2019/20 Season HUB Weekly Farm Update as at 2nd April 2020

Table 1: Farmlet feed wedges and general information

NOTE: Completing the crop yields on farm was a priority this week so a full farm walk was not completed; instead the farm team plated paddocks from the top, middle and bottom of each wedge (hatched bars) and the remainder were predicted based on mass last week and the average farmlet pasture growth rate for the week. All paddocks grazed this week have been entered at 1650 kg DM/ha

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

General Farm Information

Table 2: Key Numbers 2nd April 2020

Kale Fodder beet
Soil temp (C) 11.5
Rainfall (mm) 0
Milker Total Dry Matter Allocation 15.5 15.5 (Std) and 15 (LI)
Animal Summary Std Kale LI Kale Std FB LI FB
Pink Blue Green Yellow
Number milkers out of farmlet herd 3 3 6 2
Number OAD milkers 187 155 186 149

Key Decisions: this week

  • Who would have thought this time last week we were talking about cooler autumn temperatures! The warm sunny days have been a welcomed boost for grass growth and farmer moral.
  • As mentioned last week, we decided to put all the farmlet herds on to once a day milking. The key drivers to going OAD can be seen in the table below including logistics with staff and Covid-19, on-going lameness, limitations on culling due to delays with meat works, decreasing APC and continuous use of supplement to fill gaps, BCS and winter feed supply:

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
  • This week we did not do a full farmwalk, instead, the farm team measured a selection of paddocks from each farmlet. Using this information, along with our SPACE estimates, we were able to decide this week’s grazing plan. In the feed wedges above we applied the average growth of the plated paddocks to predict the mass of the paddocks that were not measured this week.
  • The PKE-barley blend will continue to be the main supplement for the Kale herds with baleage the main supplement for the fodder beet herds until fodder beet feeding starts. The farm team are assessing pasture mass each afternoon to determine how much baleage is required.
  • This week we completed the first crop yield estimates on the 20 crop paddocks on farm. Samples have been processed and put into the oven for DM determination so we will have the results back early next week. From the yield estimates, we will update the autumn and winter feed budgets and determine when we can start feeding FB to the milkers.

Figure 1: An oven full of crop yield samples

Figure 2: Kale & fodder beet at the support block


  • Although we have been enjoying the sun in Southland, next week is predicted to be wet so this will impact the order in which paddocks are grazed.
  • In preparation for next season we 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. The last springer paddocks will be grazed by mid-April so this has been factored into our grazing plans.

General Notes:

  • An area of concern with farmers and ourselves has been around when we can get rid of culls. 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. 
  • This week we assembled each farmlets cull list and in doing so identified that some farmlets had minimal flexibility with the number of discretionary culls due to culling during the season. Accounting for deaths this year, culled already, R2 replacements available, empties still to be culled, and Johnes cows, you can see in the table below what numbers we are left with. The numbers in brackets are if we put the x3 extra R2’s from the LI kale into the Std kale to give the right % of R2’s.

Table 4: List of culls for each farmlet to still go

Culls to go
Johnes Empty still to go Discretionary culls
Pink 1 11 16 (19)
Blue 3 15 7 (4)
Green 2.5 6 22
Yellow 2 15 2
TOTAL 12 63 27
  • Urea that had been missed earlier in the year was applied this week which now brings all the Std. paddocks up to the same level.
  • X 215 purchased bales of baleage arrived today with 130 going not the support block and the remainder to the milking platform. These are the last bales required to go onto crops for winter.
  • Because we are not physically body condition scoring over this lockdown period, we are utilizing our in-shed De Laval BCS camera instead. The average BCS from the camera and change from a fortnight ago are in the brackets for comparison.

Table 5: BCS comparison between each farmlet

Std Kale (kg DM/cow) LI Kale (kg DM/cow) Std FB (kg DM/cow) LI FB (kg DM/cow)
BCS - milkers 4.4 (+0.1) 4.3 (0) 4.3 (0) 4.3 (+0.1)
  • On the milk graph you can see the drop when the cows were put onto OAD and then the rise as they begin to adapt. Pasture for the LI FB was tight last week so they received a lot of supplementary baleage (average quality) and this impacted their milk yield as seen in the graph below.

Figure 2: kg MS/cow farmlet comparison

Figure 3: L/Cow/day farmlet comparison


  • We had a discussion around the plan for our R2s and their arrival back to the farm. The plan will be for them to arrive on the 14th May where they will have their weights and stature measured, bloods taken and receive new farmlet eartags. The following week they will be teat sealed.
  • Calves will be weighed tomorrow (Friday) and the decision was to keep them in their current mobs (heavier on LW target vs lighter below target) and split them into FB and Kale mobs at the end of the month in preparation for the fodder beet calves starting transition onto the crop.

Animal Health

  • With the farmlets going OAD we did have a small spike in somatic cell count but this has since stabilised below 200,000 for both herds. We also identified x4 mastitis cows.
  • We have talked extensively with our vets and also taken farmer discussion from the DairyNZ Southland/South Otago facebook page regarding our lameness on farm.
    We are confident that the shift to OAD will naturally help with this but have also installed a copper sulphate hoof mat at the entry bridge and ordered supplements for the in-line dispenser.
    The supplements include organic Zinc and Biotin which will be used for the remainder of the season to encourage and grow better feet; we understand this a long-term approach and hopefully we will see benefits later on next season.
  • Our Johnes results have come back with x12 cows identified as positive or high positive; these can be seen in the cull cow table further up. They will be blood tested next week by the vet to confirm the milk test and then put in the priority cull list. It is noted that around half the Johnes are Std. FB but this was an acknowledged trend from last season and their cull % was adjusted accordingly to account for this happening.

People Management and Visitors

  • To minimise outside people coming on farm, the farm staff were trained to crop yield this week. We updated our Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) to assist and they also had Holly our Science Tech to provide guidance for the first couple of paddocks.
  • The farm team were also in charge of plating the selection of paddocks from each farmlet for the feed wedge and grazing plan.
  • We have redone our rosters to account for who actually needs to be on farm, scheduled time at home and keeping people safe. OAD is also working really for the team and allows for other tasks to get completed without the stress of 2 people having to get back for milking.
  • 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 gaps until we can resume the previous sampling regime.
  • We are making alternative plans for some of the measurements that were scheduled in the last 2 months of lactation and determining what is essential for decision making vs nice to have for research.

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: