cover for the farm. There are some risks that they may not be able to return to New Zealand as planned.

 

COMMUNITY

Nothing to report

 

PLANNING FOR THE MONTH AHEAD:

  • Preparing data for the 25th November Farm Focus Day.

 

Cheers Jo + Tom

Monday, 9 November 2020


Week ending 9-11-20 farm notes:

Data 9-11-20

Wedge 10-11-20

FARM PERFORMANCE

With 52mm of rain this week we have received our highest weekly rainfall since the first week of May!!

APC increased to 2495 kgDM/ha with a PGR of 87 kgDM/ha/day.  Today we have a total of 25ha shut up for silage and baleage due to be cut this weekend and next week. This is 19% of our grazeable platform.

With these paddocks out of the rotation we increase our stocking rate to 3.7 cows/ha creating a daily demand of 70kgDM/ha/day which we should grow easily for the next 2 weeks.  We drop down to a 19 day rotation but require 3000kgDM/ha pre-graze cover for cows offered 19kgDM pasture only.

Pasture samples taken on 3rd Nov showed: 

ME between 12.2-12.6 MJME

DM between 13.1-17.2%DM

Protein between 22-26%DM (our cows require 18% min)

NDF between 39-43%DM (our cows require 35% min)

Digestibility DOMD 76-78%

Mg between 0.18-0.23% (our cows require 0.22 - 0.28%)

The biggest challenge has been hitting target residuals for the last 10 days. Tom has been mowing intermittently on paddocks that are above pre-graze target, weedy or had a less than ideal residual last grazing. With silage paddocks removed from the wedge we should be back on target to achieve residuals.

 

ANIMAL HEALTH & WELFARE

Calves were weighed on the 5th with an average weight of 104kg.  These girls averaged 0.9kg/hd/day. There are still 17 calves under their weight target and we have 32 calves still on milk that will be weaned after our 2 primary school visits later on this month.

We stopped dusting MgO in the past week but cows are still receiving MgCl through the dosatron.

So far this season we have treat 25 lame cows vs 116 last season.

 

BUSINESS HEALTH

Analysing monthly cashflow shows that expenses are $20k ahead as at the end of Sept.  This is due to extra costs for bought-in feed (grass silage now vs PK in summer) and establishment of calf crops (vs grazing costs from Dec).

Cows have produced 202 kgMS/cow YTD and 569 kgMS/ha YTD.  We have updated our Farmax feed budget and now have enough feed purchased and on contract to achieve 175,000 kgMS and carry feed into spring next season (75 tDM).  The challenge will be managing any surplus in early Dec if the rain continues. We have budget for up to 6ha of hay but after that we will consider deferred grazing for any more surplus feed.  Below is our budgeted feed costs vs actual to date.  Silage made on farm cost 15c/kgDM. Purchased silage cost 38c/kgDM.

 

Budget

Made on farm

190 tDM

$36,000

Purchased

240 tDM

$110,000

 

430 tDM

$146,000

2020/21 Made on farm

Silage made (Sept and Oct)

54.8 tDM

$8,220

Baleage made on farm (Oct)

3.5 tDM

$770

Silage made on farm (due Nov)

62.5 tDM

$9,375

 

120.8 tDM

$18,365

2020/21 Purchased

Spring PK

54 tDM

$16,400

Molasses (Jul and Aug)

7.5 tDM

$4,900

Silage purchased (Sept and Oct)

132.2 tDM

$42,412

PKE on contract (summer)

100 tDM

$30,600

 

293.7 tDM

$94,312

Total purchased and planned for the season

414.5 tDM

$112,677

 

HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT

Nothing to report

 

QUALITY WORKPLACE

We are averaging 50hrs/wk/FTE for the YTD with 14hrs/wk currently of relief milking support.  This time last year with 3 full timers we peaked at 50 hrs/wk/person and started to decline from now on. Turning this trend around now is our challenge with another 5 weeks of mating to go. We have recruited a permanent part-timer starting next week to cover weekends and annual leave during the summer.  In the meantime we are focused on a longer lunch break during milkings for the next 6 weeks before we start feeding crops for calves and milking cows.

 

COMMUNITY

Last week we had 25 eager students helping us release trees on the riparian zone by the river.  This is hot hard work but made easy with a group working together.  We set up tape fences to clearly mark the area to clear and had bamboo sticks marking out the plants.  Students had gloves provided to protect from thistles and blackberry growing down there.  Their goal was to squash a 600mm radius around each of the bamboo sticks. Building plant maintenance into your FEP or planting plan ensures you allocate some time for it during a busy time of the year. These students are keen to return and finish the job for us!!

 

PLANNING FOR THE MONTH AHEAD:

  • Preparing data for the 25th November Farm Focus Day.

 

Cheers Jo + Tom

Monday, 2 November 2020


Week ending 2-11-20 farm notes:

Data 2-11-20

Wedge 3-11-20

 

 

FARM PERFORMANCE

We are well and truly on the post peak decline after a stunning period of milk production.  Pasture quality has got away from us, with pastures going to seed and challenges in achieving target residuals.  APC was maintained at 2336 kg DM/ha with an average growth rate of 77 kg DM/ha/day for the week. Our focus now is on maintaining enough quality feed ahead as we navigate this unknown summer.  Our 19ha of silage (red on the wedge) is unlikely to get into the pit for another three weeks, because of the backlog facing contractors, so we have decided to make baleage in 6ha over the weekend, if possible, to get those paddocks back into the rotation quicker. Tom has started pre-mowing this week as we send cows through a few paddocks (around 3000 kg DM/ha) that are above ideal pre-graze cover.

On Monday we sprayed 9ha with Dockstar and Sprinter.  These are paddocks that missed out on an autumn spray and some that are due to go into brassicas next season.  This will control dock, shepherd’s purse, wild turnip and hedge mustard.

The kale crops were also sprayed with Sequence for summer grasses, along with Kaiso and Sparta for cutworm, springtail and leaf-miner.  Turnips will get sprayed in two weeks’ time.

All crops have received another 5kg of Slugout around the outside of the crop. Plant populations should be 30 plants or more per/m2.  The kale crop is well over this and the turnips are around 15-20 plants/m2 with more seed still to germinate.

The chicory has also been sprayed with Valdo and Sequence.

 

ANIMAL HEALTH & WELFARE

We still have 50 calves that are on 3.5L/day.  They are due to be weighed on Thursday to determine the next mob to be weaned. Lameness continues to track at very low levels with 23 cows drafted out and checked so far this year (vs 111 last season).

Cows are actively seeking shade as both temperature and humidity increased over the last month. We have extra troughs in the races, and try to provide shade for the hotter days.  Ensuring cows have access to enough clean water is critical. We have yard sprinklers but haven’t started using them yet.

Cows normally breath around 30 times a minute.  In a cow that is heat-stressed this will rise to 40 breaths/minute.  This is an easy method to determine (along with grazing behaviour) if your cows would benefit from cooling strategies.

 

BUSINESS HEALTH

Nothing to report

 

HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT

We received our new Farm Environment Plan, thanks to the team at Fonterra.  It’s great to have all our planning in one document, including a component for GHG. The clearly-defined action list goes on the wall to contribute to our work plan for the farm. An outstanding action for us was to develop a formal effluent management plan.

 

QUALITY WORKPLACE

DairyNZ has some quality content in their New Workplace Design video series. One of my favourites is from Joan Baker on key trends in business and management: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oroot17vyGE

For the last 10 months the team at Owl Farm has been looking at technology options that can provide the following:

  1. Proof of practice (compliance)
  2. Make better/more attractive workplaces
  3. Integration with other data

And specifically for us as a Demonstration Farm, we need to use the technology to capture data for better decision-making. At the beginning of the season we installed ProTrack auto-drafting which enabled milking to become a one-person job.  We are now exploring options for individual cow management technology. We use the wagon wheel KPIs to explore the merits of current and potential technology and how they enable us to move closer to our goals in all areas.

 

COMMUNITY

Waikato University has a tower that measures carbon dioxide from soil currently at Owl Farm.  Its purpose is to look specifically at the impact of a summer crop cycle.  Last week a group of scientists from Waikato University specialising in soil, GHG, computers, biology etc, presented to 80 Year 9 science students about the technology and the importance of science in understanding the climate change challenge. It was a great example of the many fields of science required in primary production research for NZ farm systems.

 

PLANNING FOR THE MONTH AHEAD:

  • Preparing data for the 25th November Farm Focus Day.

 

Cheers Jo + Tom

Monday, 19 October 2020


Week ending 19-10-20 farm notes:

Data

Wedge

FARM PERFORMANCE

Today’s farm walk showed pasture growth of 80 kg DM/ha for the week.  With APC at 2033 kg DM/ha and 14.5 ha of silage harvested over the weekend, we have worked our way through a tight period of getting crops in the ground and making silage in between the welcome rain.  We used PK over the last week at 3 kg DM/cow/day to maintain intakes.  The variability in growth rates has been a challenge, but Tom has maintained a focus on residuals and ensuring cows achieve consistent allocation around 19 kg DM/day.  FEI has remained an A grade and cows continue to produce 2.14 kg MS/cow/day.

This weekend we ensiled 46 t DM of silage from home and purchased another 50t DM from the Fonterra farms.

The purchased silage costs around 35c/kg DM in the stack, and the silage made on farm around 12-15c/kg DM.  Our updated Farmax feed budget (using average summer growth rates) shows that, with another 15 ha of silage made on farm in November and 3.5 ha of hay, we should finish the season with 65 bales of hay (great for good conditioned springer cows) and 60 t DM of grass silage for early season milk production.  This is equivalent to approximately 2 t/ha of imported feed vs 3 t/ha actual last season.

 Farmax Feed Budget

On-going crop monitoring is a priority.  Tom says, “If you don’t have a good start you don’t have a good end.” Strategically-placed logs (or sacks) in the paddock allow you to check slug numbers. We found seven this morning. Our kale paddocks had 10 kg/ha of slug bait applied at sowing but will receive another 1.5 kg/ha on Friday of Metarex which, although at $25/kg is more expensive, gives a better option in wet conditions now – which is when it is needed.

ANIMAL HEALTH & WELFARE

We are close to running out of MgO on farm and have decided that, with the cows still producing over 2.1 kg MS/day and the pasture still high quality and in a good growing state, we will continue to supplement with MgCl and MgO.  It costs around 12c/cow/day in product. Although dusting creates an extra job, we will wait until milk production drops below 1.8 kg MS/cow and/or pastures go to seed before relying on MgCl alone for magnesium supplementation.

Today (after 26 days of mating) 95% of cows have been submitted.  Our three-week Submission Rate in MINDA is currently 88% vs 91% last season.  This year we used less intervention (9% Cidrs vs 15%), brought the PSM forward by one week, and used less SGL semen due to the Wagyu mating programme.  At this stage we will continue as planned, using Kmars and tail paint for heat detection.

Calves were weighed by an enthusiastic group of Year 11 students under the watchful eye of LaArni yesterday.  Average weight was 89 kg, with a liveweight gain of 0.8 kg/calf/day over the last three weeks. There are 44 calves over 90 kg that have been placed in a mob to drop down to 1L milk/day, using the calfeteria to continue shifting them through paddocks before weaning. There are still 22 calves that are underweight, and we want to ensure that calves are at least 80 kg, eating 1 kg meal and over 2 kg pasture per day before weaning.

 

BUSINESS HEALTH

We are taking time now to check through coding for the season to date for income and expenses relating to early season production.  By the end of this month, apart from mating, a lot of the big costs have been invoiced so we can get a better idea on how we are tracking against budget.  The revised forecast payout of $6.80/kg MS has given us the confidence to look again at some budget expenses that were on the “nice to do” list, including a dedicated shade/shelter planting plan and continued work on our race improvements.

 

HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT

Nothing to report.

 

QUALITY WORKPLACE

Now that we are through calving and nearly four weeks of mating, we are acutely aware of how tiring the early season can be.  Our average hours per FTE is now 49/person/week with a goal to get this to 45/person/week by the end of the season.  We have had an average of 23hrs/week additional support for Tom and LaArni, but Tom has struggled to get his hours down without a dedicated permanent part-time third team member on board. We are still working on this.

 

COMMUNITY

We have had a successful start to our practical student farm work experience.  Our first student for Term 3 and Term 4 with one day a week on farm is ready for his assessment for up to 17 NCEA credits, after learning how to set up and assist milking, draft cows, collect cows, put up fences, ride a tractor and motorbike, wash and carry out maintenance on a bike and weigh calves. Feedback from the school is that this notable contribution and achievement has been attributed to his increased confidence in other areas of school life.  Interviews are underway for another student for work placement next year. 

 

PLANNING FOR THE MONTH AHEAD:

  • Securing part-time team member for the summer ahead
  • Bug hunts on crops
  • Weaning calves on liveweights

 

Cheers Jo + Tom

Monday, 12 October 2020


Week ending 12-10-20 farm notes:

Data 12-10-20

Wedge 13-10-20

 

FARM PERFORMANCE:

With a pasture growth rate of 51 kg DM/ha/day and a drop in cover to 2031 kg DM/ha the cows have been eating more than we grew last week. Fingers crossed this 18mm of rain will result in catch-up growth over the next week.  On Wednesday we cut 17ha of silage and will get the remaining 6.6ha of Clean Crop turnips planted before the weekend.

With 8% of the farm now out of rotation for summer cropping, despite receiving rain we are nervous about the lack of significant rainfall and volatility in growth rates.  The farm has received only 574mm of rain for the 2020 year to date. We will hold the round at 24 days on the remaining grazing platform to give pastures time to recover and maximise growth rates.  The grazing area reduces from 6ha to 5.5ha/day. We will be using some PK to assist in holding this round as pre-graze covers are a little shorter than required on the reduced area. We require 2950 kg DM/ha and our top paddocks are currently sitting around 2700 kg DM/ha. We will endeavour to maintain post-graze residuals and remove PK if they start to rise above 1600.

The cows are milking well and are on their 9th week averaging over 2.1 kg MS.  They are just starting to drop milk production from their 3-week peak of 2.2 kg MS/cow/day. We are aiming to continue to offer 19 kg DM/cow/day of high quality pasture plus PK if needed.

The chicory enjoyed the rain with some good growth expected this week. There still isn’t a lot of weed pressure so we will hold off on any spray yet.

We will make a start on spreading our spring fertiliser SurePhos MOP.  SustaiN will also be applied at the end of this week.  We have pulled our November nitrogen application forward to gain the greatest response possible and push growth into what has been predicted to be a long dry spell into December.  One benefit of SurePhos is the ability to mix other products with it safely.  We have also applied Smart Fert to our summer crops; this will offer a slow release of nitrogen during the growing period of the crops each time it rains. We will apply onto the chicory pre-Christmas if we see a chance after its first grazing.

 

ANIMAL HEALTH & WELFARE

Mating is going well with 89% submitted for an insemination after 18 days. Twelve more CIDRs have been used, which gets us up to 9% of cows this season compared with 15% last season; these will be inseminated on day 20 of mating. We will be switching to all Wagyu/Angus mating on day 24.

Two culls left the farm this week.

Calves are due to be weighed again the end of this week with the hope the big mob will be ready to wean.  They are still two days per paddock around the farm.

We are very pleased with the latest weight results from our R2 heifers at the grazier. They weighed an average of 321 kg/head on the 10th October, with 96% at or above ideal liveweight. You’ll remember our grazier approached us at the end of August and we agreed to go 50/50 on some bought-in feed to get the girls up to liveweight for mating. We invested $2000 in giving these young girls the best possible chance to get in calf. Can’t wait to find out the results of the synchrony programme.

 

BUSINESS HEALTH

Nothing to report.

 

HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT

Nothing to report.

 

QUALITY WORKPLACE

This week is Ag Mental Health Week so I asked Tom what he does when he has a downer day – he says that he likes to build things.  So there is always space in the shed (and time in some days) for Tom to build. And there is always something that is needing to be built on the farm.  This time he is making some portable troughs for the calves to eat PK while they’re on the chicory. If tinkering is not your thing, try some of these tips from Farm Strong:

  • Be active – anything that gets you moving is good.
  • Give – small acts of kindness and generosity throughout the day.
  • Keep learning – being curious and learning new things throughout the day.
  • Connect – being around positive people and sharing experiences.
  • Take notice – taking a few moments throughout the day to be grateful for what you have and savour enjoyable moments.

 

COMMUNITY

Our seedlings from Trees for Survival arrived in the holidays.  The students at St Peter’s are involved in this education programme which involves young people growing and planting native trees to restore natural habitats. The students pot up the seedlings (flax, cabbage tree, carex and karamu), grow them on and work with us to find a suitable habitat for them to plant at Owl Farm. The programme works best when the students are sponsored to cover the cost of the seedlings and potting mix.  It’s around $800 and you can find out if a local school near you is looking for planting projects, on the Trees for Survival website.

 

PLANNING FOR THE MONTH AHEAD:

  • Securing part-time team member for the summer ahead
  • Bug hunts on crops
  • Weaning calves on liveweights

Monday, 5 October 2020


Week ending 5-10-20 farm notes:

Data 5-10-20

Wedge 6-10-20

FARM PERFORMANCE

With a growth rate of 60kgDM/ha/day and a drop in cover to 2248kgDM/ha we are riding the growth that appears to come in waves depending on rainfall at the moment.  Soil moisture levels are tracking along the same lines as the 17-18 season which was the last La Nina event but have started the season drier. While we still have 14.5ha shut for silage and have planted 4.9ha in Kale (sown 5th Oct) the wedge doesn’t show much promise of another round of silage coming through in the next 3-4 weeks. We usually make up to 55ha of silage.

Reducing soil disturbance is critical with moisture levels so low.  We direct drill all crops on farm.  Today we carried out germination crop examinations on our Chicory with Kyle from PGG Wrightson Seeds.  Establishment has been great. Today the paddocks destined for turnips will be sprayed with glysophoshate, then ensiled due to be planted on the 12th October.

We will then drop 8% of our grazing area and endeavour to stay on a 24 day rotation on the remaining grass platform which is around 5.5ha grazed/day.  We have identified potential culls that will go before Xmas and we have PK in the bunker if needed to fill the gap as growth rates fluctuate through late spring.  Tom has done a great job using PK intermittently to maintain intakes sufficient to produce over 2.1kgMS/cow/day and achieve 1500-1600kgDM/ha residuals.  By ensuring we keep pastures in optimum growing condition and maintaining high utilisation we are ensuring our substitution is minimised and our milksolids response is high. Our wedge allows us to plan whether it is needed or not before residuals lift from a poor grazing effort.

 

ANIMAL HEALTH & WELFARE

Mating is going well with 60% submitted for an insemination after 11 days. 12 more CIDRs have been used which gets us up to 9% of cows this season compared with 15% last season.

Calves were weighed last week averaging 73kg/calf.  This is on target for their projected MINDA liveweight  gain. We have split them in to an 80kg + mob, a 70kg mob and 10 calves around 60kg are being kept by the shed. The 2 mobs are grazing 2 days per paddock, consuming 1kg meal and 3L milk per day.

BUSINESS HEALTH

Nothing to report

HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT

A copy of our open actions from our Farm Environment Plan sits up on our planning board all year round.  We have just undergone a renewed FEP with Paula and Sarah from Fonterra to ensure that we are planning for the best possible outcome for the environment.  While we have invested significantly in enhancing our environment we have an obligation to maintain the effectiveness of these mitigation strategies. Our goal is to tick off these on-going actions every year.

QUALITY WORKPLACE

Balanced and productive work time requires enough flexibility to support an overall work/life balance.  For Tom and Jo that means having time during the school holidays to take our families wakeboarding or on skate park tours and ensuring the smooth running of the farm.  We are planning for extended leave for LaArni in late summer as we expect borders to open and allow for her to get back home to family and friends that she wasn’t able to do during lockdown.

Another Pillar of a quality workplace is creating rewarding careers.  LaArni our 2IC has embarked on her L5 Ag Diploma studies this year with our full support. This is a great chance to learn from others, connect with people outside the farm and offer insights on the way we run the farm. Meanwhile Jo has completed her Sustainable Nutrient Management Course from Massey University.

COMMUNITY

Nothing to report

 

PLANNING FOR THE MONTH AHEAD:

  • Pest monitoring on crops

 

Cheers Jo + Tom

Monday, 28 September 2020


Week ending 28-9-20 farm notes:

Data

Wedge 29-9-20

FARM PERFORMANCE

With a growth rate of 69kgDM/ha/day we have lifted APC to 2300kgDM/ha.  The feed wedge shows paddocks that are destined for crops in blue and silage in red. When we remove these paddocks from the available grazing area our stocking rate lifts to 3.26cows/ha and daily demand (allocating 19kgDM/cow/day) becomes 62kgDM/ha/day.  We are still offering around 6ha/day which puts us on a 21 day rotation with a pre-grazing target of 2800kgDM/ha.  The second wedge illustrates just how close to the line we are running. We are confident that after this rain PGR will continue to increase and we will comfortably ensile this 50t DM surplus. We have 80 paddocks at Owl Farm so feed allocation and monitoring is like plating up an entrée and a main and sometimes even a dessert within a day.  A mid morning paddock check will decide how far off the second move of the day a herd is.  It also allows for observation of cycling cows.  Paddock allocations are based on tidying up a residual if needed first and allocating in 5 or 9 kgDM/cow servings. This system while intensive for the early spring period allows us to generate enough grazing pressure to achieve residuals and allocate 19kgDM/cow/day. Cows continue to produce over 2.2kgMS/cow/day.  This is our third week over 2.2kgMS/cow/day and seventh week over 2.1 kgMS/cow/day. We contribute this to good cow condition and consistent quality pasture allocation.

This year we have the majority of our summer crops on one side of the farm which has meant less area for the second herd.  We have used PK to top up their allocation when needed during the week.

Annual paddocks have been sprayed and are due to be cut for silage after this weather passes.

 

ANIMAL HEALTH & WELFARE

27 CIDRs used this season which is 6.6% of our herd compared with 15% last season.

Last Wednesday the heifers were mated and the bulls will join them on the 30th September.

We have created a Farmax model for the calf grazing block to generate a more detailed feedbudget. We will require 16 tDM PK and 14tDM of pasture silage to go with the 4.7 ha of Chicory to achieve 200kg lwt/hd at 1st May. We estimate this feed regime will cost us approx. $6.7/hd/wk excluding labour.

 

BUSINESS HEALTH

We budget on buying up to 200tDM of PK each season (average price $317/tDM landed).  So far we have purchased 60tDM. This week we made the decision to contract another 100 tDM of PK at a landed price of $306/tDM. This component of feed is to compliment our summer crop feeding from Jan to March at up to 3kgDM/cow/day. The remainder of the diet (8kgDM/cow/day) is made up of pasture or pasture silage depending on the growth.

 

HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT

At last weeks Focus Day James Sukias and Chris Tanner presented the results from the last 3 drainage seasons through the wetland.  Nitrogen enters mainly as nitrate in groundwater seepage and tile drainage, with around double the concentration in the latter. There is a significant relationship between how long water stays in the wetland (hydraulic residence time) and how effective nitrate removal is in the wetland. Best removal occurs when the water is retained in the wetland for a week or more. Overall nitrate load removal over the 3 years monitored is estimated to be around 62% at the Owl Farm wetland. This puts us at the top of performance expectations for a wetland of our size.

QUALITY WORKPLACE

Work is underway modifying our calf weighing facilities to allow weighing up to 200kg.  Workplace design is to keep both people and animals as safe as possible when interacting.  We will be weighing the calves 3 times before Xmas to determine weaning and every 4-6 weeks after that. Ensuring a positive experience for the calves will make them quieter to handle by our team and any students.

A vacancy has come up in our team for a drive-in casual relief milker to support the team for the remainder of the season. If you know anyone who lives around the Cambridge district who could commit to morning and afternoon milkings throughout the summer we are keen to meet them.

Any time we have our vet at the farm is a learning opportunity.  Today we had some troublesome foot issues that Bill was able to trim and treat.  This was a great opportunity for LaArni to learn what symptoms and treatment was required.  Taking the time to expose team members to new skills for continued growth is part of our commitment to growing a talent workforce.

 

COMMUNITY

It was a pleasure to host our farming community at our latest Focus Day on Wednesday. This is a chance for attendees to gain knowledge from industry experts. It’s also a time for us to hear from leading farmers about what they are working on and achieving and gather feedback on the areas that we need to improve on.  If you couldn’t make it along to the day you can find the handout on the website and soon the video will be available on our YouTube channel.

 

PLANNING FOR THE MONTH AHEAD:

  • Plant crops
  • Cut quality silage
  • Weigh calves

 

Cheers Jo + Tom

Monday, 14 September 2020


Week ending 14-9-20 farm notes:

Data 14-9-20

Wedge 15-9-20

Kai ora koutou

FARM PERFORMANCE

APC dropped to 2063 kg DM/ha with an average PGR of 52 kg DM/ha/day. The attached feed wedge shows the paddocks that are earmarked for silage (in red), the two blue paddocks are winter annuals that are due to be planted in kale in early October. With this 22ha removed from the grazing area our stocking rate increases to 3.36 cows/ha and we require a PGR of 64 kg DM/ha/day to meet demand. Cows are still doing a good job leaving residuals between 1500-1600 kg DM/ha so we will continue to work our way through the top of the wedge for the next 3-4 days to check that a true surplus is appearing and see how well the paddocks between 1900-2100 kg DM/ha continue to grow. Most of the paddocks in the middle of the wedge have received at least 30 kg N/ha this spring.

 

ANIMAL HEALTH & WELFARE

The cows have been producing over 2.1 kg MS/cow/day for over five weeks now; on a high pasture diet this indicates that they have gained over 20 kg of body weight or 2/3 of 1 BCS since calving.  We will have a whole herd BCS completed at the planned start of mating (PSM) by our regular assessor.

The cows have been colour-coded in preparation for mating:

  • Orange – cows that have already cycled
  • Red – cows that calved in the first 3.5 weeks and haven’t cycled
  • Blue – cows that calved in the next 3 weeks and haven’t cycled
  • Green – cows that are within 6 weeks of calving and not expected to cycle

Non-cycling (red and blue) cow numbers are currently at 61 and with CIDRs not due until another 9 days we expect this to be around 40. The green tail-painted cows will all be metri-checked when the vet is CIDRing.

The last of our 70 Wagyu calves have left the farm and we now have 95 AB heifers on OAD feeding with only four cows still to calf. We will be presenting the data on calf fate and income compared to last season at the Owl Farm focus day.

 

BUSINESS HEALTH

There is 88 t DM of purchased early season silage in the pit to replace some of our summer/autumn PK budget.  This cost 18c/kg DM standing and another 20c/kg DM to transport and ensile. It is always a timely reminder to look at the true cost of making silage, whether grown on farm or bought-in.  It fits well with Owl Farm’s system and infrastructure available, but means that we need to maximise our response and manage the cost of the total feed portfolio.

 

HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT

The effluent pond has been emptied using umbilical effluent laying and our own slurry spreader.  487,000 L was applied over two hours using Tracmap for proof of placement. The remaining slurry was put onto our annual paddocks that will go into kale this season. This approach has spread the effluent over a different portion of the farm (1.6 km pipe from the pond), reduced the wear and tear on races and ensured that we won’t have to empty the pond again until after mating when we will get the irrigation benefits of higher application rates on drier soils.

As we modify and improve our data collection each year, an addition to give more accuracy to our GHG emissions is the recording of diesel (L/ha) used by contractors, and the hectares that have had tractor work. This, along with power use for the year, will enable us to add our own information to CO2 emissions in Overseer for the season.

 

COMMUNNITY

Unfortunately, with Covid-19 levels impacting school visits outside the classroom, fewer children have visited farms this spring, across the industry.  Fortunately, at Owl Farm we have had over 19 St Peter’s classes visit the farm, and the student interest in primary production is growing.  The children have a growing appreciation of how the stock are cared for and ask lots of great questions to keep us on our toes.

 

QUALITY WORKPLACE

With calving almost over and a settled team of 2.5 we have been fitting into our 12 on:2 off roster that we will use for the remainder of the season.  Calves are now on OAD and, with Pro-track installed for easy drafting during mating, we are focusing on workplace flexibility to reduce the number of tasks that are time dependent, and support getting off farm to be with our families and communities.  This gives Tom time to pick kids up from the school bus, or watch hockey; and LaArni the option to get jobs done earlier in the day and finish earlier in the evenings.  Find out what flexibility your team members need and how your system can support this.

 

PLANNING FOR THE MONTH AHEAD:

  • Spray out crop paddocks
  • Get crop fertiliser on farm
  • Arrange AI details for heifer synchrony programme
  • Cut quality silage

 

Ngā mihi nui Jo + Tom

Monday, 7 September 2020


Week ending 7-9-20 farm notes:

Data 7-9-20

Wedge 7-9-20

 

PASTURES AND FEED

Pasture Growth Rate (PGR) for the week was 44 kg DM/ha/day and cover dropped to 2120 kg DM/ha.

Cows grazed 6 ha/day and we removed 5.5ha of silage from the farm which was ensiled with another 80 t DM of bought-in silage. These were paddocks that were for springers and colostrum cows that we couldn’t get through quick enough.

Pasture samples taken last week showed that Tom and the team have done an excellent job of pasture management with an average ME of 12.6, Dry Matter of 15%, Crude Protein at 26% DM (cows require CP >18 % DM for production up to 2.4 kg MS/cow/day), Neutral Detergent Fibre at 39% DM (cows require a minimum of 35% DM).

Daily demand is 54 kg DM/ha/day at peak. With growth rate still variable and pasture cover at a comfortable level we will be earmarking silage paddocks in the middle of the wedge.  These may be paddocks that had a poor grazing event last round, would benefit from removal of K, or are best suited for silage making.  Last season we made 139 t DM of silage on farm and purchased in another 90 t DM.

 

ANIMALS

With only 15 cows left to calve we are at 96% calved after 9 weeks of calving.

Latest herd test results showed that the cows are producing an average of 2.28 kg MS/cow/day, with heifers averaging 1.8 kg MS/cow/day. We now have 12 cows on OAD to manage BCS loss.

Current cow demand is:

Maintenance = 57 MJ ME/cow/day

Milk production 2.2 kg MS x 77 = 170 MJ ME/cow/day

Walking 2 km/day on flat = 4 MJ ME/cow/day

Liveweight change 0.5 kg/day = -18.5 MJ ME/cow/day (assumes BCS loss of 0.5 BCS/month which is energy provided by the cow)

Total energy required 212.5 MJ ME/cow/day

With pasture currently over 12 ME this is equal to 17.7 kg DM eaten. With good grazing conditions we are offering 19 kg DM/cow day to achieve this (approx. 95% utilisation).

The DairyNZ Facts and Figures phone app has a handy calculator to work this all out for you.

We aim to maintain this level of intake for as long as possible. As the milk production drops off from peak, cows will reduce the rate of body weight loss if we can maintain good quality pasture for them to graze. During prolonged wet periods when cows reduce their grazing time, or utilisation of pasture is reduced, we offer more pasture and accept a higher residual 1700 kg DM/ha, or we can offer some PK to fill the gap.

We never use the Protein to Fat ratio alone to indicate whether cows are being under fed. We consider if:

  • P:F ratio drops below 70%, and
  • Milk protein percent drops by more than 0.4%; and
  • Milksolids production drops by more than 10%, and
  • Pasture residuals drop below 1500 kg DM/ha (or weather is reducing utilisation),

Then these together indicate the cows’ energy balance has decreased and they are potentially being underfed in our system.

The Calcimol Molasses has run out now (10 t used in total) but we will still be giving limeflour to the colostrum cows.  We will see how the milkers go without additional Ca before we look to add any more to their diet.  We are still dusting with MgO for the milkers and without supplements being fed we are hoping not to need any more additional Ca for the milkers.

135 cows have cycled in the last two weeks since pre-mating heats have started.  We are 17 days until PSM. We have budgeted for up to 15% of the herd to receive a CIDR. We won’t use sexed semen on these cows. We will have an idea of numbers after next week pre-mating analysis.

A second load of Wagyu calves left the farm last week and 45 heifer replacements have ventured outside onto the mobile calfeteria. They will get used to the fences and pasture with access to shelter in the calf shed before being moved on to their next paddock with a calf shelter.  The second mob of 45 calves will then be ready to go outside.

 

BUSINESS

Nothing to report

 

ENVIRONMENT

Nothing to report

 

INFRASTRUCTURE

Today more work is being done on the races around the yard entrance.  In this high traffic zone we have been video recording animal movement and noticed the pot holes and loose stones that are appearing in these areas.  With cows moving so effortlessly around the farm on the new race surfaces we certainly notice the areas that are uncomfortable for them to walk on. With only 10 lame cows recorded so far this season we are determined to continue the progress made.  We have allocated $17k/year for race maintenance over and above any capital race work.

 

PEOPLE AND COMMUNITY

Tom and I are looking forward to catching up with you all at the next Focus Day on Wednesday 23rd September.  We have developed a new format to fit with Level 2 requirements.  We are offering two sessions: the morning (10.30am to 1pm) focused on information and discussions for farmers, and the afternoon (2pm to 3.30pm) a shortened version more suitable for rural professionals.  This allows us to create more space and spread the numbers.  You will be able to register your interest via the FB events once they are loaded. Registration is not compulsory.

We are looking forward to sharing with you a review of the season to date, analysis of the sexed semen/Wagyu calving, and we have Chris Tanner and James Sukias from NIWA discussing Edge-of-Field Actions to improve environmental outcomes.

 

PLANNING FOR THE MONTH AHEAD:

  • Last mob of Wagyu calves will be due to go next week
  • Analyse pre-mating heats and deciding which cows receive CIDRs
  • Weigh calves
  • Lock in heifer synchrony programme for the heifers

 

Cheers Jo + Tom

Monday, 31 August 2020


Week ending 31-8-20 farm notes:

Data 31-8-20

Wedge 31-8-20

PASTURES AND FEED

Grass has leapt out of the ground this week with an average PGR of 65kgDM/ha/day.  This has lifted our cover to 2242kgDM.

Cows grazed 5.2 ha which was below our target of 6ha/day.  Pasture allocation is guided by residuals.  We are targeting 1500-1600kgDM/ha in dry grazing conditions and 1700kgDM/ha in wet weather.

We are now focused on getting crops paddocks sprayed and grazed off in the next few weeks along with our first cut of silage.  Planning to have Kale in the ground by the 1st October and turnips 10th October. Our target pre-graze this coming week is 2600-2700kgDM/ha over 6.5 ha.  We are due to finish our first round of N and are targeting 15ha of silage made on farm to receive N as well.

Interestingly we have feed a similar amount of PKE (12t DM) and grass silage/hay (13 tDM) as the same time last season with the addition this year of 6t wet weight of Calcimol Molasses. We started N applications later this year with none in July, and have applied 28kgN/ha which is 10kgN/ha less season to date than last year.

The molasses feed in lick troughs in the races has been a change this season.  At $490/t + cartage 67%DM and 11 ME it is an expensive feed at 73c/kgDM.  It has reduced the need to feed bulk PK in the paddocks during wet periods (which creates pasture damage).  It also supports the transition from colostrum mob (where they get 100g Limeflour/cow on PK) to milker mob with an extra 55g Ca/kg molasses.

ANIMALS

We are over 93% calved with the last cow due 18th September.  They have been doing over 2.2kgMS/cow/day for the last 2 weeks helped by the good body condition at calving and quality feed they are on at the moment.

We are taking out of the vat between 150 and 300L milk/day for calves to mix with our stored milk due to the low number of colostrum cows.  There are another 47 Wagyu due to leave this week which will help reduce the milk demand. We are drafting out of the colostrum mob every 3rd day this year to provide enough colostrum and this has help with metabolic transition and also mastitis (with only 16 cows treated with antibiotics to date vs 23 last year).

After talking to a few farmers recently about weaner grazing it seems that there are a few out there that have withdrawn replacement grazing from blocks in the Hawkes Bay.  We are also affected by this and have been looking at our options.

We had budgeted this year 90 calves at $11/hd/wk total cost of $25k for grazing.  Each calf will consume approximately 1tDM from weaning to 31st May (DairyNZ Facts and Figures).  Feed costs work out around 27c/kgDM. In an average year we grow 6.8tDM/ha so the calves would require 13ha of land during this time if feed on pasture alone.  That 90tDM is worth around 7,500kgMS or $48k of income.  Being a summer dry farm the protein in pasture is precious to our system.  We do not want to reduce cow numbers or shorten the lactation to feed calves at home.  We are currently looking to secure alternative grazing just for this year for all or some of the calves.  If we can’t find any within the next 2 weeks we will use Farmax modelling to explore the options of growing a specialist weaner crop like Chicory or Raffno.

Follow the link to see the pros and cons of our decision-making process on the website https://www.owlfarm.nz/news/details/82

 

BUSINESS

Prompted by Year 9 Ag students studying animal health and welfare on dairy farms we found out that our bloat treatment cost approximately $7.80/cow/year.  This is for in-line treatment at 10ml/cow/day for 3 months. This is helpful when building our animal health spend which is budgeted this year at $122/cow (which includes $26/cow in zinc boluses if needed).  Last year we spent $114/cow on animal health.

 ENVIRONMENT

This week we cut up flax bushes to plant along side some water ways and full gaps. We have a dozen ducklings on the pond and are just trying to work out how they will get out as we empty the pond over the coming weeks.  Might have to create a temporary ladder of sorts for them to get out?

INFRASTRUCTURE

Gear maintenance is high on our list of priorities this time of the year.  Time is saved and the team is kept safe by having machinery in good working order.  We clean bikes once a week (usually on a Friday) with a high pressure hose, check oil levels, tighten chains, grease the tractor, check PK trailer tyres and couplings. 

PEOPLE AND COMMUNITY

Thanks to Fonterra for the calving tin and the team at Farmsource for all their hard work over the last few months. It’s so great to pop down quickly to the store and have everything ready with a smile. Saves us time and brightens our day.

Hours worked season to date is 50hr/wk for our FM and 2IC with another 19hr/wk for relief milkers and part-time staff.  This compares with around 49hr/wk this time last season when we had 3 FTE and achieved an average of 45 hours/wk.  Average hours normally peak at the end of December and then start reducing through the remainder of the season. It will be interesting when we analyse the extra hours required with the different mating program we used.

PLANNING FOR THE MONTH AHEAD:

  • Second lot of Wagyu calves go this week
  • Cut silage at home
  • Analyse pre-mating heats
  • Weigh and put calves outside
  • Lock in heifer synchrony program for the heifers
  • Analysis of info for 23rd Sept Focus Day

 

Cheers Jo + Tom

Monday, 24 August 2020


Week ending 24-8-20 farm notes:

Data 24-8-20

Wedge 25-8-20

PASTURES AND FEED

Pasture cover has only dropped slightly down to 2161 kg DM/ha due to PGR of 43 kgDM/ha/day this week. 

Last week the cows grazed 4.6 ha per day and we aim to graze 6 ha/day (total 42 ha) over the coming week. The wet conditions last week made it challenging for the milkers to graze down to 1500 kgDM/ha due to the poor utilisation.  We are offering 18.5 kg DM/cow/day with a pre-graze target of 2700-2800 kgDM offering around 150-160m2/cow/day. We are on target to hit true balance date within 2 weeks when we will grow as much as our peak demand (55kgDM/ha/day). The red on the feed wedge shows the remaining paddocks that are partially grazed which will be made into silage at the same time as we bring in our imported 60-70 tDM silage hopefully within 7-10 days.

We are seeing the annuals jumping out of the ground and we have now applied in August an average of 28 kg N/ha.

 

ANIMALS

Along with MgO dusting and MgCl in the dosatron for all cows, colostrum cows have still got access to Calcium enriched molasses and limeflour dusted PK.

We have started bloat treatment with bloat oil at the lowest rate (4mls/cow twice a day) to charge the water troughs.

Yesterday we drafted out all cows calved from 27th July until 15th August plus 15 cows that were suspect rechecks for the vet to metri-check and treat. We have 4 treated out of 90 cows checked.

Cows have been tail painted in preparation for pre-mating heats to be recorded as yesterday we are 4 weeks from PSM.

Second mob of calves have been dehorned and vaccinated. 33 AB heifer calves were sold and have left the farm. They averaged $135/head. We now have 95 tagged heifers which has eased the pressure the sheds.  These calves will be re-mobbed weighed and settled outside in the coming week.

The R2’s were weighed on the 25-8-20 and the average was 276kg gaining 0.7kg/day. With our plan to rear less replacement stock we need to give them the best possible chance of mating success. We are targeting 290kg at least for the group at mating.  In discussion with our grazier we want to move their intakes from approximately 6.5kg to 8kg DM/hd/day.  They have been receiving silage to maintain intakes which runs out this week and they still not at spring flush on the grazing platform.  We have agreed to invested 50/50 in extra feed for 60 days to achieve the targets together.  This is aiming to achieve 1kg/day/liveweight gain to catchup on poor performance during the drought and autumn.  We will be feeding a blend of 70% PKE and 30% Tapioca in troughs in the paddock while maintaining the same pasture allocation. This will cost us around $2k and we will be able to check the success of the feeding at the next weighing.  They are also due for their B12, selenium and BVD booster in early September.


BUSINESS

Nothing to report

 

ENVIRONMENT

Nothing to report

 

INFRASTRUCTURE

Replaced the washtub this week as the old one had sealant chipping off which unfortunately blocked some of the jetters causing incomplete machine wash and caused us a coliform grade. With such an old shed it is important to keep up with the wear and tear on all the equipment.

 

PEOPLE AND COMMUNITY

Everyone has had a well-deserved weekend off and we have planned another long weekend off prior to the start of mating for everyone.

To keep a safe productive workplace we ensure we have trained first aiders on site – so along with Jo certified to look after the many guests at Owl Farm - Tom had a day off farm to keep his certification current.  It got us talking about how our team can look after each other on farm and we wondered whether anyone was involved in providing their team with first aid training using a translator for those with English as their second language.  We’d be keen to find out more.

The great thing was when Tom was training for his first aid training the cows from 2 different herds were accurately drafted out, metri-checked at the end of milking (saving the vet precious time) and then returned to their own herd in time for dinner.

 

PLANNING FOR THE MONTH AHEAD:

  • Arrange to get the purchased standing silage harvested and ensiled on-farm
  • Sort calf mobs for outdoors
  • Get heifers ready for PSM
  • Plan work do for end of calving celebrations

 

Cheers Jo + Tom

Monday, 17 August 2020


Week ending 17-8-20 farm notes:

Data table

Wedge

PASTURES AND FEED

Pasture cover has dropped again this week to 2190 kg DM/ha with a lift in average pasture growth rate to 38 kg DM/ha. 

Last week the cows grazed 3.8 ha per day and we aim to graze 5 ha/day (total 35 ha) over the coming week. The milkers are doing a good job cleaning out the paddocks now when allocated pre-graze covers of less than 3000 kg DM/ha.  We are offering 18 kg DM/cow/day. It felt like we had a case of the speed wobbles at the end of last week predicting growth of 40 kg DM/ha that was slower to come than expected. We decided to pre-mow and feed some of the shut silage paddocks (for 36 hours) and then feed 3 kg PK/cow/ day for 3 days to buy us a bit of time while we reassessed the feed situation. The farm walk today has confirmed that we are back on track and the wedge is looking great, so we will hold the remaining paddocks shut for silage (approximately 5 ha from the initial 7.2 ha).

Pre-graze target for the coming week drops to 2800 kg DM/ha with an estimated 360 cows in milk (2.5 cows/ha). The dip last week has been filled and any paddocks below the line have all had N applied, either last week or this coming week ahead of the forecast rain.

 

ANIMALS

We now have over 82% of the herd calved. On Monday the whole herd was body condition scored by Peter Briston, our certified BCS assessor.  The whole herd average was a stunning 5.4, down from 5.7 in July.  The milkers averaged 5.3, the heifers were 5.5 and the dries 5.9. This is reflected in our OAD strategy which has only seven cows on OAD.  This time last year our milkers were BCS 5.2.

By this time last season we had 65 lame cows.  This year we have made lameness an animal health priority.  We invested in a Healthy Hoof consultation with Bill Hancock from Cambridge Vets last year which started a series of interventions.  Firstly, we video recorded the movement of cows and people on the yard, analysed the type of lameness and which foot, and carried out a stocktake of farm race surfaces.  As a result of this we upgraded our data collection board at the treatment station, and installed a mirror at cups-on to ensure the operator of the backing gate doesn’t need to enter the yard to load cows onto the platform. We are using a half way backing gate so that the space is only taken behind the cows that are already facing the rotary entrance.   The second backing gate only follows behind the remainder of the herd once they have had time to turn around and walk towards the rotary entrance. We have also invested over $57K in race surface maintenance over the last 12 months, and have an investment plan for the next two years and on-going money ($15k) allocated in the budget for race R&M. We are also using a Batt-latch.

So far this season we have had 4 lame cases.

Calves are still indoors, with fresh bedding added this week.  We are now mixing fresh colostrum with stored milk at a 50/50 rate.  This has caused a bout of nutritional scours which we hope will clear as the calves adjust. The oldest 100 are being fed OAD to save time.

We have had a sort through of our surplus calves; 30 are now on the market with an average BW of 187 (range 170-199). We are still waiting to find a buyer.  Please contact Kelly Higgins from Carrfields if you are interested.

Last week the first 10 Wagyu calves left the farm, aged between 10 and 21 days old and weighing on average 47 kg.  We receive $165/head plus $6.5/kg for every kilo over 35 kg.  This is our LIC First Light Wagyu contract.  We have another 30 Wagyu calves in the shed and as a bonus we got twin Wagyus yesterday which made that straw particularly profitable! There are a further 30 springers left to calve.

 

BUSINESS

Last season we were challenged to maintain FEI within limits and so this season we have contracted 60-70t of grass silage at a standing rate of 18/kg DM with expected ensiling costs of around 18c/kg DM.  This will result in a final cost of 36c/kg DM.  While this is high, it also fits our system infrastructure with no further cost incurred other than wastage which is weather- and management-dependent. We are aiming to have supplementary feed costs averaging around 5% of payout, which leaves us with up to 135 t DM of PK to secure at around $270/t DM. So far, we have used less than 12 t of PK.  We will look to secure another 60 t to get us through Jan/Feb/Mar and then late Autumn purchases will be dependent on payout updates.

 

ENVIRONMENT

The wetland area has filled up again this month.  It is pleasing to see that some of the soft stem bulrush plants that we transplanted are now above water level and still photosynthesising. We have over 60 plants that were subdivided growing on ready for planting next Autumn.

 

INFRASTRUCTURE

The effluent spreader has gone in for repairs this week. Early management of pond water levels has ensured that this does not create environmental risks, as the effluent storage pond is just over half-full.

 

PEOPLE AND COMMUNITY

This week we took the time to thank our whole team at Owl Farm for their contribution. As well as Tom and LaArni, we have Yvonne who is a permanent part-timer, three students who relief milk and a student on placement for one day each week.

As well as monitoring average hours/week for salaried staff members, we record all hours worked on farm to effectively analyse system changes – in particular, the use of technology. 

Having a team of capable milkers and a one-person milking shed gives greater flexibility on what work can be completed during milking, and allows time off to our permanent team members.

Season to date our Farm Manager and 2IC have averaged 58 and 36 hrs/week, respectively, with an average of 16 hrs/week of relief support.

 

PLANNING FOR THE MONTH AHEAD:

  • Spray and graze off-farm annuals paddock
  • Arrange to get the purchased standing silage harvested and ensiled on-farm
  • Sort second round of dehorning and metri-checks
  • Commence pre-mating heat of herd on 25th August (4 weeks prior to Planned Start of Mating)

 

Cheers Jo + Tom








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