2020/21 Season HUB Weekly Farm Update as at 24th December 2020

The Southern Dairy Hub would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

It has been an interesting year and we look forward to what 2021 brings and all the exciting things we plan to achieve!

Table 1: Farmlet feed wedges and general information

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

Table 1: Key Herd Numbers 24/12/2020 – percentage of the herd in each mob

DATE: 24th Dec 2020 Std Kale LI Kale Std FB LI FB Total
Current Herd Numbers 196 162 193 162 713
Milking TAD into vat 163 134 152 142 591
Milking OAD into vat 29 26 38 19 112
Sick/penos 4 2 3 1 10

Table 2: Key Weather and Feeding Numbers 24/12/2020

Soil temp (C) 17.1
Rainfall (mm) 13.8
Allocations Kg DM/cow/day Std Kale LI Kale Std FB LI FB
Milkers 10.5 kg pasture + 5 kg DM inshed & 2.5 kg DM baleage 11 kg DM pasture + 4 kg DM inshed & 3 kg DM baleage 12 kg DM pasture + 2.5kg DM inshed & 3.5 kg DM baleage 12 kg DM pasture + 2kg DM inshed & 4 kg DM baleage

Key Decisions: this week

  • Average pasture cover has lifted this week however this was more apparent in the Std. farmlets which is most likely due to the flow on effect of N applications. The Std. Kale recorded an APC increase of +130kg DM/ha and the Std. FB an increase of +200kg DM/ha. The APC on the LI farmlets was +90kg DM/ha and the LI FB +30kg DM/ha.
  • With extra growth and APC we are able to drop out some supplement this week. Last week the LI Kale was the only herd to be fed more bales than we predicted. Both FB herds were on or very close to what was predicted and the Std kale received 10 bales less than estimated.
  • The Kale farmlets will remain on the same in-shed feeding rations as last week but with reduced baleage being offered.
  • Due to in-shed feeding not being a routine component of our fodder beet feeding decision rules we plan to remove inshed feeding from these farmlets as soon as possible. The Std. FB will drop down from 3.5 to 2.5 kg DM/cow/day in-shed feeding this week along with up to 3.5 kg DM (3 bales/day) baleage. The LI FB will receive 2 kg DM/cow/day in-shed feeding and x3 bales (4 kg DM/cow) with room to add more in as required.
  • Monitoring pre-graze pasture mass and residuals will be critical over the next week to ensure we are making timely decisions around supplement removal as our pasture situation changes.
  • The farm team will plate the next 5-6 paddocks in each farmlet on Wednesday next week and the grazing and supplementary plan for the next week will be developed from that.
  • The next full farm walk is scheduled for Tuesday 5th January.
  • From our BCS results last week we have redrafted our OAD group. Of the x96 cows that were OAD, x45 have stayed and x70 have been added to give a total of x116 OAD cows. Of this total there is x19 LI FB, x26 LI Kale, x33 Std. FB and x38 Std. Kale. The OAD cows do still walk to the shed TAD but receive more in-shed feed during this visit.
  • It has been a bad season for insects across the region as we continue to monitor and treat our new crops. This dry weather has seen the bugs out earlier this year with Cut worm and Nysius snacking on very small seedlings in our crop paddocks. The bugs saw any sowing type with trash as a great hiding spot and have been cutting off seedlings as soon as they appeared.
  • After advice from the Farmer Reference Group we have redrilled the direct drilled section of our crop establishment comparison this week. We have left two strips not resown so we can track its progress. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any of the original cultivar so have sown a new cultivar and clearly marked the rows so we can track progress. The PGGW team have devised a special spray brew for this paddock while we have areas at different stages of development.
  • All Kale and FB crops have received blanket pesticide sprays and the FB has also received a blanket weed spray.
  • As in previous years Charlie is also preparing himself for duck scaring as our kale seedlings start to get a bit bigger.
  • We have decided to send x120 calves (50/50 FB: Kale split) to the grazier where the R2s are over the summer/autumn period (leave on the 10th January). We will select the largest animals from each cohort to go and keep the lighter ones back at the support block so we can keep an eye on them and continue their PKE feeding if required.

General Notes:

  • We have had some steady rain recently which, along with N fert applied last week, has all helped with boosting our growth rates. We were surprised at the growth rates measured by the plate meter only averaging around 50kg DM/day as visually there appears to be more grass in the paddocks than a week ago. Below shows a comparison of our seasons growth rates up to the 23rd December along with the Woodlands growth curve up to the 14th December. This reflects the impact of drying conditions and windy days through the first half of December however we expect to see a jump up in these growth lines based off the last 2 weeks of moisture and warm soil temperatures. All we need now a bit of sunshine!

Figure 1: Growth rate comparison between farmlets for the season

Figure 2: Woodlands growth curve seasonal comparison


  • The graph below shows the amount of baleage we have fed and made on farm per farmlet season to date (STD). The LI farmlets have made the most bales which reflects their lower stocking rate, however the LI Kale farmlet has by far made the most bales (86 bales). The Std Kale have eaten the most (99 bales) and the Std. FB have made the least (49 bales). All farmlets had milking baleage left from the 2019-20 season and all but the Std Kale are still eating through this. The Std kale herd are consuming purchased baleage.

Figure 3: Bales fed and made season to date comparison between farmlets


  • Milk production is still fluctuating around based off the quality of each paddock that is grazed. The LI Kale farmlet production took the biggest hit this week due to poor quality baleage. This reaffirms the importance of why we mark all the bales that are made and feed out baleage to the farmlet it was made from; it all has impact in the long run and this is a perfect example of carryover impacts within a system.

Figure 4: Milk production (kg MS/cow/day) comparison for each farmlet


  • All capital/maintenance P and K fertiliser and 4th round N (Std) or 2nd round N (LI) has been applied.
  • We continue to use strategic topping on paddocks not properly cleaned up during grazing. Three paddocks will be visited by the mower this week to reset their residual.
  • Our R2 heifers received some special treatment this week. We removed the bulls, gave B12 and selenium, and did weights. On average they have gained 0.8kg Lwt/day and were 327 kg LW. If we assume 490 kg mature LW on average they are 69% of mature liveweight; you can read more about young stock liveweight targets here: Heifers – DairyNZ. They will be reweighed again in January and also receive their first scan.

Animal Health

  • We have done some analysis of lameness cases so far this season to see if there are any trends or comparisons to be made between farmlets. Surprisingly there has been more lameness in the FB cows. For all herds there has been more back foot lameness and in the fodder beet cows it is similar between front and back feet. Although less overall lameness in the kale cows, there has been more lameness occurring in the back right foot, especially with the LI Kale cows. This back right foot is also the one they pivot on when they exit the shed and may be a contributing factor even though there is rubber matting where the cows turn.

Figure 5: Percentage of each type of lameness for each herd

Figure 6: Foot affected for each lameness case


  • In order to prevent issues over January/February with mastitis, we have been more proactive this year in ensuring we replace all liners on time. New liners went in this week before staff members headed away on annual leave over the Christmas break.

People Management and Visitors

  • It’s great that our staff are able to get a good amount of time off over the Christmas/ New Years break. The farm team have done as much as possible to ensure that the workload is manageable for those remaining on roster over this time and we are also glad that APC has come up so that less feeding out is required over this period.

Research on-farm

  • GPS collars have been put on 2 cows in each herd as a pilot to determine if all grazing events could be tracked remotely removing the requirement for our manual grazing sheet
  • We put x98 SmaXtec boli into cows on Wednesday. These boli measure rumen temperature and rumination and provide a heat stress indicator, detection of feverish conditions and also detection of metabolic disease. The boli allow monitoring of aspects of animal welfare in real time which will be beneficial when transitioning animals onto crop in late lactation (fodder beet) or winter. These boli last for up to 4 years so the selection criteria for the animals receiving them were:
    • Estimated 30 days pregnant on the 21 Dec 2020
    • Aged 2,3,4 and 5 (only 2 per herd)
    • Breeding worth >60
    • Production worth >75
    • Season to date MS production for 2 yo > 150 kg
    • Season to date MS production for MA cows > 170 kg
    • Latest HT production >1.2 kg MS/day
    • Latest HT SCC <150
    • No cases of mastitis or lameness this season
    • N intake monitor cow if they met all the other criteria

Figure 7: Farm manager Charlie inserting boli


  • We recently updated our Research Tree – a pictorial representation of all the research projects that have been undertaken or are currently happening at SDH.

Figure 8: Current and historical research and demonstration projects at SDH

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: