2019/20 Season HUB Weekly Farm Update as at 27th February 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 27th February 2020

Kale Fodder beet
Soil temp (C) 17.2
Rainfall (mm) 3.8
Milker Dry Matter Allocation 16.5 16.5 (Std) and 16 (LI)
Animal Summary Std Kale LI Kale Std FB LI FB
Pink Blue Green Yellow
Number milkers out of farmlet herd 3 2 6 2
% TAD Milkers 80% 75% 70% 81%
% OAD milkers 20% 25% 30% 19%

Key Decisions: this week

  • This week our rotation length has blown out to around 45 days as cows struggle to eat all the pasture on offer within the daily area allocated. To prevent pre-graze masses getting too high and jeopardizing quality we have taken out more paddocks for baleage across both Std and the LI Kale farmlets.
  • Areas of winter crop paddocks that were too wet to re-establish in pasture in spring were worked this week and await new grass after investigation and maintenance of tile drain issues. We are very happy with the job and look forward to these paddocks having more uniformity when it comes to growth and grazing.

Figure 1: Wet areas of paddock that were worked and ready for planting


  • The last application of N on the LI farmlets is scheduled to commence early to mid-March so it is completed by the 10th April. As part of our decision rules for N applications, the LI farmlets require 15kg N/ha over Feb/March.
    The discussion was whether we applied this by following the cows or bulk apply the fertilizer to the LI farmlets, perhaps a 3rd of the farm at a time. To ensure all paddocks received N early enough for us to benefit from the growth response we have opted for 2-3 bulk applications. If we followed the cows this would push out applications into April and perhaps lose the desired pasture growth response.
  • N applications will continue on the Std. farmlets to maximize growth before colder autumn temperatures arrive.
  • With scanning next week we also have x20 cows booked in for mid-March. The decision criteria for culling in order of priority is: Pregnancy status > animal health (incidences of mastitis, lameness and high SCC) > udder confirmation > production > age. Overall 22% of cows will be removed from each farmlet regardless of reproductive performance. Yesterday we sent x4 cows to the works due to mastitis and udder confirmation.
  • Back calculation from milk yield and grazings/paddock suggest the cows are not eating the targeted 17 kg DM/day. For this reason we dropped the intake target last week from 17 to 16.5kg DM/cow/day for both kale farmlets and the Std. FB farmlet. The LI FB intake target was dropped further to 16 kg DM/cow/day as they continue to struggle to achieve even post grazing residuals. What is driving this lower apparent appetite continues to be a regular topic of discussion.
  • Damaged bales on the crop paddocks continue to be removed and replaced with some of the lower quality pasture conserved the last couple of weeks along with other replacement baleage sourced from off the dairy farm. If you need help disposing of flood damaged baleage you can contact 0508 BALEAGE.

General Notes:

  • Growth rates were lower than we expected this week with all herds just below demand. We have had some hot and humid days at SDH as we experience another week with minimal rain and not much rain projected over the coming week. It is not an area of concern but something to consider when identifying paddocks for baleage and fertilizer applications.

Figure 2: Average pasture cover (kg DM/ha) season to date


  • Average monthly growth rates (Figure 3) illustrated differences between the Std and LI farmlets from late spring and highlight how the LI FB farmlet has lagged behind the LI Kale farmlet in average monthly growth.

Figure 3: Average monthly growth rate for the 2019-20 season


  • We continue to see clumping in paddocks as the urine patches bolt ahead of the rest of the paddock; this makes pasture management difficult as we try and minimise plants going reproductive and achieve even grazing residuals.
  • The FB cows have dropped in milk production this week. There is variability in the visual quality of grass between paddocks and farmlets and with cows being returned to paddocks to clean up this may have impacted milk production.

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

Figure 5: L/Cow/day farmlet comparison


  • The helicopter sprayed crops for weeds and pests including Diamond back moth, aphids and Leaf miner. The team also did a great job pulling bolters and wild turnips.

Figure 6: Farm team doing a great job with weed and bolter control


  • This week we aerated paddocks that had been identified as being compacted. All were struggling with growth and surface water following heavy rain events suggested they had poor infiltration rates. Part of one was a historic silage stack and used to stack bales during the conversion and the others were 2017 crop paddocks regrassed in spring 2017.
    The soil conditions were perfect which allowed for the aerator to give strong, clean cut lines. If it was too dry there would have been pulling of plantings and roots above the soil surface. In some parts of the paddock it was too hard and the tractor wheels were beginning to spin on the surface so we have decided to wait to do these parts.

Figure 7: Aerator cut lines


  • The empty R2s have arrived back to the support block to clean up behind the calves. Once space frees up at the works we will send them.

Animal Health

  • 4 cows were culled to the works this week, as we had some cull udders that weren’t worth persevering with until the end of the season. 3 of the cows were culls on udder, 1 was a cow doing weak production and seen standing in heat to fill up our space.  We had the vet pregnancy test these culls so that we understood their reproductive status ahead of the full herd scan next week, 2 were in-calf (LI Kale cows with cull udders), and 2 were MT (LI FB poor udder and suspect MT).
  • Lameness has been a major issue on farm and we attribute it mostly to soft feet from continuous wet weather and laneway damage following the floods. The farm team went to a lameness evening with Neil Chesterton and have come away with some great key points around management of cows to prevent lameness.
    This week we broke down and analyzed the number of lameness cases between farmlets and also the type of lameness occurring.  

    From the graphs below the last two months show spikes in the Std FB and LI Kale farmlets. The most common causes of lameness appear to be stone bruise and white line.

Figure 8: % of lameness cases per farmlet

Figure 9: % of cows treated for different types of lameness


  • We have been noticing cows suffering from heat stress this week as temperatures and a severe humidity increase on this day with rain in the morning then very high heat throughout the day. This has impacted on their want to eat feed and natural behavior.
    The farm team hosed all cows down for 10 minutes on the yard to ensure they were fully wet, and it rapidly removed all symptoms of heat stress.
    We are looking at installing a sprinker onto the yard for this, and assessing if we have enough off-paddock trough access for cows near the shed.
    You can subscribe to the DairyNZ Heat stress email to see what impact heat stress and regional temperature humidity index can have on your herd, reproduction and milk production: https://www.dairynz.co.nz/animal/cow-health/heat-stress/

Figure 10: First lactation heifer showing signs of heat stress plus cooling down strategy at milking on Wed afternoon

People Management and Visitors

  • Over the last few weeks Louise and Charlie have been taking different periods of leave off farm. We just wanted to once again acknowledge the farm team and 2IC Billy for the great work they have been doing and initiative taken while Charlie and Louise have been away.
  • If you want to place your feedback on future research or complete our feedback form and rank the ideas we have sent a copy to our email subscribers and will put a copy on the facebook page. Take a photo of your completed form and post on facebook or send to 0274952239.
  • We are excited to announce that we will be hosting the DairyNZ Farmers Forum on the 3rd of March
  • Understanding what is driving change in the dairy sector and how to respond
  • Get updated on regional and national policy development and how to have an influence
  • Hear about the latest science happening in your region and what solutions you can use on your farm
  • Get an overview on how DairyNZ is prioritizing its efforts to best protect your future and of course hear about what has been happening at the Southern Dairy Hub.
  • With guest speakers such as Cameron Bagrie (Economist), Nadia Lim (MasterChef winner) and Tim Mackle (DairyNZ CEO) plus more. You can register here: https://www.dairynz.co.nz/about-us/event-activity/farmers-forum/


  • The SDH Research Advisory Committee are still looking for a Southland farmer to join our group. You will be working alongside some very talented people from DairyNZ, AgResearch, Fonterra and another farmer rep.
    • The RAC is responsible for reviewing all research applications for SDH and making recommendations to the SDRF board on which proposals fit with the goals and vision for the Southern Dairy Hub.
    • The RAC will also make recommendations on the strategic direction of research on the site. If you have an interest in research and would like to contribute to developing solutions for southern dairy farmers and can commit to up to four 2-3 hour (skype and face to face) meetings per annum we would love to hear from you.
    • In the first instance email SDDT Chair Tim Driscoll with your expression of interest and a short CV: driscolldairy@gmail.com

Research on-farm

  • The research team is currently updating all the data files after a busy few months of data collection
  • Data is being prepared to present at the Farmers Forum and include in conference papers that are currently being written.
  • Botanical dissections on all the paddocks will be completed next week. We will then be able to determine if the trend of higher clover in the LI farmlets has continued this season.

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: