2019/20 Season HUB Weekly Farm Update as at 21st 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 won’t accidentally include them in our grazing plan each week.

General Farm Information

Table 2: Key Numbers 21st May 2020

Kale Fodder beet
Soil temp (C) 6.7
Rainfall (mm) 1.8
Milker Total Dry Matter Allocation N/A N/A
Animal Summary Std Kale LI Kale Std FB LI FB
Pink Blue Green Yellow
Heifer & Light Mob 100 70 100 70
Cow Mob 103 100 103 100
Culls 20 (50%) 15 (38%) 18 (43%) 12 (31%)

Key Decisions: this week

  • This week is D day with the dry off for all remaining cows on Friday! Paddocks that were selected for drying off were based off soil type, current pasture cover and condition to ensure the dry off goes to plan with minimal damage to the paddock.
  • 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/
  • On Wednesday next week we will redraft all the cows and heifers into their winter mobs and use the BCS camera to determine the pre-winter BCS of all animals. The mobs will be split into Kale and FB and then further into heifers (including light cows) and cows. Following drafting up crop transitioning will begin and the stock will no longer graze pasture but instead will receive extra baleage until we transition up to their required crop intakes. The FB animals will continue to increase their FB intakes over the next few days to 80 mins (4kg DM FB/cow/day) to be up to 5kg DM/cow/day come Wednesday so that less baleage will be needed on crop.
  • By targeting next Wednesday for animals to shift off pasture to crop we can target our end of season covers of 1950-2000 kg DM/ha. The Std Kale, Std FB and LI FB are all bang on their target covers however the LI kale has dropped slightly below.
  • The Kale and FB paddocks have been setup at the support block for the young stock with fences and portable troughs laid out. The calves will begin transitioning onto crop next Monday and have enough of a grass strip to allow them to stay off pasture paddocks over the transitioning period.

General Notes:

  • We still have x64 culls on farm with uncertainty around when they will be able to leave. It could be as late as the end of July so we are grateful to have enough feed on hand to support them over this period.
  • On Tuesday the R2s were put through the herringbone race and teat sealed by vet techs. It is great having this resource available for these types of tasks. They were very calm, and the process was completed quickly to minimize any traumatic experiences. They will experience the shed again next week when they come in to be BCS and drafted into their wintering mobs.

Figure 2: Teat sealing the R2’ in the science herringbone


  • The cows have begun to slow down milk production and this will hopefully allow for a smooth and successful dry off tomorrow (Friday) due to their udders not bagging up as much and creating issues such as mastitis as we shut them down for the season. The Std. FB hit their target of 1200kg MS/ha and we are holding our breath to reach our 10,000kg MS above last season’s production by the final milking tomorrow morning; it’s going to be close!

Figure 3: kg MS/ha/STD farmlet comparison


  • During the BCS assessment this week it was noted that a lot of cows are on the cusp of achieving a higher score but are not quite there. As part of our decision rules for BCS if a cow is on the lighter side of the condition score then we give them the lower score; in this case it was the difference between being BCS 4.5 or BCS 5. In the graph below you can see the average BCS across all herds and their trend from the 18th March to 14th May.

Figure 4: Average BCS change over last few months


  • An exciting graph that has been produced is the comparison of BCS distribution between May 2019 and May 2020 below and it highlights the risk of only looking at herd averages when assessing BCS. In our case the herd averages were very similar at 4.42 and 4.49 but there is a big difference in the proportion of at risk cows going into winter.
    This result reinforces that we have made the right decisions with proactive management through the use of OAD, early dry off of light, early calvers, priority feeding and correct feed allocations etc. and how they all helped to contribute to shifting the BCS bell curve in a positive direction. With less light BCS cows at the end of the season we reduce their risk over the winter period and at calving next season.

Figure 5: BCS distribution comparison between May 2018/2019 and May 2019/2020


  • Last week the R1s underwent their routine pre-winter measurements and bloods. They were blood tested, weighed and measured, and received their B12 and selenium jabs. From the weights we can seen that the average Lwt is 204 kg which means that on average they have been gaining 0.68 kg/day since the beginning of April.

Figure 6: Calf measurements and weights (looks a bit cold)


  • R1s will start transitioning to crop starting 25th May. There is 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 the rest of the herds being dried off tomorrow we will continue to monitor for any early signs of mastitis as they shut down.
  • Cows continue to receive MgCl and trace elements through the inline dispenser.
  • DCP is being dusted on the pasture for the fodder beet herds. When they are transitioned to their FB crops they will receive a drum at each end of the break with loose lick Magnesium phosphate.
  • Bloods taken from the R2s to assess BVD infection, were also used to look at mineral status. Feb saw these animals with a selenium and B12 jab and a copper bolus.  Copper status is excellent but the group are low in selenium and will get a Short acting selenium – B12 booster now and likely one more before calving

People Management and Visitors

  • This week our new Science Technician Nicole Coulter started. Holly has done such a great job holding the fort over the lockdown period and will be looking forward to an extra hand and a well needed break.
  • We had an on-farm health and safety meeting this week.
  • Dawn Dalley has been spoiling the farm team over the lockdown period. Normally she comes down and delivers treats in person but due to travel restrictions she has gone the extra mile to bake and put together individual care packages for all the science and farm team. You are a star Dawn!

Figure 7: Dawn’s home-made care packages to keep the team motivated

Research on-farm

  • Lactation research measurements are winding down but we are now moving into planning and implementation of the winter monitoring. This will involve regular crop yields and feed quality assessment, BCS, blood samples and if we can get everything in place some behaviour measurements to investigate lying and eating times of cows on the different crops and during different weather conditions.

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: