Monday, 25 May 2020

Week ending 25-5-20 farm notes:

Data 25-5-20

wedge 26-5-20


  • Next Farm Focus Day 24th June
  • Giving team members effective time off
  • Restricting further BCS gain on cows



Pasture cover increased this week to 2367 kg DM/ha with a growth rate of 41 kg DM/ha. This was higher than expected but due to the warm rain and excellent grazing conditions our pasture growth after grazing has been rapid.  Our 10cm soil temperature at 9am jumped from 9°C for most of the week to 14°C yesterday.  We expect growth to continue above 30 kg DM/ha next week and to continue accumulating cover. We are on a 61-day rotation on the farm including calves; 82 days excluding the calves.

New grass paddocks have all received 30 units of SustaiN after grazing to promote tillering and ensure plant vigour through the winter.

The aim is to get another light grazing from new grasses with the heifers before calving by going back into those paddocks with low pre-grazing covers of around 2000-2300 kg DM/ha.  This will allow the heifers to move through without needing break fences and minimise damage before soils get too wet.

We will not purchase any PKE for the winter and so have cleaned out the last of the PKE in the bunker, with the milkers nibbling about 0.5 kg DM/cow/day. We used approximately 200 t DM (480 kg DM/cow) which is 20 t DM more than last season.

We have put into next season’s budget an extra load to cover forages for winter/spring that we used up in the dry period, but we will wait to purchase as needed and to secure a better price.

Current feed inventory is 30 t silage and 90 bales hay (105 kg DM/cow).



Individual BCS carried out by Peter from Cambridge Vets showed the herd average is 5.8, with heifers at 6.0, milkers at 5.7, and dries at 5.8.

We are aiming for maintenance feeding levels throughout the next 6 weeks and will monitor cow BCS to determine a strategy for at risk over-conditioned cows in the springer mob.

Feeding levels on pasture: Milkers 14 kg DM, Dries 9 kg DM, heifers 9 kg DM, calves 5-6 kg DM

Cows are only receiving cobalt and selenium through their water. Blood tests will be carried out pre-calving to determine herd trace mineral requirements.


We’ve updated the 2020-21 cashflow with Fonterra payout of $6.15/kg MS following the range announcement of $5.40 to $6.90.  We used the DairyNZ template and have not made a lot of changes to the original $6 budget we created.  We did, however, create a $5 payout version in the midst of Covid-19 to explore the possibilities if needed.


So nice on our foggy farm walk today to see the diversity of birds in the Owl Farm habitat. Today it included a grey heron and kingfisher.

Unfortunately, due to the long dry period, some natives in the plantings have been lost; we will look to replace these in the coming year.


Plans are in place for a modified calf rearing system with the arrival of Wagyu calves which will leave the farm at 10-21 days.  We are planning to keep bobbies and Wagyu at a separate end from our replacement heifers to meet biosecurity requirements for vehicles collecting stock as well as keeping pens disinfected between mobs.


Time away from work is important, but remember to consider the quality of the time off work for both you and your team.  This current situation means lots of people have missed their extended period off farm to visit family, go overseas, or during school holidays, so it’s important to find out what quality time off looks like for everyone.  For us this means planning for some time off when team members can use extended periods of time to visit family overseas which would usually be done in March and April.  Look for options that meet the needs of the individuals in your team.  Maybe, if the roster allows, you could reduce the working week for an extended period of time.



Jo + Tom

Monday, 18 May 2020

Week ending 18-5-20 farm notes:

data table 19-5-20

wedge 19-5-20


  • Next Farm Focus Day postponed until 24th June
  • Collect individual BCS data to manage over-conditioned cows
  • Plan for an 8 week dry period
  • Grazing management to set pastures up for spring production



Pasture cover was maintained this week at 2348kg DM/ha supported by a growth rate of 30kg DM/ha for the week.  As predicted, with all stock on farm that was equal to daily demand. We are on a 50-day rotation on the farm including calves; 61 days excluding the calves. We have been able to graze two paddocks of the annuals with both milker and dry cow mobs, and the calves have made their way through half of the new perennial pastures this week. We will continue to intermittently test for nitrates and feed in the afternoon through the remaining annuals. We are no longer able to follow quickly enough behind the milkers to clean up with dry cows, so need to reduce milker allocation in order to tidy up residuals.  Most of these paddocks will not be grazed again until spring by milkers so we want to ensure good quality feed is available. Even though we haven’t exceeded the 2400kg DM/ha cover we can see death of the 4th leaf in the paddocks over 3000kg DM/ha.  We are starting to forgo pasture grown and not eaten in order to accumulate cover for the winter/spring period. We predict that growth rates will hold at 30kg DM/ha for the next week. We will not purchase any PKE for the winter and so have cleaned out the last of the PKE in the bunker with the milkers nibbling about 0.5kg DM/cow/day. We have not contracted spring PKE yet as we are waiting for a price better suited to our system (with a 2 in front of it!)


Cow are in very good condition. We have had individual BCS carried out by Peter from Cambridge Vets (watch for our post later this week on the results); we want to keep as many of these milking as possible to manage pasture covers over the next two weeks. We have checked to make sure none of them are due in the first 4 weeks of calving to allow an 8 week dry period. All cows have had their tails trimmed and are looking smarter than most of the people coming out of lockdown!

Feeding levels for the week on pasture: Milkers 15kg DM + 0.5kg PKE, Dries 10kg DM, heifers 10kg DM, calves 5-6kg DM


Another two weeks marks the end of the 2019-20 season so we are preparing data to analyse through DairyBase, Farmax and Overseer. Feed inventory counts are critical at this time of the year. We are also preparing to revise our budgets after Fonterra’s payout announcement for 2020-21.  This will give us some indications on contract price for feed and enable us to finalise capex projects for the year.


Like all farmers we are still hoping for some more rain, particularly for our wetland habitat and the young bullrush plants we have subdivided.  This time last year the farm had received 1058ml of rain for the season vs 782ml this year. Soil moisture levels are currently 30% at 100mm (compared with 35% last season).  We are expecting some wet periods during winter or spring to manage through.  We have used just over 120 units N/ha for the season with a policy of no N during May except for new grass after its first grazing. This is normally to reduce potential N loss during periods of high soil water movement.


Work continues on checking fence lines to make sure they are all working properly and are clear of obstructions so stock can be well contained during the winter period.


We welcomed the students back to the farm this week and have modified our visitor sign-in sheet to meet the requirements of COVID-19 contact tracing at L2. Posters and information can be found at

Cheers Jo + Tom

Monday, 11 May 2020

Week ending 11-5-20 farm notes:

Data 11-5-20

Wedge 12-5-20

- Monitor and feed annuals carefully
- Support families and children return to L2
- Calves return home before heading out to new grazing

Pasture cover has increased to 2340kgDM/ha an accumulation of 13.5kgDM/ha/day with a growth rate of 35kgDM/ha/day. To achieve our 1st June target of 2400kgDM/ha we need to grow just under 5kgDM above demand over the next 2 weeks. Even with 416 mixed aged cows and R2s and 114 calves on the farm we require a maximum of 36kgDM/ha demand on all grass. With the option still to dry off milkers and feed some PK we are feeling comfortable with the feed position. All indications are that PGR should hold between 30-40kgDM/ha for the next 2 weeks.
Over the last 3 days we have managed to graze 0.8ha of annuals by both milkers and dry mobs feed in the afternoon after returning “low risk” Nitrate test results. Cows are consuming 2/3 of their diets first and eat between 2-4kgDM of annuals within 2 hours. This routine will continue daily until annuals are finished. Last week we sowed some seed in the areas were PK trailers were used for long periods for dry cows during the Autumn recovery period. This was a known negative to the PK feeding strategy, as we tend not to feed PK in the paddocks for the majority of the year choosing races instead.
We will look to start grazing perennial new grasses next week now that we have calves home until the end of the month.
The shed is now full with 40 bales of Hay arriving that we purchased before lockdown to bolster our winter feed reserves. With limited silage available we didn’t want to rely on feeding large amounts of PK without feeding infrastructure. This brings our winter forage to over 40tDM or approximately 100kgDM/cow.
Milkers are offered 14kgDM pasture plus 1.5 - 2kg PK on the races. They are leaving 1700kgDM behind which the dry cows are cleaning up. This indicates they are struggling to eat up to 16kgDM.
Last week we dried off 24 high SCC and low producing cows. We are left with a mob of 103 milking which is (25% of peak numbers). These cows are doing 1.1 kgMS/day. Zinc has been removed for the water this week.
We have 235 dry cows with PK reduced this week to 3 kg/cow/day and 6-7kgDM grass.
78 in-calf heifers are offered 10kg grass and 2kg PK with PK reducing through the week. Heifers are still being run through the shed once a week and they were teatsealed on 6th May by the team from Cambridge vets. We noticed a small spike in footroot (10 cases) probably due to increased yarding, transport etc. This has now settled down. Each day while they were being trained we put them through the Zinc Sulphate footbath.
Calves have returned home on the 11th May for an interim period as they transition to a new grazier. We have had a change of grazing contract as analysis of our herd reproductive performance shows that puberty weights is an area that we can improve on to positively influence our heifer in-calf rates and subsequent longevity. We are trying to feed the calves between 5-6kg while they are on the farm until the end of the month to set them up for winter at their new grazier.
The plan is to finish the last of the 2-3 t of PK in the bin with none going to heifers or dries this week, none to calves and only a small amount on offer to the milkers. If PGR take a dive and our APC is at risk we would look to reassess this decision. Depending how quickly we get through the annuals/new grass and how much the calves eat through during their time with us. We will continue to milk until the next farmwalk on Tuesday.
After using the DairyNZ dry off date calculator we have been allocating feed for dry cows over the last 2 months to achieve a gain of 0.5BCS/month. This was using time to make the early gains for mobs of cows. We are due for an individual BCS next week and will sort and feed on BCS gain required for individual cows to achieve targets for 1 month before we prepare cows as transitioning to calving. We will be able to see how much closer our curve has got to target from the last BCS on the 20th April.
Our cows in the next few weeks require more energy for pregnancy. The ME required for cows at BCS 4.5 and heifers at 5 for the coming week
Maintenance @ 480kg = 57
Milk @ 1kgMS = 80
Walking = 4
Lwt gain @ 0.5kglwt/day = 25
Pregnancy 4-8 weeks before calving = 22
Total required 188 (@11.5ME = 16.3 kgDM)

Maintenance @ 480kg = 57
Lwt gain @ 0.5kglwt/day = 36
Pregnancy 4-8 weeks before calving = 22
Total required = 115 (@11.5ME = 10kgDM)

We continue to analyse the profitability of feeding PKE to keep cows in milk while we build APC. With the 2 variables being payout and feed cost, PK has become cheaper for us throughout the last 6 weeks maintaining the profit we predicted from the decision to milk on and achieve BCS and APC targets.
With the knowledge of the calves coming home for a short period (and the R2’s already at home) we wanted to get closer to the cover target earlier in the season knowing that we would be increasing demand during late May. Hence the decision to invest in N, Pro-Gibb and PK early.
When we drew up the recovery budget to achieve a revised 164,000kgMS we still had another 29t of PKE that was budgeted to be used to achieve the BCS and APC targets. Prudent pasture management, supplement allocation and good weather for utilisation and growth has reduced the need for this at this stage.
We have finalised our 20/21 budget with the exception of payout once confirmed by Fonterra near the end of this month. We have created a $6 budget and a $5 budget that we have shared with key stakeholders.
Tom and his bubble of helpers have been busy harvesting bio mass out of the wetlands. This removes herbage from the ecosystem and allows the plants to grow and accumulate more mass and hence take up nutrients from the water. We’ve been careful to only harvest above the water line to ensure the plants don’t drown. What we found is that the bull rush have self-seeded and are now well established in the dry area growing up to 200-300mm high. The plan is to help them spread out by re-planting some of them in the cracks and hoping they will get their head above water before the weir fills up. We will rescue some by potting up and growing out in case they don’t survive the winter filling.
LaArni has done a great job working hard to make sure the effluent pond was kept at a manageable level all year. It was great to have our effluent pond emptied out by the 1st of May. We will still have a week emptying it behind the milkers later this month weather permitting which will provide a valuable dose of N.
Race work has been completed we are just waiting on a little rain to bed down the work before a final roll. All up we have resurfaced up to 2.8km of races as part of our race improvement strategy identified to address our lameness challenge.
Tom and LaArni are having regular alternate weekends off and are looking forward to the diversity of scenery during time off that moving to L2 will bring.
Our average weekly hours continue to trend down currently averaging 45.4 hours per/person/week for the year. Inching very close to our target of 45!
We have settled into a simple daily routine of 30 mins to milk and 30 mins washdown, 20 minutes for putting up break fences, 3 hours to do a job for the day (getting calf sheds ready, water lines, fences etc), followed by a longer lunch (3.5hr) and 1.5hr in the late afternoon moving cows through annuals to be home by 5.30pm.
Take care Tom + Jo

Monday, 4 May 2020

Week ending 4-5-20 farm notes:

Data 4-5-20

Wedge 5-5-20

Key decisions this week:

  • Reduce PK being feed to dry cows
  • Plan to feed new grass within nitrate limitations
  • Exploring part-time options for team members for next season

Glad to have squeezed in a farmwalk between the rain today.  We have another excellent lift of APC to 2245 kgDM/ha with a PGR of 44 kgDMha/day. We accumulated just over 21kgDM/ha/day again this week.

With another good lift in APC this week we are confident that growth will support at least another week of milking. This last week have had no further mastitis cows which has brought our SCC down to an average of 280,000 which is a manageable level. Cows have averaged 1.07 kgMS/day this week. The milkers have been choosing to eat less PK so we have offered less PK and increase the pasture offered on 2 occasions the dry cows spent half a day cleaning up the milkers residuals down to 1500kgDM/ha.  

With warm soil temperatures, adequate soil moisture and sufficient N we predict a continuation of cover accumulation that we have been getting for another couple of weeks allowing us to pull back on the PK. Reducing dry cow PK will increase our demand but we will still be accumulating enough cover to reach our 2400kgDM/ha target by 1st June. This week we will remove the PK from the dry cows with the option to reintroduce if needed based on farm walk data.  This gives us options to maintain BCS on the milking herd while we still have options to tidy up residuals with the dry cows.  We can also offer more areas for the dry cows and remove the trailers from the paddocks during a predicted wet May thus reducing potential pasture damage. Our aim will be to be offering an all grass diet to 90% of the cows on farm throughout June.

We have passed the 164,000kgMS we predicted in our modelling data (completed at the end of February) we are now tracking 3% behind last season’s total production. We have produced 406kgMS/cow and 1114kgMS/ha for the season to date. With SCC under control and the earliest calving date from the current milkers near the end of July we are looking at drying off at the end of May at the latest. (DairyNZ recommends a 6 week minimum but 8 week preferred dry period). That leaves a window of 4 weeks to continue milking if we have enough feed and cows maintain condition.

With the heifers now home we have trained them through the shed for 10 days now and they are due to be teatsealed on Wednesday morning by Cambridge Vets. They will continue to be allocated 10kgDM/day for the next few weeks.

Once we have had some sunny weather we will begin testing our new grasses and annuals prior to grazing. This is a critical exercise to carry out to prevent nitrate poisoning, we advise you to go and get a Nitrate testing kit from your Vets ($60 for 10 tests). I ran a quick test yesterday afternoon after a few hours of sun between showers and it was off the scale so NOT safe to graze just yet. Pre graze covers in the annuals are now 2500-2850kgDM/ha so they are ready for their first grazing but we will continue testing until they are safe to eat. The plan will be to pre feed cows with mature pasture before letting over onto Annuals/new grass. We will remove them before 2 hrs. Do NOT put animals into high nitrate pastures if they are hungry and preferably pre feed 50% or more of their diet before shifting them on.  

Cows are still receiving full dose of Zinc via dosatron. This will continue for 1 more week and we will submit some pasture samples to check spores again this week before we remove Zinc from the water system. With lifting residuals and cooler weather we feel the risk is decreasing but want to be sure first.

Current Diets are as follows:

Milkers – 10.5-11kgDM pasture, 2-2.5kgDM PK

Dries – 4kgDM pasture, 5 kgDM PKE

Heifers – 7.5kgDM pasture 2.5kgDM PKE

Feeding levels this coming week:

Milkers – 12kgDM pasture, 2 kgDM PK  

Dries – 9-10kgDM pasture

Heifers – 10kgDM pasture

Current feed inventory:

  • 10 bales of grass silage/baleage (for drying off final milking herd)
  • 8 ton PK in the bunker
  • 38t DM of hay and stack silage for winter and early spring

Feedback from our management team when we presented out 20/21 budget was to plan for some volatility in payout for next season.  Using the zero budgeting process for key expenditure areas provides an easy way to define what items are essential at each relative payout. We have produced a $5 payout budget which has the tradeoff of reduced production and slower progress towards some of our wagon wheel KPIs but still allows us to run a viable business.

With changes to border control our new FA is no longer able to join us as expected.  This has given us the chance to explore options for technology and use of part time staff.  Understanding what tasks current team members enjoy and where consistent support is required is important. Our primary focus is the afternoon milking (so we can host visitors and students) and support for calf rearing especially with the extra Wagyu calves we will have this spring. Movement of stock and putting up fences are other key tasks we need support with.  We are offering a drive-in role and can retrain and support someone new to the industry with an existing stable team. We will look to evolve the role longer term.

Not much changes as we move into L3 but we have been able to get more contractors on farm to continue race maintenance and hedge trimming this week.  While ensuring that we continue to keep our staff and visitors to the farm safe by following the MOH guidelines.

Cheers Tom + Jo

Monday, 27 April 2020


Week ending 27-04-2020 farm notes:

data table 27-4-20

28-4-20 feed wedge

Key decisions this week:

  • Plan out weekly feed budget supply and demand to 1st June
  • Finished using ProGibb this week
  • N applications completed except for new grass after 1st grazing
  • Secure last load of PK for the season
  • Prepare to manage nitrates in new grasses for grazing in the coming weeks
  • Start race maintenance under L3

Todays farmwalk showed another good lift to an APC of 2095 kgDM/ha and PGR of 44 kgDMha/day. We accumulated just over 22kgDM/ha/day.

With another good lift in APC this week we are confident that growth will support at least another week of milking. Last week we dried off 10 low producers and treated 3 mastitis cows which has brought our SCC down to a manageable level again. Cows have averaged 1.08 kgMS/day this week. The milkers are now on a pasture and PK diet as we have finished our bales and the dries have 1 more day with 1kgDM/cow/day of baleage and then they will also be on pasture and PK diet.

This move will increase our demand from 16.5kgDM/ha/day up to 18.5kgDM/ha/day. With warm soil temperatures, adequate soil moisture and sufficient N we predict a continuation of cover accumulation that we have been getting for another couple of weeks then we are able to pull back on the PK. Reducing dry cow PK will increase our demand to 22kgDM/ha/day so we want to accumulate cover before growth slows to be confident that we can achieve 2400kgDM/ha by the 1st June with all stock home.

We use the DairyNZ Feedflow weekly budget to plan out the next 5 weeks.  Given current growing conditions we should hit 2400kgDM/ha by the 18th May and then hold that cover through June.

With the heifers now home we have started training them through the shed.  They have done it twice now and are already starting to walk onto the platform quite easily. We will continue this over the next week, then they will be teatsealed by the vets in early May. They will continue to be fed 7.5kg Pasture and 2.5kg PK for the next few weeks.

Cows are still receiving full dose of Zinc via dosatron.  3 pasture samples were sent to the vets last weeks and spore counts results showed 2 at zero and 1 at 50,000.

A further 10ha of weed spraying was done behind the milkers this week but no ProGibb has been used as it is unlikely that we will graze any more paddocks sprayed within the next 4 weeks. The advantage we have gained from the 3 weeks of ProGibb spraying has supported the increase in APC that we desired. It is an option again in late August with lower winter/spring supplements on hand.

Current Diets are as follows:

Milkers – 9-10 kgDM pasture, 0-1.5 kgDM silage, 2-3 kgDM PK

Dries – 2 kgDM pasture, 1 kgDM silage, 6 kgDM PKE

Heifers – 7.5kgDM pasture 2.5kgDM PKE

Feeding levels this coming week:

Milkers – 10.5 kgDM pasture, 3 kgDM PK

Dries – 3-4kgDM pasture, 5-6 kgDM PKE

Heifers – 7.5kgDM pasture 2.5kgDM PKE

Current feed inventory:

  • 10 bales of grass silage/baleage (for drying off final milking herd)
  • 12 ton PK in the bunker
  • 38t DM of hay and stack silage for winter and early spring

Not much changes as we move into L3 but we have been able to get more contractors on farm to start race maintenance and hedge trimming. We are ensuring that we continue to keep our staff and visitors to the farm safe by following the MOH guidelines.

Cheers Tom + Jo

Monday, 20 April 2020

20-4-20 data

21-4-20 wedge


Week ending 20-4-20 farm notes:

Key decisions this week

  • Bring home heifers early to focus on achieving liveweight targets
  • BCS individual cows to achieve BCS targets
  • Continued with Pro-Gibb and liquid N to achieve APC targets
  • Spray new grass for weeds
  • Set budget for 20-21 season

Todays farmwalk (in the low cloud!) showed APC of 1941 kgDM/ha and PGR of 37 kgDMha/day. We accumulated just over 19kgDM/ha/day.

Once again the weather has definitely played in our favour this week with another 33mm of rain, and some sunny spells lifting the average soil temp back up to 18 °C for the week. This has boosted growth along with SustaiN, and also following the cows with ProGibb and Liquid N for the past couple of weeks (paddocks that have had SustaiN are not getting Liquid N as well).  A further 13ha of ProGibb and Liquid N was used this week.  PGR on paddocks with ProGibb have averaged 13% higher at 42kgDM/ha/day.

While the spray contractor was here we also sprayed our new grasses, these are looking stronger by the day, especially after the rain, hopefully we will get a grazing in 3-4 weeks. These will receive a nitrate test prior to grazing (we got ours from our vet). The paddocks that have Progibb and liquid N over the past couple weeks have also been sprayed for weeds using Sprinter at 3.5L/ha. We will do our other Winter weed spray paddocks over the coming weeks, mostly new paddocks that were undersown in March as they have a high weed burden and we want the undersowing to get off to the best start possible. 

As we mentioned on Friday last week we have brought our heifers home early. When we visited them at the grazing block we tagged, gave them Copper Bolus and Pour-On and we also weighed them and found they had dropped back in liveweight, going from a mob average 427kg down to 416kg over 51 days. We felt it was sensible to bring them home while we still had time and feed them well to try and regain some of the lost ground over the coming 6 weeks. They are being fed on a grass and PK diet. We have had to slot them into some of the paddocks planned for milkers but with good growths they should be heading into first grazings of the undersown paddocks by the end of the month as planned. By offering 10kgDM we hope to hit 0.9kglwt/day gains. Once we have teat sealed them in early May we will BCS them and add the lightest to the weight gain mob of cows who are grazing undersown paddocks where we are looking to gain 1kgLwt/day. The remainder will be fed to gain 0.6kgLwt/day.

We had the calves weighed also and 14% are underweight, we are in discussion with the grazier as to how we will get them caught up. Because body weight is the key driver of puberty it is important that heifers reach key liveweight targets if they are going to reach puberty at 12 months and get in-calf at 15 months. These calves are at a critical point in their skeletal growth as we head into winter when opportunity for liveweight gain is reduced it is crucial we use the weight data to make decision that will positively effect heifer mating results next year.

Peter from Cambridge vets visited on Monday and condition scored all the cows. The milkers scored well at 4.6, and the dries a pleasing 4.5. We are able to also pull out data to show the R3s on track reach their target of 5.5 with a current score of 4.5. This is a great result, and with the milkers looking so good and pasture growth rates we will be able to (at this stage) milk though to the end of April, but we will reassess each week as new data comes in.

Over the past week we have been able to slowly pull back further on the amount of silage fed to all mobs as our pre graze covers slowly increase. There have been 2 days again where no silage has been fed to the milkers. The coming week we will look at doing similar with 3 days planned with no silage and dries down to half a bale/day.

Current Diets are as follows:

Milkers – 9-10 kgDM pasture, 0-1.5 kgDM silage, 2-3 kgDM PK

Dries – 2 kgDM pasture, 1 kgDM silage, 6 kgDM PKE

Heifers – 7.5kgDM pasture 2.5kgDM PKE

Feeding levels this coming week:

Milkers – 9.5-10 kgDM pasture, 0-1 kgDM silage, 3 kgDM PK

Dries - 2 kgDM pasture, 1 kgDM silage, 6 kgDM PKE

Heifers – 7.5kgDM pasture 2.5kgDM PKE

Our demand this coming week is 16.5kgDM/ha so we should accumulate at least 15-20kgDM/ha for the next 2 weeks on our current feed plan. However with the heifers home and the milkers having an increased proportion of pasture it is important that we monitor growth rates closely. If we start to see a slow in growth then we will likely dry the cows off. Once we dry off we will have a demand 15kgDM/ha/day feeding 5kg pasture to cows and 7.5kg to Heifers (reducing PK down to 2.5-5kg depending on which mob). But currently we are well on target to hit our 1st June APC of 2400 kgDM/ha requiring an accumulation of pasture cover of 11kgDM/ha/day over the next 41days.

Current feed inventory:

  • 22 bales of grass silage/baleage
  • 22 ton PK in the bunker
  • 38t DM of hay and stack silage for winter and early spring

Now that the Heifers are home we will start training them through the shed each morning after milking, once this is done we will have the Vets in to Teatseal them in early May.  Along with this we will also make a start getting the calf shed sorted for calving and we are using social distancing time to spot spray weeds and catchup on podcasts.

Tom and I have spent time with the St Peters finance team and Dayna from Westpac to put together our 2020/21 season budget.  We have used a combination of historic data from DairyBase, YTD plus forecast cashflow for this year and zero budgeting processes for expense areas like feed, fertiliser, animal health, crop and regrassing.  This includes the detail of quantities and price so that it is easier to report on variances to the budget throughout the year.  We use the DairyNZ cashflow budget from their website. At this stage we have started with a $6 payout with sensitivity analysis and will update as announcements are made.

Keeping up with bio-security measures are important as we adjust to the lockdown routine.  Keep practicing social distancing and safe workspace hygiene and continue to keep connected to your family and team. Only carryout essential work on the farm and ensure that those at home supporting kids home schooling are getting the break they need. We are planning time off farm to work within peoples’ bubbles - so that time off farm is spent with others who also have time away from work.

We hope you are all keeping safe and be sure to collect as much information from your farm including APC, feed inventory and BCS so that you are confident making decisions to protect next season and make the most of this late rain.  Your rural partners are there to help you or feel free to contact Tom or Jo.

Cheers Tom + Jo

Monday, 13 April 2020

Week ending 13-4-20 farm notes:

13-4-20 data

14-4-20 wedge


The weather has definitely played in our favor this week receiving 32mm of rain in the past 7 days.  It has been a colder week with average temperature of 14.4°C but soil temperatures at 10cm have only dropped from 18.9 to 17.1 °C which is still in the good growth range.

Todays farmwalk (between the wind and rain) showed APC of 1803 kgDM/ha and PGR of 25kgDMha/day. We accumulated just over 10kgDM/ha/day.

We have now applied Nitrogen to 97% of the farm over the past 2 weeks. Before the rain came last week we applied 30 units N to 60ha of the farm using SustaiN, which is now well washed in with good steady rain.

So far the 14ha that we sprayed Liquid N and Progibb behind the milkers has averaged 35kgDM/day for the past week (40% higher than the farm average). It is likely we will be able to milk off these paddocks before we dry off.  Using ProGibb has focused our growth on the milking paddocks as we are waiting for 30% of the farm to have its first grazing by heifers in May since re-grassing.

Over the past week we have managed to get 2 days of feeding just grass and PK only for the milkers and pull back on the silage fed to the dries giving us 36 bales to use for end of lactation. Having received the rain this week (over 30mm) we can continue milking another week at least and still achieve our BCS and APC targets. We have Peter from Cambridge Vets coming on the 20th to BCS the whole herd to give us an accurate assessment of cow condition which sets the plan for winter weight gain mobs. All of the cows will be run through the shed so we can draft any of the dries that need additional weight gain but also any of the milkers that need to be dried off due to calving date and BCS. Adjusting the diet daily to ensure milking cows are grazing to 1500kgDM/ha has allowed us to save some silage which we can use to guarantee that the milkers can be fed the 14kgDM each day and maintain weight while they milk on. Cows are still holding on average 1.19kgms/cow/day which is really pleasing.

We are confident that we can continue to increase the grass proportion of the diet over the coming 7 days to then potentially go all grass/PK diet the following week and save some silage to use when the milking herd is eventually dried off or for dilution with nitrates in new grasses. We have 7 weeks to get the APC from 1800 to 2400 an increase of 85kgDM/ha/week, this equates to 12kgDM/day above demand.

Feeding levels last week:

Milkers – 8 kgDM pasture, 2.8 kgDM silage, 3 kgDM PK

Dries – 1.5 kgDM pasture, 1.5 kgDM silage, 6 kgDM PKE

Feeding levels this coming week:

Milkers - 9 kgDM pasture, 1.5 kgDM silage, 3 kgDM PK

Dries - 2 kgDM pasture, 1 kgDM silage, 6 kgDM PKE


Our demand this coming week is 11kgDM/ha so we should accumulate 15kgDM/ha for the next 2 weeks on our current feed plan. However once the heifers return and the milkers are dried off our demand will likely be 12-25kgDM/ha depending on how much PK we feed so accumulation will be slowed. This is why it is important to make the gains now before we run out of time!

The decision to continue milking until the end of April is based on buying in PK at the spot price of around $410 delivered or 45c/kgDM.

At the moment we are spending $727/day on PKE to all cows and are sending 160 kgMS to the factory. This raises the question about profitability.   We have the choice to dry off all cows now or using a feed budget we can see that an extra 15 tDM PK will allow us to milk to end of April and still achieve BCS and APC targets.  Using the DairyNZ partial budget we account for wastage and associated feeding cost which takes our PK cost to $643/tDM eaten.  We can account for cost of milking and time and still make a profit of $8253 at a $7.30 payout.  This potential profit has low risk as we have all the gear to feed it out, can feed without grading, and have secured the product at this price.  The risks include drop in production or payout.

All new pasture and undersown paddocks are now well established. Once the wind has gone we will have them all sprayed for weeds. On inspection last week we found that the majority of the clovers weren’t mature enough so have waited an extra week for clovers to have a good Spade leaf present. Since the rain, there has also been further germination of weeds so we will get a better kill of this new generation of weeds that will be competing with the new pasture seedlings. Undersown paddocks are looking really strong this week. Those with strong weed presence will be sprayed with Sprinter and Valdo (or Baton and Valdo) in the coming weeks to get the most out of these improved swards. They will all receive N after their first grazing.

Current feed inventory:

  • 38 bales of grass silage/baleage
  • 10 ton PK in the bunker
  • 38t DM of hay and stack silage for winter and early spring

Due to the simplicity of the farm system we have been able to run it with only 1 person on this week with LaArni taking some well deserved annual leave and Tom due for some upon LaArni’s return. We have got our average weekly hours per person down to 47 so far this year and hope this will drop further once we dry off in May (our target is 45hrs/wk/person).  Having a simple repeatable system has also helped with our COVID-19 safety measures.  It was pleasing to get a phone call from MPI today asking about our systems in place and to know that we are doing our best to keep everyone safe.

We hope you are all keeping safe and be sure to collect as much information from your farm including APC, feed inventory and BCS so that you are confident making decisions to protect next season and make the most of this late rain.  Your rural partners are there to help you or feel free to contact Tom or Jo.

Cheers Tom + Jo

Monday, 6 April 2020

Week ending 6-4-20 farm notes:

6-4-20 data table

7-4-20 wedge

As we head into a 3rd week of isolation we try to remain positive with what we have around us. The farm is really starting to green up now but with only 1 mm of rain over the last week its getting pretty late in the season to still be waiting for rain.

Farmwalk today showed an increase in cover of 60kgDM/ha up to 1732 kgDM/ha with an average growth rate of 19kgDM/ha/day, it’s heading in the right direction but not fast enough yet.   

We now require growth 12kgDM/ha over demand for the next 55 days.  We can hold pasture demand at 9kgDM/ha/day for another 10 days which requires growth rates over 21kgDM/ha.  This will give us time to see what rain comes on Wednesday and the weekend and provide another farmwalk before making the decision to dry off the cows at the end of next week if required.  It is important to note that the BCS is not limiting on the cows that are still in milk (ie. they do not need weight gain in April). Our milking mob consists of early mature calvers over 4.5 BCS, late mature calvers over 4 and any milking R3 are BCS 5.

Once the silage runs out we require PGR of 38kgDM/ha if we are to keep milking the last few weeks of April. This is dependent on 30-40 mm of rain and continued warm growing conditions.

When the heifers return home we will have all our paddocks back in rotation, all cows will be dry and we require growth between 29-37kgDM/ha.  If growth is below 30kgDM we will feed 2-3 kg PK/cow/day and if growth is above 35kg we will be feeding a pasture only diet.

Our wedge is looking promising with a pre-graze target of 2200kgDM/ha based on offering 1.5ha to milkers giving them 7.5kgDM pasture. This week we have been able to graze some that are longer than this so have offered a reduced area or offered less silage.  Our feed inventory today showed that we have enough silage/PK to continue the current plan until 16th April.  At that point we can only continue milking by having pre-graze covers between 2400-2500 kgDM/ha on our current rotation (we don’t want to speed up in April),

New grasses and undersown paddocks have grown a little bit more over the past week but still need moisture to getting kicking, this has meant we will likely wait another week until we do a weed spray! Great to see the Oats up and nice strong rows visible after only 8 days, we were lucky to catch 8mm of rain not long after they were drilled so they are off to an early start.

We have sprayed 14ha of ProGibb and Liquid N to try and boost growth but it still requires moisture to capture the full effect.  This costs $114/ha and includes 19kgN and spraying costs. We have targeted paddocks that have been recently grazed by milkers, have vigorous ryegrass swards, high growth rates in the last 2 farm walks (40 – 50 kgDM/ha/day) that we intend to graze again within 3-4 weeks. This is being used as a strategy to buy more time for new pastures to establish before grazing, and recovery of pastures grazed hard by dry cows. We’ll let you know whether it works – or not!

We had planned on applying some SuatiN also but again with no substantial rain forecast we have delayed that until we are certain it is coming!

Tom’s Facebook video this morning explains how the milkers are choosing to eat less of the PK on the race after milking but we are getting them to clean up their 2 day allowance every 2nd day in the paddock. Last week we averaged a C grade, this week we have gone straight through the B and into an A so we can possibly offer in paddock trailer each day up to 3kg to help fill any gaps.

BCS as shown in the video is looking pretty good, the dries have definitely improved as a whole, however those that are still behind will be pulled out to maximise their chance of meeting target BCS pre calving. We still have time to get them there though. Paddock BCS of dry cows this morning was 4.4 so we will continue to allocate 8-9 kgDM in April and 9-10kg for the dry cows to achieve 0.5 BCS/gain/month.

Current feed inventory:

  • 63 bales of grass silage/baleage
  • 20 ton PK in the bunker
  • 38t DM of hay and stack silage for winter and early spring

Current Feeding:

Milkers 7.5kgDM Pasture, 2.5kgDM PK, 4kgDM Silage

Dries 1kgDM Pasture, 6kgDM PK, 2kgDM silage

Due to Covid19 we are limiting our contact within the team. We have a 1 person shed so that part is simple. We communicate as much as possible via text, phone or messages on our white board in the office. Because we share the tractors on alternate days for feeding out we have disinfectant wipes in each vehicle so when we finish we wipe down all contact points ie steering wheel, loader controls, gear stick, hand brake etc. If we need to talk face to face then we observe the 2m social distancing rule.

Stay safe everyone and keep up the great work.

Cheers Tom and Jo

Monday, 30 March 2020

Week ending 30-2-20 farm notes:

30-2-20 data table

31-3-20 feed wedge

As we head into a 2nd week of isolation we try to remain positive on what we have around us. The farm is really starting to green up now with another 4 mm of rain over the last week.  All of our paddocks have now been drilled and we managed to sow a paddock with Oats by negotiating an extended lease until August on a paddock due to be returned after summer turnips. We are budgeting on a couple of grazings between now and then which will help provide forage during winter with lower feed inventory.

Farmwalk today showed 1672 kgDM/ha APC with an average growth rate of 19kgDM/ha/day. This is an increase of 51 kgDM/ha on last week – heading in the right direction but not fast enough yet. Our wedge is looking promising with a pre-graze target of 2100kgDM/ha, using paddocks longer than this we can reduce area allocated below 2ha or feed less silage each day this week.  Our feed inventory today showed that we have enough silage/PK to continue the current plan until 12th April.  At that point we can only continue milking by being able to allocate 2.25ha/day with a pre-graze between 2400-2500 kgDM/ha. 

Digging holes shows good moisture levels in the top soil with soil moisture at 32% (it hasn’t been this high since the last rainfall event in December).  Soil temperatures are still 18.7C.  Leaf appearance rate is around 7-10 days and plants are tillering vigorously.  This would indicate that we should achieve our average growth rates of 30 -35 kgDM/ha/day through April and May.

As Tom mentioned in the videos over the last week we have been having trouble with our FEI so have signed up to the daily text message service from Fonterra (contact your Fonterra Area Rep).  This has allowed us a little more accuracy in measuring the effect of our changes to the feeding volumes of PK, we have pulled back to 1.5kg/cow/day now hopefully we will enter a B grade on our next pickup. Once we are back in a B we will slowly increase again to around 2.5kg/cow/day and see how stable we can keep it.

Dry cows are being offered 6kg/cow/day of PK, this is at the higher end of the desired diets but we are monitoring their health closely and making sure that PK remains less than 2/3 of their diet. We are seeing their residuals sitting around 1300kgDM/ha and are pretty content. The aim is to offer dry cows 9-10 kgDM/day for the next 2-3weeks, this is likely when our silage will run out so we will hope to be able to replace silage with pasture and maintain a diet of 5kgDM PK and 5kgDM pasture. Once all cows are dry we will have a redraft and have a maintenance mob and a weight gain mob.  

Last week we dried off a further 39 cows, a mixture of High SCC cows and some of the next at risk BCS cows or early calving heifers. Prior to drying off these girls we removed them from the milking mob and fed 2kgDM pasture, 3kgDM hay and 3kg of baleage for 3 days and then dried off. We used the SAMM plan and chose cows with SCC above 150,000 or heifers above 100,000 to be treated with Dry cow and Teatseal, the rest were treated with just Teatseal. We have dried off the high SCC cows to manage our Bulk Tank SCC and limit the spread of bugs between cows, we have seen a resulting drop of 100,000 in our SCC since we dried off this group.

Now that all our drilling has been completed we have to monitor all of our pasture for weeds. We will make a plan to spray new grasses but also identify paddocks that require a winter weed spray. We saw a great result from last years’ program where we sprayed 50ha of the farm which resulted in a lot less weed burden through spring and summer. Having had such a hard summer again this year we will likely have more gaps in our older pastures so it is important to monitor these over the coming months. Due to the lockdown situation we will be walking the new grass paddocks via video phone with our PGGW Seeds Rep Kyle Gardyne and taking photos of weeds that are present, we will then make a call on when they require a pasture spray. These pastures need the best start possible and this is the first step to getting them well established.

We have not applied any more N since the 11kg N that went on in early March, we plan to apply 20-30kg/N mid to late April to coincide with some rain! By being on a slow round it will be easy to apply to a large area at one time and allow plenty of time for a response before grazing. We won’t be using PhaSedN this autumn as we expect that we have not lost a lot of Sulphur from the soil over the past 6 months due to the significant lack of rain. A sulphur round will be applied in July and August to boost levels heading into spring.

Due to Covid19 we are limiting our contact within the team. We have a 1 person shed so that part is simple. We communicate as much as possible via text, phone or messages on our white board in the office. Because we share the tractors on alternate days for feeding out we have disinfectant wipes in each vehicle so when we finish we wipe down all contact points ie steering wheel, loader controls, gear stick, hand brake etc. If we need to talk face to face then we observe the 2m social distancing rule.

The plan for the month ahead is to continue milking 137 cows through to May. We will look to increase the pasture proportion of their diet to 7kg next week and reduce the demand on the silage bales (to make then last longer as well), dry cows will have less silage but more pasture also and remain on their high PK diet.

The current diet is as follows:

Milkers (137)       5.5 kgDM Pasture

                                6 kgDM Baleage (3kg Lucerne 3kg pasture silage)

                                2.5 kgDM PK

Dry cows (201)    1.5-2kg DM Pasture

                                2kgDM Baleage (Dry baleage)

                                 6kgDM PK

Stay safe everyone and keep up the great work.

Cheers Tom and Jo

Monday, 23 March 2020

Week ending 23/3/20 farm notes:

23-3-20 data

24-3-20 wedge

Again we see another drop in APC to 1621 kgDM/ha with growth rates sitting at 17 kgDM/day.  We put this down to further rot down of brown areas of the paddock as we begin recovery. This week we have received 36mm of rain, a definite start to our drought relief but it has come with some cool weather which may slow growth!

What was pleasing to see was the growth rate in vigorous permanent pastures (40-50kgDM/ha/day) we are stoked that we have all our grass in and fertiliser on and everything has the best possible chance of growing in the next 4-5 weeks before soil temperature slows growth.  Our demand is still only 8kgDM/ha so we are almost achieving our target of keeping demand 10 kgDM/ha below PGR.

On close inspection we are just starting to see some of the 2nd round of reseeding begin to germinate after 10 days which is exciting. They won’t be quite ready when the heifers return from grazing on the 1st May but once they have nipped off the 1st round of undersown paddcoks these paddocks should be passing the pluck test!!

This morning we drafted out 40 cows to be dried off on Thursday, these are the next at risk cows, made up of predominantly early calvers and also some high cell counters. We have picked 5 of the high SCC cows to try and manage bulk SCC as our milking herd dwindles. BCS is now not a critical issue for our milkers however feed availability is still tight so that remains the critical focus for the coming weeks.

FEI has been a challenge again as we have less milkers. Averaging 3kg/cow/day is causing a C grade so we have pulled back to 2.5kg for the milkers and upped dry cows to 5-6kg PK/day, and offer slightly more silage to the milkers in exchange. Our aim is to not have more than 2/3 of the diet for the dries as PK to avoid health issues. We are endeavouring to offer good amounts of fibre to the drys to accompany high PK rates and also a fresh break to ensure gut is functioning well, while continuing to monitor animal health, dung patches etc

Spore counts have taken a rise with the odd showers we had in weeks previous, 1 count was 90,000 but the others 15-25,000, Zinc remains in the system at full rates.

Diets for mobs is as follows:

Milkers 2.5kgDM PK, 6kg Silage (3kg Lucerne, 3kg Grass), 5.5kg Pasture

Dry cows 5 kgDM PK, 1-2kgDM pasture, 2 kgDM silage

Cows being dried off this week will be fed 2kg pasture 3kg hay and 3kg of Baleage for 5 days then join the other dry cows on their PK Silage diet.

For the coming 2 weeks we plan on sticking to our 70 day round to maximise growth in excess of demand and allow grass to start growing ahead of us. We are aiming to grow at least 10kg/day greater than demand. The top block is averaging 40kg/day however the areas that have been recently drilled or were very dry over summer are still only just recovering and growing 7-10kg/day which drags the average down quite a bit!!.

We are grazing approximately 2 – 2.5ha/day with all the cows.  We have 49ha of the farm which we won’t touch in April due to re-grassing.  This leaves us with a grazeable area of 98.5ha (50 day rotation).

We plan to finish all our available milking silage on the 6th April.   At this stage any remaining cows in milk must meet BCS targets and we must be able to feed her at least 10kgDM/day in pasture and still maintain total demand for the farm at least 10kgDM/ha/day below PGR. This plan includes being able to continue feeding 3 kgDM/cow/day until the end of the season.

As we move into Covid-19 Alert Level 4 we have put the following systems in place to try and keep everyone safe:

  • Suspend demonstration visits and meetings at the farm.
  • Jo has been reallocated to work from home.
  • Farmwalk Tuesdays have been split so that we do half the farm each in isolation and compare and share remotely afterwards (one of us is an optimist the other a pessimist – so the 2 views are important).
  • Team are working separately on farm tasks and communicating by phone when needed.
  • Explain to the team the importance of personal hygiene and health when they have partners working on other farms in different work environment. Keep the circle of people as small and tight as you can.
  • Plan in place in case either of us becomes ill or has to self-isolate. Who will do each others role and how?
  • Expect delays when ordering supplies – plan ahead and be patient – remember there are some in the middle of Autumn calving right now. Check that they are OK.
  • Move to more frequent and shorter communicate with management group – things are changing quickly and we need to move quickly to respond.
  • Take care of each other and be kind.

If there are any questions you may have please feel free to drop us a line, we will continue our day to day roles on farm while limiting our person to person contacts. Stay safe out there and keep talking.

Cheers Tom and Jo

Monday, 16 March 2020

Week ending 16/3/20 farm notes:

16-3-20 data table

17-3-20 wedge

Though there has been a slight decrease in pasture cover this week, this is due to us now having finished autumn drilling across the farm with a total of 47 ha being drilled in some way or other. Despite the reduction in APC we felt getting new seed into the ground in anticipation of the next lot of rain was a priority. We have maintained a 60+ day round this week. Today’s feed is the best pre-graze we have seen in a few months at 2250 but tomorrow we will be back down to pre-covers of 2000 again. Based on a 60-day round this will still provide 5 kg DM/cow per day to the milkers (194 cows) and 1.8 kg DM for the dry mob (162 cows).

No more rain has fallen in the past week but we are confident it will come soon. The farm is in a great state to kick back into gear once it does rain, with 11 units of N going on across 82% of the farm in the past couple of weeks, along with an autumn application of SurePhos.  With 100% of the autumn re-grassing complete we just have to hold tight and wait, but we remain as optimistic as last week!

Last Friday we made the call to dry off a further 104 cows. Only 16 of these animals required drying off due to BCS; however, we decided that to milk on the next lot of cows for three weeks would use up too much of our feed reserves and also jeopardise further milk production from the rest of the herd. Reduced milking numbers has allowed a greater portion of pasture in the diet and the cows have lifted milk production as a result. A 35% drop in cow numbers only resulted in a 28% drop in total production.


Feed allocation is as follows:


2 kg DM baleage, 3 kg DM PK, 5 kg DM stack silage, 5 kg DM pasture = Total offered 15 kg DM/cow/day


4 kg DM PK, 3 kg DM stack silage, 1.8 kg DM pasture = Total offered 8.8 kg DM/cow/day

Our current feed situation is:

30 t DM PK (finished all of the tapioca blend) in the bin

34 t DM stack silage (28 t DM earmarked for spring)

174 grass silage bales (approximately 180 kg DM/bale)

32 bales of hay earmarked for spring

We need to accumulate 770 kg DM/ha over the next 76 days to achieve our 1st June APC target of 2400 kg DM/ha.  This requires growth rates of 10 kg DM/ha/day higher than demand; current demand is 9.3 kg DM/ha/day vs growth of 18 kg DM/ha/day so unless we get rain to lift growth rates we will need to reduce demand further by drying off another mob of cows. We will choose this over increasing the silage part of the diet, as the silage at current rates will only last three weeks as it is!!  Long term average for March/April/May for Owl Farm is just over 30 which leaves 20 kg DM/ha/day.  We are still budgeting in April to feed remaining milking cows 10 kg DM of grass, 2 kg silage and up to 3 kg PK which will allow us to milk approximately 150 cows through to the end of April.

We still have 15 culls awaiting a slot at the works; this is likely to be early next week and this will bring us down to our wintering number of 415. Our heifers are still on target to return 1st May. 


Monday, 9 March 2020

Week ending 9-3-20 farm notes:

9-3-20 data table

10-3-20 wedge

We are feeling optimistic this week after some good rain, not quite a drought breaker just yet but with 17mls following the 30 mls received 2 weeks ago, the farm is finally growing in double digits again! This week we have seen the cover increase to 1686 with a growth of 19kgdm/ha/day.

We continue to aim for a slow round of 65 days but this week our area grazed includes 5ha of very low cover paddocks in preparation for undersowing this has dropped us down to 45 days.  The aim is to continue allocating 2ha day for the coming week. This is definitely allowing paddocks time to grow some length before they are grazed, our current demand is 8 kg/DM/ha/day so less than growth which is great.

We are 1 day off finishing our summer crop paddocks after 72 days. Though they didn’t yield quite what we budgeted they have been a welcome part of the diet over this time. We will be reviewing our cropping performance at our focus day on farm next Wednesday.  These paddocks along with some others will be drilled back into grass at the end of the week.

This week we started our winter fertiliser program applying 75ha of SurePhos to the farm 350kg/ha on the effluent block and 450kg/ha on the rest of the farm. This included 11 units of N. SurePhos is the new Ballance slow release phosphate product released late last year. While the truck was out applying this we were able to add Sustain to the mix as the 2 products are compatible so reduced the need to drive around again with a 2nd load saving time and diesel!

Our current feed situation is:

12 t DM PK/tapioca blend

40 t DM grass silage (28tDM earmarked for winter/spring)

40 Bales of grass silage (purchased)

42 bales of hay (earmarked for spring)

We have 80 more bales arriving on farm next week. We are currently feeding 2.5tDM silage/day so are bracing ourselves when this is made up of silage bales!!

We need to accumulate 857 kgDM/ha over the next 82 days to achieve our 1st June APC of 2500kgDM/ha.  This requires growth rates of 10kgDM/ha/day higher than demand.  Long term average for March/April/May for Owl Farm is just over 30 which leaves 20kgDM/ha/day.  In 10 days time we run out of our allocated summer forage feed with only PK remaining.  When the forage supplements run out we are budgeting on feeding them 12kgDM of grass and up to 3kg PK which will allow us to milk approximately 220 cows through to the end of April.

This morning our vet Peter Briston from Cambridge vets individually scored our milkers. The result was pleasing with the mature cows averaged 4.3 and the heifers 4.4. This data indicates another 16 cows that need drying off due to their current condition, age and calving date criteria.  Though this is a good result, due to the lack of available feed on farm and the price of buying in anymore additional feed (bales at $135-$155 or 75-85c/kgDM) we will be looking at drying off an additional 55 cows on Friday (approx. 70 total). This will reduce the demand on our silage reserves and available pasture. These cows will have 2 days on hay silage and PK before being dried off. By drying these cows off we reduce the demand, maintain rotation length and pasture recovery and reshuffle the allowance of feed enabling us to milk on a core mob of around 200 cows through to the end of the season and still achieve BCS and APC targets. This will be reassessed at the end of March.

The dry cows are looking pretty content on their silage and PK diet (4kgDM silage 4kg PK).

We still have 15 culls awaiting a slot at the works and this will bring us down to our wintering number of 415. Our heifers are still on target to return 1st May.  

Diets for the coming week are as follows:

Milkers: 8 kgDM grass silage, 3.5 kg PK/tapioca, 4 kg grass

Dry cows: 3 kgDM grass silage, 5 kg PK/tapioca and 1 kg grass

We made a start on our autumn sowing also this week, with 16ha of Italian undersowing and 4ha of Annuals going in. As mentioned before the remaining 20ha will be completed this week.

Key Points for the week ahead:

  • Talk to your grazier and check on your young stock.
  • Take stock of your feed on hand and plan how it is going to be used
  • Get the neighbour over and BCS your herd and then visit their herd and do the same. Nothing like a fresh set of eyes!! This will help make the important dry-off decisions easier.

Great to have some company with us this morning on our farm walk where we discussed Autumn plans and then budgets back in the office. Always appreciate having such open discussion with local farmers.

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