Monday, 22 February 2021


Week ending 22-2-21 farm notes:

Data 22-2-21

Wedge 23-2-21

FARM PERFORMANCE

The rain was probably a week to early for us this year as the paddocks that still had a grazing in them (> 2000 kgDM/ha) have dropped 100-200 kgDM in cover while the grazed paddocks with green base grew in the mid 30’s.  APC dropped to 1796 kgDM/ha with average PGR at 19 kgDM/ha/day. The big herd will start on Kale tomorrow and Tom has mown the first strip to allow access while the cows get used to the transition.  We are going from 4kgDM turnip to 4-5kgDM of Kale which does not require re-transitioning but we expect a behavioural change lowering intake as they get used to eating sticks instead of balls!! The latest rain should not cause a spike in Nitrates but we will test anyway just to be safe.

We have lifted the grass silage allocation to 6kg and this week will reduce the PKE to the small mob only as we are on our last 20 tDM in our budget.

10 empty cows left the farm on Sunday. The highest BW empty cows that can be carried over will leave the week of 10th March for the sale yards. The remainder of the empty/culls will leave as soon as we can get them to the works (wait time is currently 3 weeks with Greenlea).

Meet with Kyle and Michaela to plan next years’ pasture re-grass plan.

  1. We started with the budget of $22,800.
  2. All the crop paddocks to go back into Legion PR + Savvy Cocksfoot or Platform PR with Quartz and Legacy white clover, Amigain red clover and Ecotain Environmental Plantain.
  3. 50-75% of next years crop paddocks go into Winter Star annuals – this leaves room for crop paddock discretionary choice in case we have any damage from a wet winter.
  4. Paddocks are ranked on last years yield, then filtered on clover and plantain content and pasture condition score.
  5. The remainder of the budget is spent on Italians for paddocks to go into crop or new pasture within 2 years and grass to grass with Ryegrass, Clover and Plantain

More detail will be available at the March 18 Focus Day.

Calves have gone onto ryegrass for up to 10 days to give the Chicory a chance to recover and recommence a 25 day rotation.  We considered spore counts (tested at 60,000) and ensured calves continued to receive Zinc in water trough, and last grazing from cows which was over 30 days to select paddocks.

 

ANIMAL WELLBEING

One cow was identified as having photosensitivity from the brassicas.  She dropped in milk production and had redden skin.  She has been removed from the crop and offered access to shade and high-quality feed. She will be given antihistamine.

We are planning our race maintenance for areas where we will have heavy traffic travelling to and from crops again next year.  This is part of our 2 year capital race upgrade to minimise lameness.

 

BUSINESS HEALTH

Our cashflow updated to end of Jan can be found here http://www.owlfarm.nz/updated cashflow Jan 2021

Farm working Expenses to date is $554,910 which is $3.71/kgMS over 175,000kgMS target.  This is 65% of our total budget. This reflects the shift from more brought in silage and less purchased PK and Chicory grown on lease land for calves.

We still have the following expenses which may come in below budget

$15k on a planting plan (hoping to get this cheaper)

$25k on race maintenance (will be spent but dependent on weather and timing of contractor movements)

$11k on zinc boluses (dependent on FE challenge if trough treatment is not suitable)

$18k on PK (dependant on pasture growth and silage available)

Our revised year end surplus (before tax and principal) after 6 months of $407k is significantly different from the budget approved in May 2020 of $211k.  This reflects expenditure within $1k of budget but $198k of increased milk income, dividend and stock sales.

 

HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT

Plans are in place to shift fences back another 1m along the drain outside turnip paddocks.  We have Flax, Cabbage Tree, Karamu and Carex plants that have grown well during the summer and need to find homes to make way for the Trees for Survival seedlings that will arrive in October. The Flax and Carex will be planted along the drain in May and September this year.  We have Bullrush and Carex that will go into the wetland once it’s wet enough to survive but not so wet that we get stuck!!! They are currently 30cm high.

 

QUALITY WORKPLACE

Up to an hour/day is being spent fixing the silage wagon so we are putting a business proposal together to look at a trade in. This involves analysing time and money spent repairing the existing the wagon along with risk management in case of continued break downs. Silage will continue to be a large part of our farm system we would look to find a wagon that would delivery up to 8kg/cow/day within 2 wagon loads to save time on farm. This would still fit current tractor size and races.

 

COMMUNITY

Cycleway progress is fast in this fine weather and Tom has done a great job managing grazing between losing access to paddocks.  We hosted the Rural Delivery team on farm and are exciting to be showcasing our progress over the last 4 years.  Watch out for the segment in May.

 

PLANNING FOR THE MONTH AHEAD:

  • Ordering seed
  • Empty effluent pond
  • Empties and culls leave the farm
  • Weighing calves
  • Preparing for Thursday March 18 Focus Day

 

Cheers from Jo + Tom

Monday, 15 February 2021


Farm info for week ending 15-2-21:

Data 15-2-21

Wedge 16-2-21

FARM PERFORMANCE

Just over 28 mm of rain has been received within the last 7 days.  This has rotted away a lot of dry grass we still had on the farm and cover has dropped to 1848 kgDM/ha. The base of the sward has remained green and growth rate has lifted to 24kgDM/ha for the week.  Soil mositure levels indicate that it’s not enough to relieve plant stress and within a week 10mm of rain has been forgotten. There is limited rain in in the 10 day forecast so as per our feedbudget we have increased silage allocation and reduced the grass to 6-8kg offered/day.  This reduces our pre-graze cover to 2310 kgDM/ha on a 34 day rotation. Total N use for th eseason to date is 77kgN/ha.

We are currently offering 4kgDM of turnips, 5.5 kgDM silage, 2.5 kgDM PK and 6-8kgDM pasture. All the PKE is offered to the young herd first and then the older herd is cleaning it up. This is one strategy we use to preferrentially feed the younger cows so that BCS does not become a limitation for late lactation production.  We have produced 142,000 kgMS to date and are 1.3% behind for the season and 4.5% ahead for the month. We have just produced 350kgMS/cow season to date.

The cows have lifted slightly in production since the heat has eased but are leaving more turnip and silage residual.  The challenge is to minimise the wastage of these feeds while maintaining offering around 18kg DM/cow.

 

ANIMAL WELLBEING

Spore samples tested last week were 35,000.

Whole herd BCS was carried out by Peter Briston from Cambridge Vets (certified BCS assessor) with a herd average of 4.5 and R3y 4.7.  This was a pleasing result with only 19 cows at BCS 3.5, these individuals are all in the young herd which gets first pick of PK and preferentially feed. With limited ability to reduce milking and walking with 3 n 2 milking intervals we will monitor for further loss on these cows and they will be candidates for early dry off in 2 weeks’ time.

We have one cow dried off due to BCS and history of ill health (IBR)

 

BUSINESS HEALTH

Nothing to report

 

HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT

With current BCS at 4.5 and 28 mm of recent rainfall we have updated our Farmax budget with average growth rates of 17 kgDM Feb, 25 March, 36 April and 32 May. Predictions are that we will have more silage available at the end of the season than required for 21/22.  We have used Farmax to model the option of keeping cull cows on farm longer and exceeding our production target or carrying over more silage and reducing our use of spring PKE.

After ensuring we meet our BCS and APC targets we use partial budget to consider all the costs and benefits along with impacts on workplace quality and hours worked.  We also require enough demand to consume the 70 tDM of Kale so we can establish new grass before April.

For the team at Owl Farm we consider the impact on Biological GHG and impact on N leached.  From 2017-18 to 2019-20 we have reduced our biological GHG emission by over 12% in Overseer (from 10,304 kgCO2E/ha to 9030 kgCO2E/ha). 

Overseer provides historical data to compare while Farmax allows us to creates plans to respond to seasonal changes. Farmax modelling with Clint Gulliver from AgFirst for this season shows that we can achieve our target of 175,000kgMS and still have lower Biological GHG emissions than last season when we only did 167,185 kgMS in the drought.  This is due to predicted lower total feed eaten 18.1 t/ha vs 18.3 t/ha in the drought.

Our goal is to continue reducing our 3 year average Biological GHG/ha and to exceed industry targets. The seasonal variation relating to growing seasons highlights to us that the production system must continually evolve to reduce our emissions so that we have flexibility to make the most of good growing seasons.

 

QUALITY WORKPLACE

Total average hours for the week have continued to decline since reaching peak in mid December.  We are currently at 52hr/FTE/week season to date. Milking frequency and feeding out are the 2 biggest contributors. We have 2 students providing relief milking along with a permanent part-time team member covering Friday to Monday.  We still need to plan significant time-off before the end of season to reach our 45hr/FTE/wk target.

 

COMMUNITY

Today we hosted DairyNZ for some hands on BCS training. With such quiet cows and regular BCS data we are able to use Protrack to draft out a range of cows for these training events and facilities to provide a safe interaction between stock and people.

We were also busy on farm hosting Rural Delivery who are profiling all the progress we have made at Owl Farm over the last 4 years.  We’ll give you a heads up when its due to air.

 

PLANNING FOR THE MONTH AHEAD:

  • Meeting with Kyle to finalise regrassing plan
  • Using My Pasture Planner for 2021-22 N fertiliser planning with Ballance
  • Repro review

 

Cheers from Jo + Tom

Monday, 8 February 2021


Week ending 8-2-21 farm notes:

Data 8-2-21

Wedge 9-2-21

FARM PERFORMANCE

PGR continued to decline this week to 14kgDM/ha/day with APC dropping to 1969 kgDM/ha.  With pre-graze covers dropping and an attempt to keep feeding the girls as much as they could eat (in the heat) we increased the area offered to 4ha for the week. They are cleaning up the 4kgDM of turnips offered and are grazing to 1400kg DM/ha (decking the paddocks).  We have increased the grass silage offered by feeding again after the 11am milking into their grazing paddock.

Lab results showed the bulb turnip leaf average DM 15% and bulb 9%DM.  The turnips grown on dry soils tested higher in DM (14%). Results indicate that both crops have therefore yielded very similar total DM.  ME of the leaf was 11.9 MJME/kgDM and the bulb averaged 14.4 MJME/kgDM.

The purple paddock 6 (plantain/clover/ryegrass) on our feed wedge has not been grazed for 8 weeks after removing as a late surplus.  We will be testing this for spores and grazing this week as we reach a big hole in our wedge. We will continue to increase our pasture silage this week to cover the declining pasture offered. PK feeding is closely monitored to determine feeding levels aimed at maintaining an FEI A result in preparation for meeting highest quality milk standards next season. Our last load of $306/t contract PK is now on the farm and we are not budgeting on bringing anymore PK in for the milking cows.

Final PD results showed 10% not in calf after 11.5 weeks of mating. We will start to analyse the data and see what we can learn from the trends.

The Chicory is struggling to keep up with the calves love of it so we have increased the silage allocation to 2kg, 1kg PK (that’s all the calves want to eat) and 1kgDM of Chicory.  We are slowing the rotation back to 25 days after increasing it to 18 to meet increasing calf demand.

The R2 heifers weighed on the 28th Jan averaging 375kg.  Average weight gain of 0.5kg/day since 10th October. This average is below target and 30% of the group are currently below their target.  We have culled the empty heifers from the group and the grazier has moved at or above target heifers to another block with more feed available effectively increasing the supply for the remaining heifers.  Any heifer that requires more than 0.6kg gain/day remains at home feed PK and pasture silage along with grass to achieve the weight gain required before returning home 1st May. 

 

ANIMAL WELLBEING

Aniseed flavouring is being added to the water to remain palatable with the higher zinc dose rates.  Tom is removing the ballcock valve from the troughs before the cows go in to their paddocks and replacing when they leave to allow maximum flow and ensure cows are not without water during these hot weeks.

 

BUSINESS HEALTH

Waiting on BCS data this week (and rain) to complete Farmax modelling on when to remove empties and cull this season. Will share next week.

 

HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT

Nothing to report

 

QUALITY WORKPLACE

LaArni is back at ITO training 1 day/fortnight and we welcome back our students that relief milked on the farm last year returning to earn some extra money while they study.

 

COMMUNITY

Today we enjoyed the company of Morrinsville farmers on our farmwalk as we discussed the integration of brassica crops into summer feeding.  They were supported by their FarmSource team which made for some great discussions.  Farmers and RPs are always welcome to join.  Give us a heads up on your topics of interest and we will always throw in a farm drive to support the discussion.

 

PLANNING FOR THE MONTH AHEAD:

  • BCS and APC feed budget for the Autumn
  • Analyse pasture assessment data for regrass plan

 

Cheers from Jo + Tom

Monday, 1 February 2021


Week ending 1-2-21 farm notes:

Data 1-2-21

Wedge 2-2-21

 

FARM PERFORMANCE

APC dropped this week to 2069 kgDM/ha with PGR almost halving to 17kgDM/ha/day. With no rain this week growth rates dropped significantly, with soils at 300mm at 58% of their field capacity well below stress point (74%).  We are planning to allocate 3.5ha/day for the next 10-14 days and then there is a big hole in the wedge coming which we will fill with more grass silage and reducing demand through culling some empties. Cows have worked harder this week cleaning out paddocks with some residuals dropping down to 1400kgDM/ha.

It has been 105 days since planting turnips and we are now finished the Cleancrop Toto turnips and started on Cleancrop Bulb turnips last week.  Toto is best grazed up to 90 days and bulb turnip up to 110 days. The bulb turnips were yielded today (estimated 10%DM) at an average of 8.5tDM/ha on dry soils (Tamahere Gravelly Sandy Loam) and 12.8 tDM/ha on not so dry soils (Te Kowhai silt loam).

The cows are doing a good job cleaning up the turnips and we have been switching crop paddocks for the older/bigger herd to clean up any remaining bulb and to get through the early maturing crops quicker. We have just over 2 weeks left of turnips, offering up to 4 kg/cow/day before we start on the Kale.  The Kale is currently yielding 14tDM/ha at 14%DM and should last us approximately 48 days.

We aim to re-measure every 3-4 weeks and ensure allocation is still on target. We want to feed as much crop as we can now while maintaining highest quality milk so that we reduce wastage and get paddocks back into permanent pasture.

Diet for the week: 3-4kgDM turnips, 10kgDM grass, 2-3 kgDM silage, 2kgDM PK

Heifer pregnancy results showed 6 empty (6%) and 1 freemartin from 11 weeks mating including heifer synchronised blanket insemination with 30 Sexed semen KiwiCross and 71 premier sires A2/A2 KiwiCross straws.

 

ANIMAL WELLBEING

Currently spore counts are done weekly on the paddocks to be grazed over the next 48 hours.  While we haven’t had high counts returned for our farm (zero last week, up to 15,000 prior) conditions are favourable for growth and we have increased zinc dosing to full rates. We use 16.5kg/day of Zinc to deliver 38g/cow and 14g/calf.  We will spore count our deferred paddock before feeding and also check some of the grass area that the calves have access to so we can manage those particular hotspots.

At the last herd test we cultured milks samples from high SCC cows to ensure we are following the right treatment plans. We had 6 staph, 6 normal, 4 no growths. Information like this helps our planning with our vet to minimise our use of antibiotics using the most effective treatment plan for our herd.

 

BUSINESS HEALTH

Owl Farm financial information is now available on DairyBase as an individual Benchmark.  There is enough data for a Waikato Owner/Operator top 20% (based on Operating Profit) benchmark. This is the benchmark we compare Owl Farm against.  In the 2019/20 season we achieved Op Profit of $2,405/ha compared with the top 20% achieving $4,586.  These farms were stocked at 3.4 cows/ha vs our 2.7 cows/ha and produced 1,613 kgMS/ha vs our 1,134 kgMS/ha.  Along with Operating Profit our primary KPIs for business health include FWE ($4.96/kgMS includes drawings) and RoA.  We have secondary KPIs which we also monitor including our break even milk price ($6.42/kgMS) as we continue to build income streams and opening debt/kgMS ($20.86/kgMS) as we use surpluses to pay down debt to reduce the finance cost to the business. 

At Owl Farm we are using technology and data to improve environmental, animal wellbeing and quality workplace outcomes while creating a resilient business. Through our involvement in the DairyNZ Taking Action Group we are now able to benchmark our Op/Profit against Methane emissions/ha and purchased N surplus/ha.  This is giving us a better picture of our financial performance against environmental outcomes relative to other farmers in the Waikato.

 

HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT

Nothing to report

 

QUALITY WORKPLACE

Time away gives renewed confidence in our chosen farm system and the team’s ability to put together and execute the plan. Helena had a great experience learning about all the things required to run a farm and the relationship to animal health outcomes which will provide good foundations for her year ahead of tertiary studies.

 

COMMUNITY

Nothing to report

 

PLANNING FOR THE MONTH AHEAD:

  • Update Farmax modelling options around culls and feed situation relative to financial and environmental outcomes for robust decision making
  • Gathering cow data for decisions on culling
  • Update financial forecast with 20c/kgMS increase to midpoint payout

 

 

Cheers from Jo + Tom

Monday, 25 January 2021


Week ending 25-1-21 farm notes:

Data 25-1-21

Wedge 26-1-21

FARM PERFORMANCE

January production is tracking 5% ahead of last season.  Cows have just slipped below the 1.6kgMS average for 6 days. APC has held at 2195 kgDM/ha with a weekly growth of 31 kgDM/ha/day which is currently equal to our daily pasture demand. Soil moisture levels continue to decline with our moisture probe indicating that plants reached stress point this week with an average of 21%VW.  This is lower than this time last year when it was at 27% and we had only 5mm of rain in 5 weeks!  Indications are that regular rainfall (13mm/wk for the last 5 weeks) is keeping things green and growing but we will dry out extremely quickly when the rains stops due to low residual moisture.

Soil moisture

 

Diet has remained consistent over the last few weeks with an average intake over 24 hours of 11 kgDM grass, 3 kgDM turnips, 3 kgDM silage and 1 kgDM PK. As pre-graze covers drop we will increase the amount of silage and reduce PK in the diet as we will receive our last load of contracted PKE next month which we want to last for the calves.  Currently we are facing a wait of 5 days to get PK due to challenges at the port and shipping logistics.

 

ANIMAL WELLBEING

Spore samples this week were 5,000-15,000.  We will take samples in again on Thursday to check if they continue to rise. We are still dosing at half rates but will likely increase to full rates next week.

 

BUSINESS HEALTH

Westpac has lifted the 20/21 milk price forecast to $7.50/kgMS.  Our original budget was done in May 2020 at $6.15/kgMS payout.  With FWE expenses for the first 6 month only $13k more than budgeted (due to timing of silage making and purchasing) and with more than enough feed on farm for the remainder of the season, we predict that we will double our initial predicted surplus. We are meeting to discuss how to best manage this.

 

HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT

Nothing to report

 

QUALITY WORKPLACE

LaArni is doing a fantastic job running the farm while Tom’s away. We carried out the farmwalk today to check for any changes to the grazing plan. On the first day Tom left we had a sick cow down – typical.  But LaArni had a checklist to go through and confidence to ring the vet and provide her wonderful nursing skills to get #24 back to health.  We are waiting for the results on suspected salmonella.

We are slowly decreasing our average hours worked/wk.  Currently tracking at 53 hr/person/wk.  We have a target of 45 hrs/person/week for the year.  This will be challenging this year as it looks increasingly unlikely for LaArni to return home this Autumn and we expect that we will have a longer period on 3n2 milking and a longer total lactation.  With students returning back in the next few weeks we look forward to having them available for the 6am and 6pm milkings which fit better with their school activities.

It is important on the days with 2 milkings to have an extended break from 11am to 3pm (before 1 person shifts the cows onto crops). This keeps the team out of the heat or allows them to get away from the farm for a few hours every second day. Other than looking for water leaks we do not go looking for any more work at this time of the year!!!

 

COMMUNITY

As part of the continued development of the Te Awa cycleway St Peters have granted an easement over the farm for another 3km of 3m cycleway to extend the existing route through to Hamilton eventually. Owl Farm has had the public enjoy riding and walking through the farm for over 6 years already and we are proud to showcase our highest quality animal and land management to the public. While the next 10 months will be a bit challenging operating a dairy farm with increased contractors on site we have put plans in place to minimise disruptions and ensure the safety of everyone involved. The first stage is to provide alternative fencing to the paddocks most affected so that we can continue to graze them without the risk of stock escaping.

 

PLANNING FOR THE MONTH AHEAD:

  • Final PD on the 9th Feb
  • Individual BCS 11th Feb

 

Cheers from Jo + LaArni

Monday, 18 January 2021


Week ending 18.1.21 farm notes:

Data 18-1-21

Wedge 19-1-21

FARM PERFORMANCE

APC has increased to 2183 kgDM/ha this week with an average growth of 41 kgDM/ha/day. In an attempt to eat available pasture under very hot conditions our rotation slowed down to 53 days.  With the gap in the wedge now filled and pre-graze covers back at 2800 kgDM/ha we are reducing silage (to 2kgDM/cow/day) and PK (to 1kgDM/cow/day for young herd) and increasing pasture allocation again back up to 12.5kgDM/cow/day. While spore counts are low and rainfall regular we want to continue to consume as much pasture first as we can.  With soil moisture levels at 21% in the top 200mm things will change quickly without regular rainfall. If we have a spike in FE spores we can reduce grazing pressure by increasing silage in the diet.

Feed samples analysed last week showed pasture average ME 11.1, Protein 18.5 %DM, Dry Matter 25%, NDF 47 %DM.

Silage ME 10.9, Protein 15.5 %DM, Dry Matter 34%, NDF 47.4 %DM

Turnips Top ME 12.3, Protein 15.4 %DM, Dry Matter 13%

Turnips Bulb ME 14.3, Protein 11.7 %DM, Dry Matter 9%

Our cows currently require 191 MJME/cow/day and we are offering over 204 MJME.  At these levels we expect cows to be maintaining weight with our next BCS due in mid Feb. They currently require 16 %DM Protein in their diet and are currently getting 16.6 %DM with the main contributor being pasture still.

Updated Farmax budgets show that we are in a position to delay 10 cows that were booked in for end of Jan until after final PD.  With challenges in shipping transport we expect weak returns from cull cows for the next few months so we are analysing options to keep culls on farm longer this Autumn to utilise high crop yields available through March.

Calves were weighed on Monday averaging 170kg with no calves underweight.  They have put on 0.9kg/calf/day since their last weighing on the 26th November.  Working backwards these calves must have eaten approx. 4 kgDM/hd/day.  This was made up of 0.7 kgDM silage 0.5 kg PK and 2.8 kgDM Chicory. We are calibrating this with pre and post grazing cuts of the Chicory. We will continue to offer feed at a similar rate on a 25 day rotation as the calves are increasing their utilisation of the chicory and PK. We are applying 40 kgN/ha to the Chicory this week in anticipation of continued rain.

The Chicory samples showed Protein at 21 %DM, ME at 12.7 and Dry Matter at 9%. Calves require more than 17% DM protein in their diet at the moment.

 

ANIMAL WELLBEING

Spore counts this week were between 0 and 10,000.  17g/cow of Zinc is going through the dosatron daily.  This is nearly half of the recommended full rate of 38g/cow/day.  We will continue taking spore counts weekly from now on the results can be found on Cambridge Vets website https://www.cambridgevets.co.nz/farm-animal-services/spore-counts/

 

BUSINESS HEALTH

Nothing to report

 

HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT

Nothing to report

 

QUALITY WORKPLACE

Farwell to Tom who is off for a 2-week tour of the South Island and to support their daughter competing in the South Island Wakeboarding championship (Go Phoebe!!!). We are lucky to have an ex St Peters student who relief milked while at school returning for these 2 weeks.  Helena is commencing her studies in Vet Science this year and we are grateful to have her returning to the farm with her experience and also to offer her more practical training to add value to her future career path.  Tom and LaArni have worked hard to set everything up so that the system runs like clockwork while LaArni’s in charge.

 

COMMUNITY

Nothing to report

 

PLANNING FOR THE MONTH AHEAD:

  • Monitoring spore counts
  • Final PD
  • Preparing for students returning to the farm

 

Cheers from Jo + Tom

Monday, 11 January 2021


Week ending 11-1-21 farm notes:

Data 11-1-21

Wedge 12-1-21

FARM PERFORMANCE

Cows are holding an average of 1.6 kgMS/cow/day since going onto 3 n 2 two weeks ago (when averaged over a 6 day period instead of the 7 days). With 15 mm of rain received each week for the last 3 weeks we have averaged 50 kgDM/ha/day growth and cover has lifted to 2079 kgDM/ha.  With our rotation length pushed out to 35 days we require a pre-graze target of 2800kgDM/ha with our current diet of 12.5kgDM grass, up to 3kgDM turnips, 2kgDM silage and up to 2kgDM PK.

Feeding and milking over the 2 day cycle looks like this:

5am Milking then 6kg grass in paddock + 2 kg silage + 2kg PK

1pm shifted onto 3kg Turnips

6pm Milking then into 6kg grass in paddock

6am shifted onto 3kg turnips + 3 kgDM silage + 2kgDM PK in crop paddock

11am Milking then into 11kg grass in paddock

Cleancrop Toto turnips were yielded yesterday at 15.8tDM/ha and 14.6tDM/ha.  Which gives us over 50 days of feeding at 4kgDM/cow/day.  Cleancrop Toto is best up to 90 days and Cleancrop Bulb up to 110 days.  Both crops were sown on the 20th October.  With such good yields we want to ensure we get through them quick enough to reduce spoilage. Farmax budgets will be updated this week to help planning for the rest of the season.

Changes for next week include all silage and PK being feed in the crop paddock as we have more space available now.  As we increase Turnips up to 4kg for both herds we will look to reduce the amount of PK used. We have 40t of PK at the contracted price of $306 that we will look to spread out over the next few months as its being feed to calves and the younger mob who are still getting used to increasing their intake on the turnips. 

We don’t want to slow down our rotation much more than 35 days over the coming 7-10 days given the near to above normal rainfall predictions for January.  We can see a slight deficit coming through in the feed wedge so we will maintain the grass silage in the diet and just alter the PK offering to suit the grazing event. Our goal is to continue offering 18kg DM/cow/day.

Approximately 3ha of hay was cut yesterday due to be baled later this week.

Kale crops are also looking very good. Yields will be done prior to grazing in late February.

 

ANIMAL WELLBEING

Counting breathing rate in cows today (some over 40 breaths/minute) confirms that cows are struggling in the heat to consume their allocated pasture intake which makes it challenging to achieve target residuals. Sprinklers are being used regularly for the 11am and 6pm milking in the yard.  Depending on the temperature and airflow they are being used from 30 minutes up to the duration of the whole milking. DairyNZ Cool cows updates shows over 9 hours/day where milk production may be affected if we don’t intervene.

Cow have also got access to some shade in the crop paddocks. Getting enough water flow into troughs has been challenging and access to water along the races and in crop paddocks has been a great benefit for the cows.

First spore counts were done last week resulting in zero.  We have got our Zinc ready to start priming the dosatron next week and we will continue taking spore counts weekly from now on.

 

BUSINESS HEALTH

Nothing to report

 

HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT

Frequent checks on seedlings that were potted up show they are thriving under the timed irrigation system and shade provided in the growing frames. 

 

QUALITY WORKPLACE

The change in milking frequency has provided a reduction in hours worked/week. The last 2 weeks have averaged 98 people hrs/week compared with the 4 weeks of December at 121 people hours/week. Putting up fences in crops takes about 1hr/day. We try to feed silage and PK in the crop paddocks now that there is more space, to reduce time transporting feed around the farm. Calves are getting visual checks at least once a day and feed changed and fences shifted every second day which is taking about 1.25 hrs.  Jo has had a good 2 week break from processing excel spreadsheets, LaArni had a week away and Tom goes away for the last 2 weeks at the end of January. We are using this week to catchup on farm and holiday stories and prepare for Tom’s departure while we are all back together for the week.

 

COMMUNITY

It was a pleasure to host a visitor on our Tuesday farm walk this week.  Tom and I learn heaps from the questions asked and the way others do things differently.  We are starting early at 9am to beat the heat. Flick through a text or email if you would like to join us and we will make sure we wait.

 

PLANNING FOR THE MONTH AHEAD:

  • Herd test
  • Weighing calves
  • Fed samples for silage, chicory, pasture and crop to be analysed

 

Cheers from Jo + Tom

Monday, 4 January 2021


Week ending 4-1-21 farm notes:

Data 4-1-21

Wedge 5-1-21

 

FARM PERFORMANCE

PGR this week is 42kgDM/ha/day which is equal to our current demand on pasture. APC continues to drop slightly to 2011 kgDM/ha. Cows are currently getting 2kgDM silage, 2kgPK and 0.5-1kg crop. We have had a slight lift in production as the cows have settled into the 3 n 2 milking and supplement routine. Crop feeding levels will be increased over the next 7 days to 4kgDM/cow/day. Turnips will be yielded on the 11th Jan. As crop feeding increases we will slow the round down to 35-40 days.  This will help to fill the gap we see coming through in the wedge with up to 8 kgDM of supplement being feed and pasture demand dropping to 10-11kgDM/cow/day.  This will drop our pre-grazing target down to 2600-2700kgDM/ha aligned with the pasture supply available and increase the grazing interval.

We received a welcome 15mm of rain this week which the Kale will make the most of having received its last dressing of N last week.

Sprinklers are being used at the 11am and 6pm milkings to cool the cows and paddocks with shade offered after the 5am milking to help during these hot humid days.

Pasture production this season until the end of 2020 is 11.1tDM/ha (69% of our average annual growth). So far we have grown 469kgDM/ha more pasture (from farmwalk data) than last year.  Total rainfall for 2020 was a low 766mm similar to last season’s 711mm but well below our average of 1136mm. While we exceeded last years and our production targets for September and October we have struggled to catchup from a delayed PSC and slower calving. Milk solids sent to the factory at 31st Dec was 810kgMS/ha which was the same as last season but below our Wagon wheel KPI of 850kgMS/ha. November production had a significant drop and while December production was back on target we are still chasing 2,500kgMS over and above our target monthly production to achieve 1215 kgMS/ha and 430kgMS/cow for the season. This can be achieved if we can maintain an average of 350 cows in milk for the next 4 months producing 1.4kgMS/cow/day. Budgeting through Farmax shows that we have enough feed available to do this if we can maintain PGR over 20kgDM/ha for the next 4 months (last year we averaged 16kgDM/ha growth and the 2 years before it was 32kgDM/ha).

We have used 77 kg N/ha so far compared with 102 kg N/ha last season. 92 tDM of supplement has been used to date compared with 80 tDM last season. Silage made to the end of 2020 is 117 tDM compared with 144 tDM silage made to the end of 2019.

In summary - The first half of the 2020 season is best described by trying to manage a warm dry spring with volatile PGR, slower start to the season, higher peak production, less N used to grow more feed with less silage made and more supplements feed finishing with a similar APC at the end of the year.

December rain has left the farm in a slightly better soil moisture position than last season (31% vs 26%). Along with crops looking great, good cow health and BCS, and the bunkers full of feed, we are in a better position than this time last year and we are looking forward to making the most of what the summer may bring!

Hope you are all making the most of the conditions to set your farm up and ensure everyone one has some relaxing and well deserved time off.

Cheers Jo + Tom

Monday, 21 December 2020


Week ending 21-12-20 farm notes:

Data 21-12-20

Wedge 22-12-20

FARM PERFORMANCE

PGR has dropped off significantly this week as predicted to 40kgDM/ha/day.  As this is below our daily demand of 55kgDM/ha/day this has caused our APC to drop 2246kgDM/ha. We have made the decision to lengthen our round over the next week from 22 to 30 days using some longer paddocks, a change in milking frequency and PK to achieve this while maintaining allocation at 18kgDM/cow/day. This will suit the slower leaf emergent rate which we are seeing now of around 10-12 days.

Now that we have removed 10 high SC cows from the herd we will transition to 3 n 2 milking starting Wednesday.  We have changed our milking times via the Farmsource website and the cows will be milked as usual at 5am on Wednesday and given a big day break with shade (so they don’t need to be moved during the day).  They will then be milked at 6pm on Wednesday and then 11am the following day. If required the cows will come to the yard up to an hour before milking for sprinkler cooling.

This weeks grazing plan is 12kgDM/cow offered per milking made up of up to 9-10kgDM of pasture plus 2-3 kgDM PK offered mostly on the race to and from milking to manage FEI.

While we still have adequate green leafy pasture we can allocate 2.9ha per milking or 8.8ha per/2 days which gives us a 30 day rotation.

We aim for the crops in mid Jan to provide 4kgDM/cow/day with pasture (8-10kgDM) and pasture silage (4kgDM) with PK (2kgDM) making the shortfall if needed before we destock after final PD.  We have our PK on contract for Dec and Jan this year at $306/tDM.

The cup rubber liners were changed this week and will be changed again at the end of the season along with all rubberware.

Calves are receiving 1.5 kgDM/day grass silage and 1.5kg of PK/meal/day with 0.4ha every 2 days of Chicory. They are being shifted every second day along with a feed top up.  Today we started our second rotation on the crops with the first round taking 24 days. We will weigh the calves again early in the new year at the end of the second round and will be monitoring the time spent to carry out the tasks to rear the calves on crops.

 

ANIMAL WELLBEING

Early scan data has shown 3 week in-calf rate of 42% and 6 week in-calf rate of 65%.  This is compared with 51% and 74% average for the last 2 seasons all AI.  This was our third season all AI and the second season using sexed semen/Wagyu. We will do rechecks and final PD the first week of Feb to confirm final results.  We will be working with our vet and LIC Agri Manager to review the results and determine what changes need to be made for next season to improve on this.

 

BUSINESS HEALTH

Meet with Westpac Agri Manager to discuss how we have been tracking for the 1st six months of the season (to end of Nov).  We have spent 52% of our total budget to the end of November which includes grass silage purchased in spring instead of PK in summer. Early revisions on the feed and financial budget show that we are on track for FWE of $4.60/kgMS or less which includes wages for management. The feed budget shows that we only need to purchase another $20k PK for the season as we have approximately 220t of grass silage available to feed through summer and Autumn (630kg DM/cow) along with 11.5ha of crop that has already been accounted for. This has given us confidence to invest in planned race maintenance, riparian and shade/shelter planting and allocate surplus for increased debt repayment.

 

HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT

200 m of effluent pipe was purchased (costing around $1900) to allow us to spread effluent on another 6ha (as we lost 10ha of our original area) total effluent area is now 48ha or 33% of the farm area. 

 

QUALITY WORKPLACE

At Owl Farm we use 3 n 2 milking to reduce stock movement and work during the heat of the day and to remove 3hr of work every 2 days from the working week in order to achieve our working week average of 45hr/wk/person for the year. We aim to transition after mating finishes and before we start feeding the crops.  Cows are producing consistently below 1.7kgMS and we have enough feed to continue allocating 18kgDM/day while we transition. This worked well last season from early Jan until early Feb when it got really dry and we went OAD.

We enjoyed having a team lunch on Friday to celebrate the 2020 season together and thank everyone for the work they have contributed and what we’ve achieved together. It’s been a busy and tiring year for everyone involved and it was a nice time to enjoy each other’s company and share more of our lives outside of Owl Farm and of course enjoy some nice food and a cold beer!

 

COMMUNITY

Nothing to report

 

PLANNING FOR THE MONTH AHEAD:

  • Weigh calves
  • Get started on crops
  • Settle on summer milking routines
  • Time off farm

 

Merry Christmas from Jo + Tom

Monday, 14 December 2020


Week ending 14-12-20 farm notes:

DataWedge

FARM PERFORMANCE

Strong growth was maintained this week at an average of 69 kgDM/ha increasing APC to 2317 kgDM/ha.

However we have only received 424mm of rainfall for the season to date. Interestingly the trend in soil moisture levels indicate that pasture growth could drop by 20% next week as it did in mid Oct and early Nov. 

Ten culls left the farm this week averaging $647/each around $3.69/kg.  While we have taken a hit on the cull income our main priority was to manage SCC which dropped from 150 to under 100.  This is in preparation for declining growth rates and changing milking frequency to 3 n 2 once mating finishes.  These culls were not confirmed pregnant in the first 3 weeks, had repeated high SCC, and had either low PW or repeat mastitis etc.

Twice this last week the young herd was offered PKE to top up their daily allocation. We have slowed down when we can offering 6ha/day. Allocation is still at 18-19kgDM/cow/day. Milk production has stabilised around 1.6kgMS/cow/day. We have produced 734kgMS/ha STD and 261kgMS/cow STD.

Season to date we have feed 84t DM of supplements (583kgDM/ha and 207kgDM/cow). This is around 20tDM more than last season and reflects the variable growth rates we have had at Owl Farm this season.

With reduced milking numbers and only 11 calves remaining on the platform our daily demand drops to 55kgDM/ha/day.  From now on we want to maintain or increase our rotation length so with little rain on the forecast in the next week we will use PK to maintain intakes until crops start around the 10th Jan.

ANIMAL WELLBEING

We have been focused on the following animal welfare outcomes for the first half of this season:

  • Carried out our first tail audit that we will now carryout annually before and after calving to measure status change,
  • Reviewed the effectiveness of early days calf health by analysing total blood protein which determined 4 out of 5 calves had optimum transfer of passive immunity,
  • Reduced lameness by 75% with a structured approach to yard management and race maintenance
  • Reduced bobby calf numbers by 31%
  • Got heifer liveweight back on track after drought through extra feed in partnership with grazier
  • Exceeded BCS targets

 

BUSINESS HEALTH

Nothing to report

 

HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT

Nothing to report

 

QUALITY WORKPLACE

The weekly routine requires flexibility to allow time for family and friends over the holiday period. This is a great opportunity to develop the team in different skills of running the farm.  This week LaArni our 2 IC carried out the farm walk with me and was in charge of pasture allocation while Tom was away.  Even though we may carry the farm walk out on different days with different people we still require a feed inventory for planning the week ahead. 

LaArni has been enjoying catching up with the Filipino farming community who have regular get togethers to reconnect and meet new people. Over 100 local farmers and their families celebrated Christmas near Te Aroha recently. Helping your team connect with others during the holidays can help those that have been away from loved ones for an extended period due to travel restrictions.

COMMUNITY

As we near the end of the year we reflect on what we have contributed to the wider community in 2020. Data was collected from 49 farm walks (soon to be 52) and communicated with 4128 people weekly. Over 1249 people visited the farm even with a Covid lockdown throw -in. This includes 34 classroom visits, hosting 19 industry events and 2 primary school visits.

The team at Owl Farm contributed 10 articles to popular dairy magazines and we have had a 40% increase in students at STP studying Ag/Hort and Ag Bus subjects with another 5 new classing starting up next year.

 

PLANNING FOR THE MONTH AHEAD:

  • Finish mating
  • Weigh calves
  • Get started on crops
  • Settle on summer milking routines
  • Lots of holidays planned

Cheers Jo + Tom

Monday, 7 December 2020


Week ending 7-12-20 farm notes:

Data table 7-12-20

Wedge 8-12-20

FARM PERFORMANCE

We have got through the week by offering the cows as much as they can eat while maintaining residuals. We offered 6.3 ha/day (or 155m2/cow) for the week, strip grazed a paddock that was initially shut for silage, and last night and today have offered PK to the young herd to top them up.  This has had the impact we desired with PGR of 73 kg DM/ha lifting APC to 2266 kg DM/ha. This has filled the wedge and secured the 2 hay paddocks to remain out of the grazing rotation. Cows are being offered around 18-19 kg DM/day.

We have been taking our time during the weekly farm walks this month to Pasture Condition Score each paddock and assess the amount of clover and plantain in each paddock. Now is an ideal time as both clover and weeds are easier to see now that mowing has ceased.

 

ANIMAL WELLBEING

At our last Focus Day we reported on the mitigation strategies we use at Owl Farm to handle the heat. Owl Farm Focus Day Handout pg 32. Our weather station gives us both temperature and humidity data and then we can use the DairyNZ THI calculator to work out what mitigation strategies are needed. We have signed up to receive the DairyNZ “cool cows” newsletter which reports for the last week how many hours in the day cows feel uncomfortable or when milk production can be impacted. Monitoring cow breathing rates is the best indicator of how the cow is feeling about the heat (more than 40/min is an indicator that the heat is getting to the cows). At Owl Farm we use a mix of the following strategies to keep cows cool:

  1. Check and manage water flow and quantity every chance you are in the paddock (remove ballcock if on small water lines that can’t keep up). Check water use overnight with Halo to initiate a water leak check.
  2. Provide more drinking opportunities. We have installed two more troughs in the races and now have four along the main race approx. 100-400m from the shed. This has no negative impact on cow flow to or from the shed.
  3. Use sprinklers on the yard when temperatures reach 25°C, or if cows have had limited shade during the day. This costs $1.30 for every 10 minutes but is the most effective at cooling cows for up to four hours after milking.
  4. Alter milking times to 3 n 2 (5am, 6pm then 11am) after mating finishes to remove afternoon milking and reduce walking (and working) hours during the heat of the day.
  5. Plan for shade when planting summer crops and allocating feed for a week of predicted hot weather.

 

BUSINESS HEALTH

Nothing to report

 

HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT

Students have spent the last of their valuable time releasing young trees and shrubs from the rampant spring growth.  Our focus is now on ensuring any small natives are potted up and set for watering to survive over the summer period when we can start planting again in late autumn. 

 

QUALITY WORKPLACE

Nothing to report

 

COMMUNITY

We have been lucky to host two primary school visits this year after they were cancelled during calving.  Last week we had 60 new entrants on the farm helping Tom feed 100 kg calves, testing the milking machines, hosing down the yard, exploring different feed types and watching the tanker pick up the milk.  They even managed to find a four-leaf clover! This was the first time for many that they had been on a farm and seen the calves and cows. This is always a great opportunity to connect with our community and for them to appreciate how much we care for the animals and the environment.

 

PLANNING FOR THE MONTH AHEAD:

  • Monitoring cell count and milk quality in preparation for changes to milking frequency
  • Christmas parties
  • Setting up simple systems for effective annual leave

 

Cheers Jo + Tom








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