2019/20 Season HUB Weekly Farm Update as at 13th May 2020

Table 1: Farmlet feed wedges and general information

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

NOTE: The Spr on the feed wedges identifies our springer paddocks for next season. These paddocks will not be grazed again this season so by identifying them on the wedge we wont accidentally include them in our grazing plan each week.

General Farm Information

Table 2: Key Numbers 13th May 2020

Kale Fodder beet
Soil temp (C) 8.9
Rainfall (mm) 1.4
Milker Total Dry Matter Allocation 15 15
Animal Summary Std Kale LI Kale Std FB LI FB
Pink Blue Green Yellow
Number milkers out of farmlet herd 4 4 2 2
Number OAD milkers 122 95 137 123
Dried off keepers 33 37 17 7
Dried off culls 20 14 18 12

Key Decisions: this week

  • It was good to see pasture growth in the range 30-47kg DM/ha this week although frosts have pushed the average soil temperature down to 8.9oC so these may ease this week.
  • For anyone concerned about their current feed situation or knows of someone who would like some support there is a free feed planning service available co-ordinated through DairyNZ, B+LNZ, Federated Farmers, MPI and AgFirst which you can access by contacting 0800 4 DairyNZ or 080043247969 (Flier included at the end of the notes)
  • Our average pasture cover graphs are bang on track as a result of growth rates above what we budgeted, proactive management, correct rotation lengths and balancing pasture management and supplement input.  The discussion is now around keeping them tracking down as per the plan to reach our dry off cover target of 1950-2000 kg DM/ha. Feed demand has increased across the milking platform with 1.5 ha per day being allocated to the R2’s that have returned from grazing. If growth continues above demand we have options to reduce supplementary feeding or bring culls back onto the platform to clean up behind the milkers. If soil and pasture conditions are OK we can keep cows off crop a bit longer to ensure closing covers are achieved. Having too much grass is definitely a better position to be in than being short although we know the situation can change quickly at this stage of the season. 

Figure 1: APC actual vs. target dry off


  • Next Friday is D-day when all the herds will be dried off.  The method used to dry off cows will influence the number of udder infections that establish during the dry period. The cow intakes will be dropped to 10kg DM/cow/day for 4 days to shut them down and this will be achieved by reducing pasture allocation by tightening up their area and supplementing with baleage. We will continue to offer fodder beet to the Std and LI FB herds. If the weather turns poor we will have to increase the area offered to prevent pasture damage, however, utilization will also be reduced so intakes will be managed. You can read more about correct dry of methods here: https://www.dairynz.co.nz/animal/cow-health/mastitis/drying-off/
  • In preparation for drying off next week we have identified the paddocks in each farmlet we are going to dry the cows down through taking into consideration soil type, current cover and condition.
  • The FB mobs will be increased from 2.5 to 3kg FB/cow/day this week. To achieve 3kg we will increase their time spent grazing to 1 hour.
  • This week we dried off all the remaining culls from the herds – 15 went directly to the meat processors and another 12 high BW young animals were sold as carryovers. The remainder joined our existing cull mob. From Table 2 above we have a total of x64 culls and are grazing them during the day on the roadsides around the farm. We are very strict with our roadside grazing management which includes: locked up on farm at night, electrified fencing when grazing roadside, water offered, given enough space to move around and avoid more dominant cows etc.

General Notes:

  • Fodder beet yields have not increased as much as we had hoped – 14.4 T DM/ha in early April to 16 T DM/ha in early May but growing conditions are still ok so we have our fingers crossed they will get to 18T by early June.  The leaf DM% has decreased from 9.5 to 9.1%, bulb DM has remained similar at 14.8% and the proportion of leaf has decreased from 41%-32%.
  • Kale yields on the milking platform have increased on average from 10.3 to 13.0 T DM/ha. The DM% has remained the same at 11.3%. At the support block kale yields have increased on average from 9.4 to 13.1 T DM/ha.
  • We had our annual baleage and stock count this week. We found that approximately x15 Std. kale bales are of poor quality due to being made in the wet spring and not suitable as milker feed. They will be swapped out with purchased baleage and fed to the cull cows.
  • We had some great feedback and discussion on facebook around our new grass paddock’s uneven growth pattern. There are definitely a few things to consider trying to improve their performance and we are going try a few test patches with fertilizer; watch this space to see how we progress. 
  • As mentioned last week, we are tracking over 10,000kg MS ahead of last year season to date even with a 10 day later planned start of calving. We are also proud of the Std. Kale farmlet exceeding 1200kg MS/ha and the Std. FB farmlet will achieve 1200kg MS/ha in a couple of days. This result demonstrates how far the farm and the team has come this season. The whole farm team have worked tirelessly on
    • improving consistency of feeding across the 4 herds,
    • making proactive feeding decisions utilizing all the information available
    • upskilling in pasture management and residual assessment and
    • managing BCS through strategic OAD milking and priority feeding (just to name a few).

It is a huge team effort and so great to see everyone buying into the vision of SDH and working together to achieve the desired results under the extra pressure and demands of a complex research farm and having all our decisions analyzed on a weekly basis by those who are following our journey.

Figure 2: kg MS/ha/STD farmlet comparison


  • The BCS graph below shows how our early proactive decision making to dry off lighter, early calving cows has succeeded in achieving pre-winter BCS targets. It shows the dry cows average BCS in the single points, versus the herd: 35 of the 40 dry animals were spotted by camera and they average BCS 4.7, versus whole herd at BCS 4.65.  You can see how far behind the herd they were, and generally as early calving animals they needed to be ahead of the average. The lagging low BCS yellow point is actually just one LI FB cow, who while still being behind target is making some good progress.

Figure 3: Early dry off vs. milking cow BCS trends


  • The 176 R2s are back on farm and it was big job to weigh, measure, tag, give lepto and put collars on. We will keep them as one mob until they join their herds and start transitioning onto crop. As one herd they are being offered 1.5 ha/day of pasture plus baleage as required and will rotate through a paddock of each farmlet over the next 8 days. We have identified any tailend animals that are a bit lighter and need to be monitored and if required preferentially managed.

Figure 4: Heifers having bloods taken


  • Once the cows are fully dried off we will start transitioning calves to crop starting 25th May. There is good grass areas at the start of the crop paddocks so we will keep them in their pdks with baleage and then slowly increase crop allocation.

Animal Health

  • With more cows going through the dry off transition we will continue to monitor for any early signs of mastitis.
  • Cows continue to receive MgCl and trace elements through the inline dispenser.
  • DCP is being dusted on the pasture for the fodder beet herds.

People Management and Visitors

  • We have employed casual staff member Grace, who has already started, and also have a full-time science tech starting next week.
  • All group visits to the farm have been cancelled and we are utilising skype for our weekly meetings.

Research on-farm

  • This week we are completing our last N intake assessment of the year
  • The R1’s and R2’s had their pre-winter weight, stature and blood measurements.
  • The Research Advisory Committee met this week and has started discussions on the process to canvas our stakeholders on the emerging issues that need to be considered in the next phase of farm systems research. 

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: