2019/20 Season HUB Weekly Farm Update as at 26th 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 26th March 2020

Kale Fodder beet
Soil temp (C) 11.3
Rainfall (mm) 28.4
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 3 2 2 2
% TAD Milkers 62% 56% 84% 85%
% OAD milkers 38% 49% 16% 15%

Key Decisions: this week

  • Things have really escalated quickly this week as we entered self-isolation and prepared our teams to work from home and on farm whilst meeting hygiene and self-isolation requirements. It is imperative that we abide by the rules put in place for essential businesses and ensure that our staff remain healthy and minimize risk to each other. If you haven’t already, jump on facebook and watch the video of how we are minimizing risk over this period; it might give you a few more ideas for your farm teams health.
  • Key changes we have made to our monitoring procedures to minimize the number of people on site at any one time include:
    • Cancelling our fortnightly herd testing
    • Cancelling our fortnightly BCS assessments and utilizing the BCS camera to track BCS changes in the interim
    • Farm walks will now be fortnightly and hopefully the weather will oblige with a SPACE assessment in the interim week to help with paddock selection for grazing
    • Farm team only to complete the calf liveweight measurements next week
  • From Saturday all the herds will be milked OAD. We will use supplement to extend the round and target 2 days/pdk, putting the herds on a 42-44 day rotation length. Some of the drivers for this decision differ between the herds and are summarized below:

Table 3: Factors driving the decision for OAD milking for all herds

Std Kale LI Kale Std FB LI FB
Labour management under Covid-19
Ability to cull cows as per plan
Average pasture cover
Supplement Availability
Achieving pre-calve BCS targets
Winter feed supply
  • Due to changes to the working requirements for the meat processors, and the possible inability to cull cows as per our autumn feed budgets, we have concerns around feed availability over the next 2 months. Looking at the Autumn feed budget graphs below you can see that both the LI Kale and LI FB are currently at least 200kg DM/ha below that required to achieve our dry off APC targets with the current level of supplementary feeding allocated. The Std herds are currently in a better position but as we know things can change quickly at this time of year. From this information we need to be proactive and take a conservative approach around our feed management to ensure we don’t jeopardise next seasons production.

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


  • Last week we mentioned our options to get our APC back on track. These included: pulling culls out earlier, drying off low BCS cows and assessing supplementary feed inputs (although some herds have limited baleage available for autumn).
  • A plan is being developed for the likelihood of culls staying on farm longer. We need to minimize the impact these animals will have on the autumn feed budget and set up of the farm systems for next season. 
  • 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 paddocks will most likely have their last grazing around early/mid-April so this needs to be factored into our grazing plans.
  • A priority for the team next week is completing the first crop yield assessments on all paddocks so we can revise our autumn and winter feed budgets. We have all the equipment on farm to complete these measurements so Holly will be working with the farm team on the process.

General Notes:

  • In the table below you can see the supplements that were fed out last week. This week we will continue to offer baleage and the Kale farmlets offered baleage and inshed feeding to help extend out the round. Priority animals continue on their OAD and inshed feeding program. 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. 

Table 4: Supplements fed last week

Std Kale (kg DM/cow) LI Kale (kg DM/cow) Std FB (kg DM/cow) LI FB (kg DM/cow)
PKE inshed (kg DM/cow/day) 2.5 2.3 0.5 0.6
Baleage (kg DM/cow) 0.1 0.5 0.6 0.8
  • Each week we have been noticing that our soil temperatures have been dropping by at least one degree. This week it was recorded at 11.3oC and our growth rates have correspondingly dropping from 50kg DM/ha last week to a range of 20-35 kg DM/ha. It is safe to say, with cooler air temperatures also being felt, that autumn is most definitely here.
  • The milk graphs this week show that the Std FB are flat lining below the other farmlets. We cannot pinpoint the reasons why their performance has dropped and have assessed their feeding and residuals left but with no justified reasoning for it.

Figure 2: Kg MS/cow/day for the month of March


  • The image below shows the end result from the flood damaged FB crop at the support block. As you can see the crop is quite sparse which will create yield variation throughout the paddock. We still intend to graze the flood damaged crops first; our other crops on are otherwise growing very well.

Figure 3: Flood damaged FB crop at the support block

Animal Health

  • We are awaiting the results of the Johnes testing that was done from the last herd test. This will help inform our culling decisions.
  • With the cancellation of the fortnightly herd tests we will be stripping all quarters in all herds weekly. Yesterday the herd was stripped, front quarters in the AM and back quarters in the PM; the farm team picked up x3 mastitis cases. Hopefully this will help us keep on top of SCC and potential mastitis cases occurring as the farmlets move to OAD milking. 
  • We are still having lameness issues on farm due to soft feet and realise we need to get on top of this before wintering on crops. Hopefully one less walk to the shed each day will also help.
  • Liver biopsies have come back with copper in the range of 900-2800 mmol/kg (all adequate).

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.

Research on-farm

  • In line with Covid-19 requirements the research measurements on site have been reduced to only those essential for the management of the animals. We are in the fortunate position that we have a number of automated measurements that will help plug the gap until we can resume the previous sampling regime.

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: