2020/21 Season HUB Weekly Farm Update as at 16th December 2021

Farmlet feed wedges and general information

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

NB: shaded paddocks are earmarked for pre-graze mowing


Table 1: Key Herd Numbers 16/12/2021 – number of cows in each mob

DATE: 16 Dec 2021 Std Kale LI Kale Std FB LI FB Total
Cows on Farm 193 160 194 161 708
Milkers TAD 170 140 165 152 627
Milkers OAD 23 20 29 9 81
Sick OAD 4 2 4 1 11
Slips/empty/deaths 8 6 15 5 34

Table 2: Key Weather and Feeding Numbers 16th December 2021

Soil temp (C) 18.3
Rainfall (mm) 0.2 mm
Allocations Kg DM/cow/day Std Kale LI Kale Std FB LI FB
Milkers 18 kg DM
18 kg pasture
18 kg DM
18 kg pasture
18 kg DM
18 kg pasture
18 kg DM
18 kg pasture

Key Decisions and Why?

  • The feed situation is dynamic this week on farm, with the farm on a whole being in a period of surplus but the weather not looking settled enough to get baleage off. 
  • Growth rates are down across the district however with the rain in the forecast over the next 5-10 days, we don’t expect that they will stay low, especially considering that all farmlets including the LI farmlets have received N this round.
    • There are now only 4 paddocks in the LI systems left to receive their second application of N for the season.
  • Overall, feed quality across the board has improved, with the amount of seedhead around reducing and leaf increasing as we have moved past the peak heading date. 58% of the farm has now been topped or mowed for baleage so we are seeing these paddocks holding their quality in this round.
  • Pre-mowing will be done in front of the cows in several paddocks for all the herds over the next couple of days

Figure 1: Std Kale herd eating in a pre-mown paddock

  • Why: Due to the unsettled weather forecast with rain predicted most days for the next week, it was decided that the likelihood of making good quality baleage from the paddocks already above pre-graze target was low and if left for another 7-10 days before mowing the regrowth will be very slow. 
  • Due to the length that the paddocks were, the cows would have struggled to easily harvest the pasture. By pre mowing it ensures that the cows aren’t having to work as had to consume the pasture but it does mean there is less opportunity for them to select the better quality pasture from the sward.
  • Pre-graze mowing and feeding will also get them back into the round quicker as we won’t be waiting on contractors and weather

Figure 2: Cows eating pre mown pasture

  • With bringing the baleage paddocks back into the rotation several paddocks further down the wedge will be earmarked for baleage when the weather settles. This will ensure the baleage should be of higher quality than that which would have been made from the paddocks stepped over last week. 
  • All supplementary feed has now been removed from the diet apart from low BCS cows that are on OAD milking. For kale herds this is a barley/PKE blend and for fodder beet herds is straight fodder beet. 
  • We will continue topping behind cows as required but hope that the need for this will decrease as we move into paddocks with less seedhead. There have been a couple of paddocks this week where we have topped too much green leaf to waste so we will be reassessing our pre-graze mass targets making the necessary adjustments

Figure 3: Topped (left) and un-topped (right) areas from this week

Figure 4: Topped (right) and un-topped (left) paddock from this week

General Notes

  • This week the bulls have been out with the cows and according to the collar data, 33 cows have been mated by the bul over this period. This aligns with tail paint data this morning with x10 Std Kale, x9 LI Kale, x9 Std FB and x6 LI FB cows having their tail paint removed.
  • We now only have 3 cows that have not cycled during the mating period. These will be assessed by the vet and treated as necessary
  • Based on the collar data, the 3-week incalf rate is sitting at 62% for the whole herd with the range in the different farmlets being between 60-66%.
  • Looking at the data from the previous 3 seasons, there has been in a significant improvement in 3 week submission rate across the farmlets. Interesting to note that the Std FB herd has had consistently had the lowest submission rates in 1st, 2nd and 3rd weeks across the last 3 seasons. 

Figure 5: 3-years of weekly submission rate comparisons

  • Body condition scoring was completed this week and the whole herd has lifted in condition to a herd average of 4.5, with 19 cows being returned to TAD milking as a result of being at or above BCS 4 for 2 consecutive measurements. 
    • All the tech’s at SDH are certified through the DairyNZ BCS accreditation programme and have recently undergone a recallibration session. This may have contributed to the recent lift in BCS as it was identified that they were being a bit hard on the lower BCS cows.

Figure 6: Body condition score data season to date

  • On the whole, the farms milk production curve has flattened and with the pasture quality now improving, we expect that it will stay this way over the coming weeks. 
  • There was a significant unexplained reduction in the LI FB herd milk production this week from 1.7kgMS on Monday to 1.4kgMS/cow on Tuesday, however they have bounced back from this now. The FB was removed from their diet around the same time, however the Std FB herd also finished their beet at the same time and we didn’t see an impact on their production.

Figure 7: Daily kgMS/cow comparison between farmlets

  • The additional selenium has been removed from the dosatron after consultation with the vets, however the additional iodine will remain in the mix until the end of January.
  • Calves: 
    • There are 12 calves still on milk and these will weaned next week and go onto meal.
    • Due to a slight pasture deficit at the support block following the last round of baleage the calves that are no longer on milk are recieiving PKE and baleage. Currently they are eating 3kg/calf/day of PKE.
    • 72 calves that were in the lighter weight range 3 weeks ago will be weighed and drenched  with Turbo next week and will join the remaining 120 calves that are already over 120kgs. 
  • Heifers:
    • The bulls are being taken out of the heifers on the 21st of December.
    • Selenium and Copper bolus’s will be given the same day as the farm team will be on the property drafting out the bulls. 
  • Both effluent irrigators are now back running at full capacity. The pond level had increased over the last few weeks when the irrigators were out of action however with 2 running now it wont take long to get on top of it again. 

SDH Research/Demonstration

Greenhouse gas emissions

As part of the SDH Participatory research project, the greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint for the four SDH farmlets was calculated (Table 2) by the team at AgResearch. On-farm emission sources included rumen-derived enteric methane (CH4) from livestock, nitrous oxide (N2O) and CH4 emissions from animal excreta, and N2O and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from N fertiliser applied to soil. These sources align with those included in the current He Waka Eke Noa requirements for reporting on-farm GHG emissions. For each farmlet, emissions were split into short-lived and long-lived GHGs:

  • Short-lived: CH4. Units = kg CH4
  • Long-lived: N2O and CO2. Units = kg CO2 equivalents (CO2e), based on Global Warming Potential over a 100 year time horizon (GWP100). 

The effect of a Lower Input system (reduced N fertiliser and supplement use and thus lower stocking rate) had a much larger effect on GHG footprints than the choice of crop type:

  • The LI systems had 20% lower methane footprint and 36% lower long-lived gas footprint than the Standard farmlet systems.
  • The Fodder beet systems had a 2% lower methane footprint and 7% lower long-lived gas footprint than the Kale systems.
  • The reduced N inputs in the LI systems also resulted in a reduction in direct and indirect N2O emissions from fertiliser use and from urine and dung deposition.

Enteric CH4 from ruminants grazing pasture grown on farm was the largest methane source, representing 95% of methane footprints.

Nitrous oxide emissions from animal excreta represented 64-77% of total long-lived gas footprint, with the balance due to urea fertiliser.

Table 2: Milking platform (MP) area, milk production (kg milk solids), greenhouse gas emissions (kg of methane/ha MP and N2O+CO2 as kg CO2e/ha MP) and GHG pricing for the four Southern Dairy Hub farmlets for the 2019-20 season. LI=low input; FB=Fodder beet

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: