2019/20 Season HUB Weekly Farm Update as at 16th April 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

General Farm Information

Table 2: Key Numbers 16th April 2020

Kale Fodder beet
Soil temp (C) 10.1
Rainfall (mm) 30.2
Milker Total Dry Matter Allocation 16 16 (Std) and 15.5 (LI)
Animal Summary Std Kale LI Kale Std FB LI FB
Pink Blue Green Yellow
Number milkers out of farmlet herd 0 2 6 0
Number OAD milkers 187 155 186 149

Key Decisions: this week

  • There is fresh snow on the mountains and the soil temperature has taken a wee drop resulting in our average growth for the week sitting at 35-40kg DM/ha. The cold, wet weather and, at times, driving sleet resulted in cows camping in the corners of some paddocks resulting in pugging damage.

Figure 1: Reminiscing on the beautiful weather we had at the start of the week


  • Not a lot of baleage was fed out last week but as predicted the Std. FB farmlet required x4 bales due to lower pre-graze covers and limited inshed feeding only to light BCS animals. The LI farmlets only required x1 bale each and the Std. Kale required x3 bales.
  • A total of 54 cows were dried off this week (x27 dried off based on BCS and x27 culls). The farm team had a virtual training session with the vets on how to dry cow and were supervised under the watchful eye of farm manager Charlie.
    • Of the x27 dried off based on BCS gain required to reach target at calving there were x13 each for Std FB & LI Kale and x1 LI FB.
    • Once dried down these will be offered 10 kg DM pasture and 5 kg DM baleage (spending 2 days per STD Kale or LI Kale paddock which is equivalent to 10% of the paddock). The reason they are still fed milker intake levels is because we are wanting these cows to gain BCS before the end of May to reach their required calving targets at the end of winter (BCS 5.5 for R2/R3s and BCS 5.0 for MA cows). To learn more about this decision process you can watch our video here or on our facebook page: https://youtu.be/G6j2fpRpBLk
    • The dry cows are marked with red paint (which will be touched up weekly), have an inshed system alert, will be counted every day, and won’t be grazed adjacent to the milking herd in order to prevent any mix ups.
    • From our vet dry cow consult criteria x7 were treated with dry cow/teat seal combo, x18 with teat seal and the x24 culls just dried off. Unlike commercial farms that have a maximum of x4 herd tests/season to work off regarding their dry cow treatment decision making, we have x15 to look through and use data from these to ensure no unnecessary dry cow is used. We also follow the SAMM plan in our decision making and use 150,000cells/ml as our cut off.
    • The cull cows that were dried off included empties and positive Johnes cows with the breakdown below
      • Std Kale – x1 low producing empty
      • LI Kale – x3 Johnes
      • Std FB – x5 Johnes
      • LI FB – x13 empties and x5 Johnes

Once dried off these will be used to tidy up residuals behind milkers and other areas around the farm.

  • The most important driver behind our decisions on farm now is next season. This is through achieving cow condition and average pasture cover targets at 31st May and pre-calving. Remember there are still levers you can also pull on your farm to ensure you are on track and below lists what we have been implementing so far (as listed in last week’s notes):
  • Changed our milking frequency to once a day
  • BCS the herd and identifying the lighter cows that have early calving dates; earmark to dry off but continue feeding at milker feed allocations to ensure BCS gain
  • Dry off Johnes cows and empties that are low producing
  • Use dry culls for clean up around the farm and sent to graze Long Acre, feed baleage and hay so that demand on the milking platform is reduced.
  • Constant revising of our feed budgets and comparing our APC actual vs. predicted.
  • Application of N fertilizer to our Std. farmlets (due to kind autumn weather this is still an option for farmers if not already done but time is running out)
  • Keeping in touch with our stock agent

General Notes:

  • The BCS camera continues to be of great value over this lockdown period. Data shows that our average BCS for each farmlet has increased slightly between 0.1-0.2 BCS units. Each small incremental increase is helping us to work towards our targets set for calving and helping with drying off decisions.

Table 3: BCS camera comparison between farmlets

Std Kale LI Kale Std FB LI FB
Pink Blue Green Yellow
BCS – milkers 4.5 (+0.2) 4.4 (+0.1) 4.4 (+0.1) 4.4 (+0.2)
% Less than BCS 3.75 1% (+1%) 0% (0%) 2% (+1%) 5% (+3%)
  • Comparing our season to date milk solids production with last season we are tracking 9000kg MS ahead even though our planned start of calving date was a week later and the Southland season has been quite average. In the kg MS/ha season to date image below you can see that the Std. kale has just overtaken the Std. FB farmlet both now achieving over 1100 kg MS/ha/STD, with the LI sitting down around 950kg MS/ha/STD (LI Kale) and 850kg MS/ha/STD (LI FB). In the per cow production the LI FB farmlet has finally found a steady flatline.

Figure 2: kg MS/ha STD farmlet comparison

Figure 3: L/cow/day farmlet comparison

Figure 4: kg MS/cow/day farmlet comparison


  • Data from our crop yielding are being used to update autumn and winter feed budgets.

Compared with the same time last year, yields are 16% less for kale and 20% for fodder beet. Using the average growth in April and May 2019 we have estimated a potential average yield at 1 June (see table). For kale the estimate is above the 12 T DM/ha used in the winter feed budget so we are comfortable with the current winter feed budget position. 

  • Things are not quite so rosy for the fodder beet crops with an estimated yield of 18 T DM/ha at 1 June. Our budgets were done on 22 T DM/ha average.  However, on a positive note the fodder beet is currently holding more leaf than last season so fingers crossed these solar panels will continue growing bulb yield. Last year we also sold 2 ha of surplus fodder beet at the end of spring so the predicted total tonnes DM available is close to current feed budget requirements.
  • Our next yield assessment is scheduled for the first week of May.
  • You can hear Louise explain the Kale and FB situation here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qy0-H9-XYI&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR31It6LZ3-ePkecOYBFzl8_n6ifGZCT0ma3TY0XGbj4x2Hv5YG1TC7sThc


Table 4: 2019 and 2020 FB and Kale crop comparisons

Figure 5: 2020 FB yield and leaf % compared to 2018/19 season

Figure 6: 2020 kale yield compared to 2018/19 season


  • The farm team adjusted, fixed and put back on cow collars this week. They also removed them from empties that will be leaving for the works in the near future.
  • The contractor came out and gave bare areas in paddocks, damaged by earth works and wet weather, a scuff up with the power harrow. Grass seed & DAP were then spread into these worked areas by Charlie.

Animal Health

  • The farm team continue to strip and treat mastitis cows as they occur.
  • Lame cows have decreased with going OAD but the farm team are still picking up and treating a couple each week. 

People Management and Visitors

  • The farm team had a training session via zoom with the vet and how to dry cow. They successfully dried off the first x51 cows.
  • All group visits to the farm have been cancelled and we are utilising skype for our weekly meetings.

Research on-farm

  • Next week is N intake week, and although in lockdown, we will be able to send pasture and feed quality samples away.
  • In line with Covid-19 requirements the research measurements on site have been reduced to only those essential for the management of the animals. We are in the fortunate position that we have a number of automated measurements that will help plug the gaps until we can resume the previous sampling regime.
  • We are making alternative plans for some of the measurements that were scheduled in the last 2 months of lactation and determining what is essential for decision making vs nice to have for 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: