2019/20 Season HUB Weekly Farm Update as at 25th June 2020

Table 1: Farmlet average pasture cover and growth rates from farm walk 19/06/2020

Pasture Summary Std Kale LI Kale Std FB LI FB
Pink Blue Green Yellow
Average pasture cover (kg DM/ha) 2140 2059 2139 2124
Average growth rate (kg DM/day) 17 14 18 15

Table 2: Key Numbers 25/06/2020

Soil temp (C) 4.0
Rainfall (mm) 2.6

Key Decisions: this week

  • This week’s notes include an on-farm update from the last fortnight
  • The good weather continues but the hard frosts in the morning has meant that cows are being shifted on their crops mid to late morning once the frost has lifted to prevent animal health issues.
  • The young stock have been also struggling to eat all of their allocated crop so we will not be increasing their allocation this week as originally planned.

Figure 2: Young stock grazing their fodder beet

General Notes:

  • The team has been working well and enjoying the clear but cool days on farm. With new trial work starting the farm and tech team have been busy taking measurements and monitoring animals.
  • Crop yields and allocations have been more consistent in the kale paddocks compared with the fodder beet paddocks where flood damage has resulted in variable yields across the paddock. In some instances crop yield data and cow behaviour are not aligning i.e the cows are more content than might be expected in areas where the yields are lower. We have been adjusting break sizes to compensate for the visually lower yield but don’t always get it correct, especially in some of the odd shaped paddocks we are currently grazing. 
  • We are getting very good utilisation of both the crop and baleage
  • One observation we have made is the higher than expected DM% of the fodder beet bulbs. We are grazing Feldherr which is a ‘low’ DM variety (12-15%) however most of our paddocks are coming back at 14-16.5% DM.   
  • Pasture growth rate over the last 2 weeks is still sitting around 14-18 kg DM/ha/day which reflects the weather we have been having recently. Overall, the farm is looking good with extra growth since dry off.
  • We are coming to the end of our crop paddocks on heavier soils which has been great to get out of the way while conditions have been so dry. For short-term weather events we plan to increase baleage before the event occurs so they are more settled when the weather hits plus extra during the event.
  • Our plan is to graze our more at-risk paddocks while the weather is good and save the naturally drier, upper terrace crop paddocks for when more adverse weather comes through. All paddocks on the upper terrace are set up ready to go so if we have to move mobs this can happen efficiently.
  • Results from the BCS camera are in this week. Next week we will be doing a hands-on BCS. To hit targets based on how cows were split, FB lights should gain 0.25BCS every 2 weeks, and fats 0.15BCS. However, they are currently not quite meeting this. Kale lights should gain 0.12BCS every 2 weeks, and fats 0.07BCS. This is the case for the fat kale cows and Std. Kale light cows but not quite for the LI kale mob in paddock 65, however, they also had the biggest jump up a few weeks back so are in good shape. The LI FB lighter cows need to increase their BCS gain and will be closely monitored.

Figure 3: BCS change over a fortnight period

Figure 4: Heifer BCS change over a fortnight period


  • Young stock were weighed today and have shown an average weight gain of 0.5 kg/day over a 4-week period. They are looking good and doing well on their respective crop diets.

Figure 5: One of the young stock getting a scratch from Dawn

Animal Health

  • We have found five more cases of mastitis and also an increase in lameness cases, which seem odd given the paddock and weather conditions, plus minimal walking. These cows have all be treated and separated into smaller Kale and FB mobs close to the shed so they can be monitored. They have not been put onto grass due to the need to have a balance across all farmlet paddocks.
  • Sadly we had two slips in the LI FB group which now totals three slips, all of which have coincidentally been LI FB animals but grazing in different wintering mobs.

People Management and Visitors

  • The team celebrated the end of season with a jet boat ride with Fiordland Jet in Manapouri. It was great to get off farm as a team, celebrate all the successes this season, and of course support local businesses.

Figure 6: The farm team enjoying their end of season celebration

Research on-farm

  • Blood samples were taken so that we can monitor cow mineral levels on crop and how they change over the winter period.
  • Crop yields are being measured fortnightly.
    • This week the kale crops averaged 11.5 %DM (range 9.8-12.9%), the fodder beet leaf 9.1 %DM (range 8.7-9.6%) and the fodder beet bulb 15.8% DM (range 14.6-17.3%)
    • Kale crop yields range from 8.9 to 12.8 T DM/ha
    • FB yields range from 15.6 to 19.1 T DM/ha
  • Last week 30 animals in each of 4 herds were fitted with behaviour monitoring devices to measure lying, standing, ruminating and eating time plus walking distance and length of lying bouts. To understand the impact of soil conditions on cow behaviour every day the tech team make a series of measurements to describe the soil conditions in the area the cows have available to them for that 24 hour period. Weather information is being recorded daily. During their late afternoon check of the cows the farm staff record how much baleage and crop is left. Back fences are shifted every day and all groups have the same square metres of area between the front and back fences. 

Figure 7: Behaviour tags and leg bands being fitted


  • The AgResearch nitrate leaching trial plots had their winter grazing this week. On Wednesday the fodder beet plots were grazed for 24 hours with one of the Std FB mobs and on Thursday the kale crops were grazed with animals from a LI Kale mob.

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: