2019/20 Season HUB Weekly Farm Update as at 19th March 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 19th March 2020

Kale Fodder beet
Soil temp (C) 13.6
Rainfall (mm) 1.8
Milker Total Dry Matter Allocation 14 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 6 2 4 3
% TAD Milkers 65% 57% 78% 72%
% OAD milkers 35% 43% 22% 28%

Key Decisions: this week

  • The LI FB will be offered baleage this week to ensure the residual targets and demand are met after being a bit tight last week.
  • The post-aeration paddocks are responding well after taking an initial check. We are very impressed with the initial performance of the paddocks that were aerated and can see the benefits of doing aeration; however being mindful that the paddock does take a check for the first couple of weeks.
  • Options to get APC on track include pulling culls out earlier, drying off low BCS cows and assessing supplementary feed inputs although some herds have limited baleage available for autumn.
  • Under the current plan fodder beet feeding will start early May, however if yields are ahead of target at the first assessment in early April fodder beet may be introduced earlier. 
  • We are in the mindset of next season and need to think about our springer paddocks and when their last grazing will be to ensure they achieve the required pre-graze targets for our spring feed budget. Springer paddock will most likely have their last grazing around early/mid April depending so this needs to be factored into our grazing plans.
  • We are starting to get a bit tight on grass at the support block. The decision has been made to slow down the young stock’s rotation and fill the deficit with supplement. This will be x1 bale every 4 days. We have also applied 40kg N/ha fertilizer to half the block to give it an extra boost before conditions become too cold.
  • The last of the LI farmlets received the last of their N fertiliser this week. We are mindful of our covers now till dry off and have been updating our Autumn feed budget with actual vs. predicted pasture covers and growth rates; this can be seen in figure 1 below.
    We have also been updating in our feed budget supplements used and required. From the graphs in figure 1, only the Std Kale farmlet is tracking above its predicted APC.
    The Std FB farmlet predicted and actual are very similar, whilst LI Kale and more so the LI FB actual APC are tracking below the predicted.
    The use of supplements, rotation length and grazing at the correct 3-leaf stage will help with building cover and we will be keeping an eye on this to ensure the gap closes before dry off.

Figure 1: Autumn feed budget APC predicted vs. actual for farmlets


  • From the BCS results this week we have reassessed the OAD, TAD and supplement intake groups. The BCS results can be found under general update, but table 3 below shows the split of animals OAD and the corresponding supplements received based of how higher priority they are. Supplement availability to the herds currently differs with the kale herds having access to a PKE/barley blend plus pasture silage while the predominant supplement for the FB herds is baleage with a small percentage of ‘at risk’ lighter cows receiving PKE inshed at milking.

Table 3: Number of cows per farmlet that are OAD or inshed feeding & their corresponding supplement amount

Kg DM fed to each group/day LI Kale Std FB Std Kale LI FB
OAD 4kg inshed 66 11 66 13
OAD 2kg inshed 1 11 6
4kg inshed only 21 8 43 7
2kg inshed only 15 29

General Notes:

  • This week our growth rates sit around the 50kg DM/ha/day but conditions have started to feel a bit colder. The LI FB farmlet sits on the lowest APC of 2066kg DM/ha and the residuals left by the LI FB indicate that they were too tight this week; this is also apparent by their corresponding drop in milk production. The herd were receiving baleage as required based on residuals with paddock behavior suggesting they were being offered enough.   
  • This week we have been transporting silage back from the support block and storing on the milking platform for autumn & winter feeding.
  • The crops received N fertilizer last week and are already showing the benefits. The research team plan to yield the crops early April, which will be a big job considering how many crop paddocks we have on farm and at the support block. Some areas of the crop that was under water has now died and will be taken into account when yielding and grazing.
  • This week we were able to cull x20 cows and look forward to their liver biopsy results coming back.
  • We did BCS and reshuffled the herds into TAD, OAD and feeding priorities. Most of the farmlets showed no or a small BCS gain from a fortnight ago and sat at an average of BCS 4.3, however the LI FB BCS loss reflects their tighter feed situation (-0.1 BCS) and lower BCS average of 4.2. The Std. FB had 16% of animals move up to BCS 4.0.

Figure 2: BCS results for each farmlet


  • The milk graphs this week suggest that the FB farmlets were a bit tight, in particular the LI FB farmlet.

Figure 3: Kg MS production per cow for each week of season


  • The team got stuck in and pulled out the bolters coming through in pdk 49. When it comes to bolters its easier to keep control and make the task smaller by keeping on top of them regularly. 
  • Our damaged effluent pipe from aerating last week is now fixed and up and running.

Animal Health

  • We noticed a lift in the SCC in the fodder beet vat and attribute this to more cows being moved to OAD. All cows were stripped and a few mastitis cases detected. We are using our  fortnightly herd test results to check any cows with high SCC.
  • With the herd test this week we also did a Johnes screen of all the cows. Any cows that test positive for Johnes will have a further blood test undertaken by the vet to confirm their status.
  • Our BVD bulk milk test came back with high exposure but no PIs detected. The plan will be to also check the R2s when they return from grazing for potential PIs.

People Management and Visitors

  • With the recent outbreak of Covid-19 we have put together our own action plan for the farm. We will be minimising unnecessary visits and have procedures in place for self-isolation and good hygiene. We are also regularly disinfecting high traffic areas that receive a lot of staff contact i.e. door handles, control pads in dairy etc
  • All group visits to the farm have been cancelled and we are utilising skype for our weekly meetings
  • We have been waiting in anticipation for our Sci tech Holly’s cameo appearance in the Dairy Exporter. You can read her story in the March Dairy Exporter edition, page 70.
  • Coming up we have (subject to Covid-19):
    • BCS accreditation training on-farm on 27 March

Research on-farm

  • We have started discussions with the team implementing the FVI validation trial on the farm with regards to ongoing measurements in the 16 high FVI and 16 low FVI paddocks on the farm.
  • There is interest from the farmers and seed industry representatives around the data emerging from SDH and how this compares with the farm systems study at Scott Farm in the Waikato, particularly in the post Christmas period.
  • Observations from the farm team, particularly regarding the low FVI cultivars include
    • More heading through spring, summer and autumn
    • Lower growth rates in late summer early autumn
    • Challenges achieving residuals without intervention

Pick the low FVI paddocks in this photo!

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: