2019/20 Season HUB Weekly Farm Update as at 19th 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

On behalf of SDH we would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and thank you for your support over the year.

We will be taking a wee break over the Christmas/New Year’s period and will be bringing you more weekly farm notes starting from the 9th January. There will be some updates posted over the break via facebook as some of our studious Science team and farm staff stay on to hold the fort.

Farmwalk schedule over the Christmas break:

Friday 27th December

Tuesday 7th January

Wednesday 15th back to normal weekly walks

General Farm Information

Table 2: Key Numbers 19th December 2019

Kale Fodder beet
Soil temp (C) 15
Rainfall (mm) 18
Milker Dry Matter Allocation 18 18
Animal Summary Std Kale LI Kale Std FB LI FB
Pink Blue Green Yellow
% milkers in Penos 1.5 <1 1.5 <1
% TAD Milkers 96 94 90 93
% OAD milkers 4 4 10 5

Key Decisions: this week

  • Though there is still a lot of seedhead around, our growth rates have increased slightly on last week and, with the help of supplements, the feed wedges are looking in a better position. Due to the better feed position, baleage was removed 4 days ago
  • Light BCS cows on OAD in the kale farmlets will continue to receive 4kg/cow/day inshed. Inshed feeding will be removed from the diets of the remaining cows in the Std & LI kale herds.
  • We have earmarked x2 LI Kale and x2 LI FB pdks for conservation to get these herds going into lower pre-graze masses. However, if growth conditions don’t hold there is still the option to graze these paddocks if required.
  • The feed budget has indicated we need to purchase additional baleage for winter, with the first of this likely to arrive in the next week. To minimise handling these bales will be putting them straight onto crop pdks. For our required baleage placement we are budgeting on 12t DM/ha Kale and 20t DM/ha FB yields. These yields have been revised down from those achieved last year due to the delay in establishment this year and current challenges with pest damage. Yield assessments on all paddocks will start from the beginning of March to track their progress and actual yield. 
  • Red shank has been sprayed in the new grass paddocks and they will need a light grazing in the next 10 days. With the addition of new grass paddocks into the round, the LI farmlet round length will push out to 32 days and the Std. to 22 days.   
  • The bulls are working well and we have been rotating them and monitoring for any signs of lameness. The decision this week will be whether to pull out the bulls from the R2s tomorrow 8.5 weeks mating) or next week (9 weeks mating). Although we have ample bull power on the milking platform x4 larger bulls from the heifers will be transported back from the grazier to help with the bull rotation. Across all the farmlet herds so far x56 cows have been bull mated.
  • The maintenance and capital fertiliser (N, P, K) has been booked and will hopefully be applied over the next few weeks. LI farmlets have nearly finished their 2nd round of N fertiliser and Std. farmlets have nearly finished their 4th round. The Std. will then continue into their 5th round of N fert.
  • Slug bait will continue to be applied to crop paddocks as required to minimise slug damage
  • Our direct drilled kale paddock will be sprayed to kill out the grass that has come back quite strongly in patches across the paddock. We think the die back was compromised by spraying the paddock out too soon after grazing in an attempt to get the crop in the ground sooner.
  • To minimise the risk of cows calving on crop we will age pregnancy scan all cows and R2s this year. Scanning dates have been booked with the vets.

General Notes:

  • This week has demonstrated the importance of monitoring crops and being vigilant. We discovered Nysius in our FB crop. This pest ring barks the plant and likes to live in trees, hence why our two paddocks bordered by tree rows have been worst affected. After diagnosing we sprayed straight away with Pyrinex at 1.2L/ha.

Figure 1: Fodder beet plant ring barked by Nysius


  • We also found slugs in several pdks so slug bait has be applied. While we expected slugs in the direct drilled kale paddocks and applied slug bait at drilling we were not expecting it in the cultivated paddocks. Several paddocks are a bit cloddy potentially providing a habitat for the slugs to survive. 
  • Thistles continue to be sprayed on farm but with variable weather conditions and wind we have had to stagger our spray applications and be mindful of the proximity of grass paddocks for spraying to our newly established crop paddocks.
  • There has been a lot of digger work happening with maintenance on an area of tiles on the lower terrace that have not been working properly, holes being filled, Novaflow drainage being installed and burying the drains from the spouting on the calf sheds so the water does not run across the paddock.
  • The cows were BCS this week and we have noted a higher % of lighter cows and a lower average BCS of 4.0-4.1 for the farmlets. This may be attributed to a different BCS assessor this week who was potentially a bit harder with the scoring. We will cross reference the new light BCS cows with their liveweights and milk yields to assist with decision making around OAD milking and inshed feeding. With the installation of a De Laval BCS camera this week we will be calibrating this with the intention of replacing the visual assessments with the camera once we are happy that all animals are being assessed regularly and that the camera estimates reflect the herd BCS.

Table 3: BCS of cows and % less than 4.0

Std Kale LI Kale Std FB LI FB
Pink Blue Green Yellow
BCS – milkers 4.0 (-0.3) 4.0 (-0.4) 4.0 (-0.3) 4.1(-0.3)
% Less than BCS 4.0  17% (+13) 25% (+21) 18% (+14) 18% (+14)
  • Our results are in from the calves weighed at the support block. When comparing between 2018 and 2019, both sets of calves were born at similar birthweights (30.5kg vs. 31kg) and weaned at similar weights (89.8kg vs. 87.8kg) but the 2018 calves took on average 19 days longer to reach their weaning weights. Interestingly the FB calves took 3-5 days longer to reach weaning weight than the kale calves.
  • The calves are currently averaging 0.6 kg liveweight gain/calf/day.
  • FYI: We have for sale x30 surplus heifer calves via PGG if anyone is interested.

Table: Age and weight comparison of 2018 and 2019 born calves

Category 2018 2019
Kale FB Kale FB
Birth weight average 30.5kg 31kg
Days of age weaned 81 days 84 days 62 days 67 days
Weaned weight 89.5kg 88.6kg 87.8kg 87.9kg

Figure 3: 2018 and 2019 calf birth weight and weaning summary


  • Our milk production average continues to sit on the low side with the LI FB farmlet being very visual outliers with milk production at 1.5 kg MS/cow/day.

Figure 2: kg MS/cow/day comparison between 1st Dec to 17th Dec

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.
  • We have treated x6 calves with Baycox for treatment and prevention of coccidiosis.
  • Our sick mob is significantly smaller with only x8 animals. We will be culling x2 cows this week, one for mastitis and one for on-going lameness and poor udder confirmation.

People Management and Visitors

  • The SDH Research Advisory Committee are looking for a Southland farmer to join our group. You will be working alongside some very talented people from DairyNZ, Ag Research, Fonterra and another farmer rep.
    • The RAC is responsible for reviewing all research applications for SDH and making recommendations to the SDRF board on which proposals fit with the goals and vision for the Southern Dairy Hub.
    • The RAC will also make recommendations on the strategic direction of research on the site. If you have an interest in research and would like to contribute to developing solutions for southern dairy farmers and can commit to up to four 2-3 hour (skype and face to face) meetings per annum we would love to hear from you.
    • In the first instance email SDDT Chair Tim Driscoll with your expression of interest and a short CV: driscolldairy@gmail.com

Research on-farm

  • In an aligned project with the SDH farmlets we are still 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: