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

Monday, 10 August 2020


Week ending 10-8-20 farm notes:

Data 11-8-20

Wedge 11-8-20

PASTURES AND FEED

Pasture cover has dropped again this week to 2249 kg DM/ha with a growth rate of 23 kg DM/ha.  We are grazing 3 ha/day which is slightly slower than the Spring Rotation Planner guide of up to 3.14 ha/day. We have tentatively skipped two of our biggest paddocks (7.4ha) which are currently over 4000 kg DM/ha, with the idea of making silage towards the end of the month.  The last remaining paddock on our wedge over 4000 kg DM/ha is close to the shed for colostrum cows next week. We still have no need to supplement milking cows with extra feed as they are only just starting to hit target residuals and we can allocate more area to the milkers if needed. It appears that we have a gap arising in the wedge.  The next 7-10 days will see us keeping a very close eye on the feed situation. We have been feed budgeting using the DairyNZ Feedflow template and updating as we go. With warm soils (12°C+), recent rain and average pasture cover still slightly higher than expected we expect long term growth rates to be achieved for August (40 kg DM/ ha) and September (56 kg DM/ha). Current demand is 44 kg DM/ha and at Balance Date peak demand is 57 kg DM/ha so the feed situation can change very quickly.

Last week we started applying nitrogen, SustaiN Ammo30 @ 100kg/ha, first on those paddocks grazed during July: approx. 60 ha.  Soil test results show that only 2 out of 7 blocks were low in sulphur so we will be using some SustaiN for those paddocks not needing sulphur.

We have a paddock of annuals off-farm which is due to be sprayed out and will be grazed by mid-August. We will continue to feed the springers 3 kg DM/day of hay and the colostrum cows 3 kg DM/day of PK.  We have hay, PK and 16 t DM silage still on hand if needed to fill a gap in two weeks’ time. In the meantime focus is on reducing APC and achieving residual targets of 1500 kg DM/ha.

This week we will graze 27 ha of our 144 ha. While this may seem quick (36 day rotation), do the numbers for your own farm to give you confidence in your feed planning.

 

ANIMALS

Milkers are now being offered up to 17.5 kg DM/cow/day and are starting to clean this up on approx. 85m2/cow.  This just over 85% of their potential peak intake for cows calved up to 5 weeks. They are getting MgO dusted on their pasture break and a lick (0.5L/cow/day) of calcium-enriched molasses on their way to and from the shed. We are using the dry mob to follow the milkers to remove another 100 kg DM/ha from these paddocks when necessary, but the milkers are getting closer to post-graze residual targets each day as the herd increases in size and pre-graze covers reduce, and the dry mob are spending less time following the milkers.

Colostrum cows are being offered pasture almost ad-lib (16-18 kg DM/cow/day) to avoid paddock damage. They also have access to 3 kg DM/cow/day PK and 1L/cow/day molasses for Mg and Ca supplementation.

Springer cows are being offered 8 kg DM/cow/day pasture with 3 kg DM/cow/day hay dusted with MgO.

Dry cows are being offered 10 kg DM pasture only. All cows are receiving MgCl through the dosatron.

We have 128 replacement heifers tagged from our 90 target. The first 100 are on OAD feeding now to help reduce workload in the afternoons. Last week five calves were blood-tested to check total protein levels to determine the efficacy of early calf rearing processes and colostrum management. The mean level at 69 g/L was very good and only one calf out of the five was below the trigger level of <52 (it was 49 g/L). If these results came back poorly, the vet would have recommended we investigate further our procedures for calf pickup and colostrum management on farm.

Eight surplus yearlings from our total 12 left the farm this week; they sold at $800/head averaging 152 BW. With the four empty culls gone and two deaths in the herd, this has left us with 410 cows to peak milk.

With two milking mobs now, we have the opportunity to preferentially feed or shorten walking distances.  We have only seven mixed aged cows on OAD, which is a great result considering the concerns we had over liveweight gains in the autumn.  They are coping well within the herd.

The July weights from our heifers show that while our new grazier has managed to reduce the percentage of heifers underweight by 11%, significant work is still needed to get these heifers to puberty and mating liveweight targets.  Six of them need to gain over 1 kg/day and 29 need to gain over 0.5 kg/day to meet mating targets.  The important thing is that the grazier has a plan to manage the feed situation to provide adequate intake levels for weight gain, and is already running a handful of heifers ahead of the mob.

 

BUSINESS

Now that the budget is set for the year it takes discipline to stick to it. Having conversations with your team on a regular basis about how much things cost is important.  Today Tom and I looked at which N product we need to use on the farm when 5 out of 7 blocks came back with adequate sulphur levels on the soil tests.  For the bulk of the farm we just need N in the form of SustaiN which is $1.36/kg N.  If we use SustaiN Ammo 30 it costs us $1.66/kg N.  This is fine if sulphur is limiting, but we can save another $540 over the next fortnight due to the kind weather if we use data (and visual observations) to establish if we don’t need to apply extra Sulphur. Same outcome but money saved. We trust in the advice from JB our Ballance Agri Nutrients rep.

 

ENVIRONMENT

This season we had a concerted effort to delay N applications until we truly needed the feed supplied.  With high average pasture covers and a similar season to last year we did not want to create more of a surplus when we were struggling to maintain feed quality.  By delaying N application we are also reducing the potential N surplus.  Warm soils, faster growing pastures and high pasture harvest rates all contribute positively in Overseer to a lower purchased N surplus.

LaArni has been diligently working on effluent application during this period; the pond is now half empty.

 

INFRASTRUCTURE

The cows have got the hang of the Batt Latch in the afternoons, and the first herd happily make their way to the shed at 2.30pm.  Sadly, they are still not so good in the mornings :(

We have noticed a definite saving in herd travel time to the shed from our investment in race surfacing.  Walks that used to take 45 minutes are now taking 30 minutes.  On average we are seeing a 30% reduction in walking time.

 

PEOPLE AND COMMUNITY

Yvonne has been on board with the team for two weeks now, and we have been able to commence rostered days off. LaArni is still averaging 50 hours/week through calving, and average of 36 hours/week season to date (STD).  It’s important to take care of key decision makers on farm.  For Tom we have relief milkers in place, and contractors to apply nitrogen this spring, to help reduce the workload over the coming weeks.

Managing work hours helps to reduce fatigue and ensure employees are rewarded fairly for their contribution. For those of you with staff working 50 hours/week, they either need to be on $50k salary (total package value – includes accommodation) to be sure that they are receiving the minimum wage of $18.90/hr within each pay cycle, or this can also be managed with top-up payments.

The Year 10 students braved the cold and wet weather to plant Christmas trees this week as part of their Owl Trees business venture. It will be great to see them grow alongside their trees over the next three years!

 

PLANNING FOR THE MONTH AHEAD:

  • Regular time off
  • Monitor residuals and area allocation
  • Apply N to paddocks that have been grazed in the last 2 weeks
  • Update farm walk and feedflow budget – monitor, monitor, monitor
  • Select heifer replacement calves for sale
  • Prepare blood and colostrum tests for Wagyus to leave the farm
  • Book cow BCS for mid-August to identify at-risk cows

 

Cheers Jo + Tom

Monday, 3 August 2020


Week ending 3-8-20 farm notes:

Data 3-8-20

Wedge

 

PASTURES AND FEED

Cover has dropped again this week to 2405 kg DM/ha with a growth rate of 25 kg DM/ha.  We are grazing 2.72 ha/day which is slightly quicker than the Spring Rotation Planner guide of up to 2.68 ha/day. We have tentatively skipped our biggest paddock (5ha), with the idea of making silage towards the end of the month. The paddocks coloured red are earmarked for silage, the remaining coloured paddocks (22ha) will be grazed this week.  The paddocks lined up for the following week are already at 2900 kg DM/ha and will be approximately 3100 kg DM/ha by next week’s grazing for milkers. With warm soils and average pasture cover 150 kg DM/ha higher than expected, we still have no need to supplement milking cows with extra feed as we can allocate more area to the milkers if needed. With fewer dry cows available we won’t be able to clean up behind the milkers after this week, so lower pre-graze covers will help achieve residual targets.

You can look ahead multiple weeks by using the feed wedge and skipping down the area you plan to graze over the next week; if this pre-graze is too long then you can opt to take out some of the paddocks so that you are hitting your pre-graze targets.

This week we will start applying nitrogen, first on those paddocks grazed during July; approx. 60ha will be done today with 100kg/ha of SustaiN Ammo30.

ANIMALS

Milkers are being offered up to 18 kg DM/cow/day but are currently eating around 17 kg DM/cow on 85m2/cow.  They are getting MgO dusted on their pasture break and a lick (0.5L/cow/day) of calcium-enriched molasses on their way to and from the shed. We are using the dry mob to follow the milkers and remove another 200 kg DM/ha from these paddocks when necessary, but the milkers are getting closer to post-graze residual targets each day as the herd increases in size and pre-graze covers reduce, and the dry mob are spending less time following the milkers. The dry mob will be added to the springers by the end of the week.

Colostrum cows are being offered pasture almost ad-lib (16-18 kg DM/cow/day) to avoid paddock damage. They also have access to 3 kg DM/cow/day PK and 1L/cow/day molasses for Mg and Ca supplementation.

Springer cows are being offered 8 kg DM/cow/day pasture with 3 kg DM/cow/day hay dusted with MgO.

Dry cows are being offered 10 kg DM pasture only. This week they spent 3 days grazing behind the milkers and the rest of the week grazing off a high end cover paddock.

All cows are receiving MgCl through the dosatron.

We have 121 replacement heifers tagged from our 90 target, we will be selling the surplus calves through Kelly Higgins from Carrfields.  The first 80 are on OAD feeding now to help reduce workload in the afternoons. The oldest 80 were dehorned and vaccinated today. Calving has definitely slowed this week with only 25 cows calving. It has given us some time to do some training with new staff members and catch up with a few jobs around the farm.

We have found 4 empty cows during July so these will head off as culls, and unfortunately we lost one cow this week, leaving us with 410 to peak milk.

Last week we met up with our LIC reps Neville and Ashleigh who were keen to lock in our plan for the upcoming AB period.  We will follow a similar plan to last year, with a key goal to continue reducing bobby calf numbers while producing early high BW replacements. We will use sexed A2A2 Crossbreed semen from day 2 of AB on the top 50% BW cows.  We will be allocated 10 straws per day for 3 weeks; if we have more than 10 cows on that day we will also have Crossbreed forward pack conventional semen available to use.  The rest of the herd will receive a combination of SGL (short gestation length) Hereford and Wagyu until week 6, then everything will go to SGL Dairy until week 11.

We have Metrichecked and treated 19 out of 242 (7%) of the cows that calved in weeks 1-3. Those that calved after this have been tail painted, and we will Metricheck this group towards the end of the month. This week we will split the milking herd into two groups, with heifers and any light cows in the second mob, and the remainder in the first mob.

 

BUSINESS

I had time this week to catch up with Dayna from Westpac (our trusted business partners) to discuss our lofty goal of achieving 7% ROA and top 20% Operating Profit (compared with Waikato Ow/Op in DairyBase). This positions us to maximise principal repayments and work towards our goal of <$20 debt/kg MS. The Pasture Summit webinar I watched recently had farmers sharing their target of $1/kg MS debt repayment.  Strong equity in your business provides future options. Having clear financial goals for your business makes it easier to set the budget and then manage expenditure within it. Last season our FWE were $4.80/kg MS; this includes significant investment to achieve some of our People, Animal and Environment wagon wheel KPIs.  This obviously creates some healthy tension on achieving our Business Health KPIs.

 

ENVIRONMENT

Last week we made a start releasing some of the plants we planted along a few drains last season.  We will continue the task this week before the drains fill with water again. We are very happy with the survival rate of the plants, with about 95% still there and growing well.

The effluent pond still has 20% freeboard but we will make a start pumping out this week in case there is a wet period during August when we cannot apply effluent. This offers a great opportunity for training and setting up an SOP for our new staff member.

It is a busy time with lots of visitors to the farm.  Having clear signage for disinfection for those coming from other properties helps to reduce the spread of diseases, and it is important to provide a place for everyone to wash their hands after handling calves, especially with lots of children who visit calves during spring.

 

INFRASTRUCTURE

We have built a trusted relationship with our Protrack® drafter now.  As we continue to integrate its use on farm, Tom has built a box for our “tuff tab” for the team to use at cups-on.  It charges in the office during the day and taking it in and out for milking is now part of the routine.  Anyone observing cows at cupping can still create a manual draft if they want to check out a cow.

 

PEOPLE AND COMMUNITY

We have been blessed by a great spring and are aware that farmers are still struggling from adverse events around the country.  We have some excess feed heading north to farmers that have reached out for help through RST.  We also donated one of our cull cows to IHC this year; something that has always been a tradition for many farmers. We continue to have a steady stream of students to the farm to discuss topics like intensification and the environment and animal welfare. We also provided a venue for industry training this week, with the vehicle module of the GoDairy career changes, and dairy shed inspections for Fonterra and QCONZ.  As a commercial dairy farm we can provide genuine learning experiences for many and benefit from the knowledge and skills we are exposed to.

 

PLANNING FOR THE MONTH AHEAD:

  • Work with grazier to achieve mating liveweight targets
  • Discuss silage and crop needs and timing with contractors
  • Analyse time and task data from spring
  • Get the cows used to the Batt-Latch gate release timer
  • Total protein blood tests for calves to check systems are working
  • Book cow BCS for mid-August to identify at-risk cows

 

Cheers Jo + Tom

Monday, 27 July 2020


Week ending 27-7-20 farm notes:

Data 27-7-20

Wedge 28-7-20

KEY ACTION FOR THE WEEK:

  • Carry out weekly farmwalk to give us confidence to stick to the plan

PASTURES AND FEED

Cover has dropped again this week to 2500kgDM/ha with a growth rate of 22 kg DM/ha.  We are grazing 2.1 ha/day which is slightly slower than our Spring Rotation Planner guide of up to 2.27 ha/day. With covers over 200 kgDM/ha higher than expected and warm soils we still have no need to supplement milking cows with extra feed as we have the ability to allocate more area if needed to the milkers. When we apply a best fit pre-graze line to the wedge there appears to be a dip coming up.  Remember that the line flattens out as our pre-graze reduces with more area offered and our residual increases closer to 1500kgDM/ha. Tom and I plan out what paddocks we will use this week and what the following week will look like with a week of growth. We will graze through approximately 16ha this week which gets us onto paddocks next week that are currently over 3000kgDM/ha. We will start spring N applications next week and we will start to see cows grazing out paddocks without needing dry cows to clean up behind.  We also have silage available if needed to plug the gap if the available area does not have sufficient pasture per cow. We are offering 3kgDM/cow of PK as a carrier of Mag and Calcium for the Colostrum period only. Due to good winter growth we have delayed our early spring N application until early August, and will see if we need to add S based on soil test results carried out this week by Sam and JB from Ballance Agri-nutrients.

 

ANIMALS

Milkers are being offered up to 18 kg DM/cow/day but are currently eating around 16.5 kg DM/cow on average.  They are getting MgO dusted on their pasture break and a lick (0.5L/cow/day) of calcium-enriched molasses on their way to and from the shed. We are using the dry mob to follow the milkers and remove another 200-300 kg DM/ha from these paddocks when necessary, but the milkers are getting closer to post graze residual targets each day as the herd increases in size and pre graze covers reduce.

Colostrum cows are being offered pasture almost ad-lib (16-18 kg DM/cow/day) to avoid paddock damage. They also have access to 3 kg DM/cow/day PK and 1L/cow/day molasses for Mg and Ca supplementation.

Springer cows are being offered 8 kg DM/cow/day pasture with 3 kg DM/cow/day hay dusted with MgO.

Dry cows are being offered 10 kg DM pasture only. This week they spent 3 days grazing behind the milkers and the rest of the week grazing off a high end cover paddock.

All cows are receiving MgCl through the dosatron.

We have 105 replacement heifers tagged from our 90 target, we will be selling off our surplus calves through Kelly Higgins from Carrfields.  The first 60 are on OAD feeding now to help reduce workload in the afternoons. We are starting to see our Wagyu’s arrive in the shed now with 7 tagged so far. The calves have access to fresh water, meal, hay and ezibreather mineral lick in their pens.

 

BUSINESS

Making time to sign and code invoices is an important part of managing the budget at Owl Farm. This ensures that everyone is aware of how much things cost on the farm and creates discussion when we are catching up monthly to compare actual vs budget expenditure in these areas. It also allows us to deal promptly with the odd invoice that might not be quite right or is still waiting on completion of service or product delivery.

 

ENVIRONMENT

This week we have been trimming branches off fencelines that have been causing shorts or becoming a hazard while riding on the races.

It is a busy time with lots of visitors to the farm especially around the calves.  Having clear signage for disinfection for those coming from other properties helps to reduce the spread of diseases and a place for everyone to wash their hands after handling calves is important especially with lots of children who visit calves during spring.

 

INFRASTRUCTURE

Now that we have plenty of calves in the shed LaArni is using our milk pump trailer to move milk, we have also made a box to carry buckets which is easier to load and unload. We use a Milk Flow meter to accurately measure out milk for each pen. While we wait to sell surplus calves we have pens of 20 calves, this will be reduced to 15-17 calves once we can spread them out again.

 

PEOPLE AND COMMUNITY

We are excited to have secured a permanent part-time Farm Assistant for the season. While we are blessed to have 4 capable students on board as relief milkers to manage the milking herd and help with the calves, it is essential to have our third team member.  We have a goal of every second weekend off and target a 45hr average working week.  Process and task management through calving has been excellent with Tom averaging over 70hr/wk (including demonstration time) and LaArni averaging around 50hr/wk. But with the delayed recruitment of our FA we are not achieving adequate time off for our team yet. More than ever it is essential to offer attractive, safe and rewarding workplaces as we look to entice more kiwis onto dairy farms.  As a demonstration farm we want to demonstrate career opportunities to students and provide educational opportunities.  We currently have a student on placement one day a week, and this fortnight we have Annalise visiting on a work placement from Massey vet School. Tom and LaArni have been super patient taking time with students to explain and demonstrate why and how things are done on farm. Every interaction is a potential future farmer or agri-professional.

Cheers Jo + Tom

Monday, 20 July 2020


Week ending 20-7-20 farm notes:

Data 20-7-20

Wedge 21-7-20

KEY ACTION FOR THE WEEK:

  • Recruit replacement to ensure we have a full team through spring

 

PASTURES AND FEED

Cover has only dipped slightly to 2557 kg DM/ha with a growth rate of 27 kg DM/ha.  We are grazing 1.75/ha/day compared with our Spring Rotation Planner guide of up to 2 ha with covers above target and warm soils.  This shows there is no need to supplement cows with extra feed as we can still allocate more area if needed to the milkers. Early spring N application will be delayed.

 

ANIMALS

Milkers are being offered up to 18 kg DM/cow/day but are currently eating around 15 kg DM/cow on average.  They are getting MgO dusted on their pasture break and a lick (0.5L/cow/day) of calcium-enriched molasses on their way to and from the shed. We are using the dry mob to follow the milkers and remove another 300-400 kg DM/ha from these paddocks.

Colostrum cows are being offered pasture almost ad-lib (16-18 kg DM/cow/day) to avoid paddock damage. They also have access to 3 kg DM/cow/day PK and 1L/cow/day molasses for Mg and Ca supplementation.

Springer cows are being offered 8 kg DM/cow/day pasture with 3 kg DM/cow/day hay dusted with MgO.

Dry cows are being offered 10 kg DM pasture only.

All cows are receiving MgCl through the dosatron.

We have 70 replacement heifers tagged from our 90 target.  The first 45 of these will go on OAD feeding at the end of this week to help reduce workload.  We have sold 17 calves which are either Hereford crosses or Friesian bulls, and we have one Wagyu in the shed.  The calves have access to fresh water, muesli, hay and ezibreather mineral lick in their pens.

 

BUSINESS

Fonterra has updated their advance payment rates for 2019/20 and 2020/21 forecast.  We have updated our budget with this increase using the mid-point of $6.40/kg MS. This has the effect of reducing the retro and increasing the advance payment, resulting in a net gain of $10k for Owl Farm for the coming year.

ENVIRONMENT

Along with the long grass growing in the paddocks, we have identified carex and other plants along the drains that require releasing over the spring period as they are becoming overwhelmed with grass.  This is a great job for when the team is not so busy taking care of all the newly-calved cows.

 

INFRASTRUCTURE

At Owl Farm we don’t have any off paddock feeding infrastructure, so to ensure adequate mineral supply this season Tom has had a sled built that can carry 300L calcium-enriched molasses for the milkers to have a taste on the way to and from the shed.

 

PEOPLE AND COMMUNITY

We are excited to have secured a permanent part-time Farm Assistant for the season. While we are blessed to have three capable students on board as relief milkers to manage the milking herd and help with the calves, it is essential to have our third team member.  We have a goal of every second weekend off and target a 45hr average working week.  More than ever it is essential to offer attractive, safe and rewarding workplaces as we look to entice more kiwis onto dairy farms.  As a demonstration farm we want to demonstrate career opportunities to students and provide educational opportunities.  We currently have a student on placement one day a week, and have multiple classes visiting throughout the week to observe milking and other farm activities, and especially to interact with the calves.  Our farm system is structured to allow a break between 10am and 2pm which provides time for these activities and a well-earned rest for our hardworking team.

Cheers Jo & Tom

 

Monday, 13 July 2020


Week ending 13-7-20 farm notes:

Data 13-7-20

Feed wedge 14-7-20

KEY DECISIONS FOR THE WEEK:

  • Started sending milk to the factory

PASTURES AND FEED

Cover has increased to 2587kgDM/ha this week with an average PGR of 31kgDM/ha/day.  We are still only grazing 1.6ha/day which is a 90 day rotation.  The feed wedge shows the allocation of paddocks for each of the mobs over the next few weeks.

Milkers (70m2/cow/day) allocated 17kgDM/cow/day.  They are struggling to eat this especially as we are going through some long paddocks that will be need to be cleaned up by dry cows afterwards.

Colostrum cows are feed generously 14kgDM+ pasture plus PK and Molasses lick for minerals

Springers are getting 8kgDM pasture and 2-2.5kg hay.

Dry cows are getting 10kgDM pasture.

We have now finished our small stack of left over sorghum silage and are now feeding hay to our 2 springer mobs. We have about 4-5 weeks of hay feeding at these rates and another 16tDM of milking cow silage remaining.

We have contracted our PK as needed in our feed budget to October for $267/t + cartage.  This is only being used for Colostrum cows allocated at 3kgDM/cow/day.

 

ANIMALS

We have had 89 cows calve so far after 1 week of calving, this is a little slower than normal having done less intervention last mating.  We have just tagged #25 heifer replacement and we also have had our first Wagyu calf join the farm. We have started supplying Fonterra this week!

Magnesium supplementation is via dusting MgO at 80g/cow/day plus they are receiving 90g MgCl/cow/day through the dosatron. Mag sulphate has also been sprayed onto 16ha, mostly these paddocks will be the first milking paddocks. This was sprayed on at 75kg/ha using a Tow N Fert.

Blood test results showed that all minerals are in a good state. We tested our springing cows, one newly calved cow was tested and that showed she was a little low in calcium, but she had not had access to any calcium yet so we will be checking the bloods of the colostrum herd this week to see how their levels are sitting. They have access to Calcium in their molasses lick drum and also mixed into their PK.

To transition colostrum cows into the milking mob we use 4 coloured tapes for marking each day they spend in the colostrum mob, each milking they are pre sprayed with teat sprayer using a Cambrian sprayer, they are then stripped before milking. After 4 days they are then paddle tested and if clear they are drafted to join the milking mob, if we are worried about a cow or quarter we mark with a red dot, this is then made blue once we are happy. 

Calving boxes are left in springer paddocks which contain some calving ropes, energy drench and some metabolic bags to save time having to return to the shed when time is limited.

 

BUSINESS

Spent some valuable time with our partners to evaluate our wagonwheel KPIs for the next 5 years.  We are evaluating them to see that they are driving the right behaviour, that they are consistent and can be benchmarked year to year and against the industry. This is an important process for every business to go through and is a great chance to gather views from the knowledgeable rural professionals supporting your business.


ENVIRONMENT

The school is involved in “Paper for trees” program with Envirowaste and we received 124 kanuka plants this year that we have planted this week on a sidling area that will now be ungrazed due to change of land use in the paddock alongside it.


INFRASTRUCTURE

Biosecurity procedures for calf pick up include a boot wash at the entrance of the bobby pen for the truck drivers to dunk their feet in.  They are limited to accessing 1 pen only.  We also always feed our heifers first and have a boot wash at the heifer shed. Calf pens are sprayed with Virkon on Friday mornings to keep any bugs at bay.

Greg Duncan from FIL visited to carry out a plant hygiene check on Friday. We used his inline endoscope camera to check for any milk deposits and pulled apart some seals. There was a little dirt in our sanitary trap which we have cleaned and we have replaced our auto-drain hoses from the centre of the platform.

 
PEOPLE AND COMMUNITY

We are lucky to have access to keen and capable students to help out on the farm but we are still on the look-out for someone to join our team who lives locally and can drive in early for milking, calf rearing and feeding out. We have some lofty goals around sustainable workplace hours and regular time-off and have a great opportunity for someone who enjoys working with stock, and maintaining a farm environment open to the public every day. For someone keen to learn lots we have access to industry experts and resources to fast-track their development. Contact Tom if you know someone who would fit with our team.

For those of you with new teams on farm check out DairyNZ’s must-have skills in Dairy that can be accessed via https://www.dairynz.co.nz/people/employee/visual-learning-guides/ .They are full of pictures, videos, key messages and applicable to the fundamentals of managing stock on farm.

 

Cheers Jo and Tom

Monday, 6 July 2020


Week ending 6-7-20 farm notes:

data 6-7-20

wedge 7-7-20

KEY ACTIONS FOR THE WEEK:

  • Carry out pre-calving BCS and tail check
  • Complete farm dairy records
  • Recruit new team member 

PASTURES AND FEED

Average Pasture Cover (APC) has started to decline to 2495 kg DM/ha with a Pasture Growth Rate (PGR) of 22 kg DM/ha/day.  The feed wedge shows covers over 3500 kg DM/ha allocated to springer and dry cows, with the dip that follows allocated for the milkers – this is to ensure that they are going into paddocks between 3000-3500 kg DM. We are using the DairyNZ Spring Rotation Planner to make area allocation easy for the next 60 days. We are targeting just over 1.6 ha/day and will use supplements to top up the diet if pasture is limiting. Using the average area to allocate along with the APC guide allows us to check that daily management decisions are trending in the right direction.

We are offering colostrum cows 14 kg DM pasture, 3 kg PK and they have ad-lib access to calcium-enriched molasses (55g Ca/kg molasses); they appear to be consuming 1 kg each per day. This provides the equivalent of 50g of limeflour, and they are getting another 100g of limeflour in the PK (total 150g limeflour/cow). They are being milked twice a day.

We have two spring mobs, one with 100 heifers and another of 150 mixed-age cows. These are due to calve in the first three weeks of calving.  They are currently being offered 6-7 kg DM pasture daily, along with 3 kg DM of sorghum silage from 18 months ago. We have reduced the MgCl going through the dosatron to 90 g/cow/day and have started dusting the paddocks at 70 g/cow/day when dry and 100 g/cow/day when wet.

The remaining 136 cows are in a dry mob, which are being offered 10 kg DM pasture daily.

 

ANIMALS

Overall BCS for the herd yesterday was 5.7, with the milking cows at 5.6, and heifers at 5.8.  No cow had a BCS below 4.5.  The herd is above the industry target of 5.0 at calving (5.5 for heifers).  Our aim during winter feeding was to maintain BCS and ensure cows didn’t increase BCS above a healthy level.  We still have an at-risk group of older high-BCS cows that will be calving later, so we are prepared to use hay to manage their transition if needed.

Cows are well known for their flicking tails which can naturally get caught in places which cause damage. Peter from Cambridge Vets carried out our first herd tail score during the BCS assessment.  This identified seven cows with fractures (1.6%), one with a deformed tail and one with a docked tail. Peter suggested that such a low prevalence is good feedback on staff procedures. He suggested doing another tail score after calving to check trends.  We are hoping to use this information to provide insights on our tail trimming, yard facilities and stock management procedures which might cause tail damage. DairyNZ has a great resource about the importance of correctly managing cows’ tails: https://www.dairynz.co.nz/media/5793127/every-cow-has-a-tail-to-tell-a4-resource.pdf

We have over 30 calves in the shed, with four tagged replacement calves and two beefies.  Calves are picked up once a day, and twice if conditions are poor.  Every calf receives 2L of colostrum via tube on arrival at the shed.  Calves are fed 2L twice a day for the first week; thereafter they are fed once a day with access to meal and forage. Calves are sprayed twice daily with iodine until their umbilical cord dries up.

 

BUSINESS

Tom and I spent time together completing our Fonterra Farm Dairy records, which provide us with an environmental report including the Nitrogen Risk Scorecard and Greenhouse Gas Emissions. These are due by the end of July.  Farm Source Cambridge are hosting drop-in session on Fridays from 10am to 1pm, and Te Awamutu from 11am to 2pm until the end of the month.


ENVIRONMENT

Heavy rains recently have allowed us to observe water flow off the newly-shaped races to check that cut aways are positioned to reduce scouring on the race, and ensure water flow is through vegetation in paddocks and not at risk of entering waterways.


INFRASTRUCTURE

We restocked the medicine cabinet with prescriptions, including pain relief which can be administered to cows where we recognise that pain relief will speed up the natural healing process. Although a hefty investment at $33/cow for an injection of Metacam, we only used it on around 10 cows last season with great results.


PEOPLE AND COMMUNITY

Due to personal health issues we now have a vacancy at Owl Farm for a permanent part-time Farm Assistant.  We are looking for someone who lives locally and can drive in early for milking, calf rearing and feeding out. It’s a great opportunity for someone who enjoys working with stock, and maintaining a farm environment open to the public every day. For someone keen to learn lots we have access to industry experts and resources to fast-track their development. Contact Tom if you know someone who would fit with our team.

We took the farm team into Farm Source Cambridge to get their PPE gear for the new season.  We like to keep them warm, dry and safely geared up for their daily work. It was a great chance to catch up with the team at the store and secure supplies for calving.

Cheers

Jo and Tom








Load More

Newsletter Sign-up: