2019/20 Season HUB Weekly Farm Update as at 12th December 2019

Table 1: Farmlet feed wedges and general information

*If you are struggling to view the tables and wedges you can download the pdf here

General Farm Information

Table 2: Key Numbers 12th December 2019

Kale Fodder beet
Soil temp (C) 14.1
Rainfall (mm) 30
Milker Dry Matter Allocation 18 18
Animal Summary Std Kale LI Kale Std FB LI FB
Pink Blue Green Yellow
Num milkers in Penos 1 0 1 1
% TAD Milkers 96% 96% 90% 95%
% OAD milkers 4% 4% 10% 5%

Key Decisions: this week

  • Growth continues to be just at or below feed demand resulting in no lift in average pasture cover across the farmlets this week.
  • We have used the visual covers for our grazing plan as we think they are currently a better reflection of the pasture available than the plate meter estimates due to seedhead and reproductive stem in the base holding up the plate.
  • We debated slowing the rotation down in the Std herds to lift pre-grazed covers by 1-200 kg DM/ha (especially for the Std Kale farmlet) but have decided they will remain on a 20-day round.
  • The LI herds will stay on a 30-day round
  • The factors we took into consideration in deciding to stay on the shorter rotation included:
    • Current soil temperatures
    • No worries with soil moisture
    • We have finally had some sunshine and warmer air temperatures
    • N is going on weekly to paddocks recently grazed
    • Our capital fertiliser is scheduled to start next week
    • Residuals have been good and pastures are well set up to grow
    • The amount of supplement required to push the rotation to 30 days

AND, we are optimistic that consistent higher growth rates are just around the corner

  • Kale farmlets will receive in-shed feeding (Std. kale 1.7kg wet/cow/day and LI kale 1.1kg wet/cow/day) with tactical baleage if required. The Std. FB feed wedge is in a better position so no supplement to be fed unless residuals dictate in specific paddocks. The LI FB will require up to 3 kg DM/cow/day to be fed.
  • Nitrogen to continue behind the cows on all farmlets until all paddocks have received their application
  • Capital fertiliser is booked and all going to plan will be spread before the end of the year

General Notes:

  • While there appears to be more grass this week we are still dealing with a lot of seed head and struggling to get cows to clean it up. The paddocks do, however, look visually better with lower pre-grazing covers and less topping required.
  • We have noticed some good clover coming through, especially in our LI paddocks. The image below shows the amount of clover in one of the LI paddocks. We continue to see noticeable urine patches across paddocks.

Figure 1: Large amounts of clover appearing in some paddocks


  • All crops have now been planted on farm and at the support block; we are beginning to see crop seedlings appear in both the kale and FB pdks. They have also received a round of sprays to prevent weeds. After receiving technical advice the new grass paddocks have also been sprayed to try control the redshank seedlings that are appearing.

Figure 2: Kale seedlings popping through


  • All calves have now been weaned and are on the support block. We have a surplus of replacements so will be identifying up to 30 animals to sell. Tomorrow they will all be weighed and receive vaccinations.
  • The team are looking forward to the end of AI this week. The LI kale farmlet had the best 3-week submission rate however it is the LI FB farmlet cows that appear to be holding the best. X24 cows have not come up for mating, of which half of them are late calvers so may need more time to cycle again especially if the first heat was silent and undetected.
  • Tomorrow the bulls arrive on farm and the team has been briefed on bull management and handling. The Tech team will also be briefed around safety for when they do their weekly farm walk and other activities out on farm.
  • From last week the milk production has increased slightly as feed quality has improved however the LI FB farmlet continues to struggle which may be indicative of the current quality of their pasture and that they are receiving the most baleage supplement at the moment.
  • We are struggling to hold milk production as the cows have come off peak (Figure 1). Cows are content in the paddock but milk production is has dropped. Pasture and baleage quality will be contributing to some of this decline despite our best attempts at keeping on top of seedhead. Many of our paddocks lack the density of more typical Southland pastures and are open in the base. This is likely resulting in the cows having to work harder for each mouthful of pasture compared to paddocks that are more uniform and denser.

Figure 3: Milk production for each farmlet


  • Thistles and ragwort have been prolific across the farm this spring so managing these has been keeping the farm team, and for some paddocks the spray contractor, busy. We are working hard to keep on top of them so they don’t flower. 

Animal Health

  • We continue to have a handful of calves that are showing signs of photosensitisation. This is being monitored daily and treatment applied where necessary. 
  • 1 cow will be culled due to an on-going infection in her pastern that won’t clear

People Management and Visitors

  • The farm team has been busy with R&M around the place such as cleaning, weed management, picking up wrap etc. They are doing a great job getting the farm up to standard prior to year end.
  • Performance reviews will be carried out before Christmas. The whole team has specified what time they want off over the holiday period, otherwise the roster will remain the same. You can read more about holiday rosters and annual leave here: https://www.dairynz.co.nz/people/employer/rosters-pay-and-leave/
  • On the 11th Dec we had the Ryall Bush discussion group at SDH with Consulting Officer Leo Pekar.

Research on-farm

  • The tech team have been busy getting all the blood samples boxed up and send off for analysis this week.
  • We were lucky to have more settled weather for N intake week. It involves a lot of pre and post plating of paddocks and collecting pasture samples. A summary of the pasture quality data is in the table below. Pastures from Std farmlets had lower DM and higher crude protein but there were no trends in ME content which was lower than last month, most likely reflecting the reproductive development that is happening

Table 3: Pasture quality results

DM% Crude protein ME NDF NSC P Mg K
Std Kale 15.5 21.6 11.4 45.7 18.9 0.34 0.19 3.0
LI Kale 16.0 17.7 11.2 47.7 21.2 0.37 0.19 2.9
Std FB 17.3 19.9 11.0 47.4 19.2 0.35 0.21 2.5
LI FB 19.3 16.8 10.9 49.0 22.1 0.34 0.20 2.4
Baleage 55.1 18.9 11.2 44.6 22.4 0.35 0.21 1.9
Palm Kernel Extract 89.8 15.4 10.9 0.54 0.25 0.6
  • In an aligned project with the SDH farmlets we are seeking expressions of interest from farmers in the Three Rivers, Northern Southland, South/West Otago and Tairei/Milton areas who would be interested in being considered for one of our monitor farms (see details below)

General Farm Systems Information

The project farm systems comparison has been designed to better understand crop-based wintering in relation to consequences for environmental impact and profit

  • The four herds are split evenly on age, BW / PW, calving date and breed to ensure the herds are as even as possible.
  • Each herd allocated a farmlet corresponding to their herd tag colour Green, Blue, Yellow and Pink.
  • Farmlets have paddocks allocated so each herd has equal walking distance from the shed and the same proportion of each soil type and equal proportions of pastures in the FVI trial (forage value trial – refer web site section on research).

Research Proposals

The SDH welcome research proposals for any sampling or research on the SDH, these are assessed by the Research Advisory Committee (RAC). Just send your request or ask for information via louise.cook@southerndairyhub.co.nz

For more information check out the DairyNZ link: