2019/20 Season HUB Weekly Farm Update as at 30th April 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

NOTE: The Spr on the feed wedges identifies our springer paddocks for next season. These paddocks will not be grazed again this season so by identifying them on the wedge we wont accidentally include them in our grazing plan each week.

General Farm Information

Table 2: Key Numbers 30th April 2020

Kale Fodder beet
Soil temp (C) 9.4
Rainfall (mm) 17
Milker Total Dry Matter Allocation 16 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 1 6 1
Number OAD milkers 172 139 181 130
Dried off keepers 15 13 0 1
Dried off culls 1 4 6 12

Key Decisions: this week

  • This week the soil temperature has remained steady at 9.7oC and pasture growth rates are sitting between 24 to 38kg DM/ha/day. Last week we decided to decrease in-shed feeding to the kale farmlets due to higher covers and wanting to achieve residuals on the current rotation length. The Std. Kale farmlet pasture cover has tightened up this week so we have increased in shed feeding and will use this and baleage as required to fill the deficit.
  • We continue to monitor our autumn feed budgets and how our APC is tracking compared to our dry off target. In the graphs below you can see that the Std FB is tracking along with it’s target line, the Std Kale has recently taken a drop down, and the LI farmlets continue to track below the target line but are flattening out to head in the right direction.

Figure 1: APC actual vs. target dry off

  • Dry culls and dry keepers are split up with the kale dry keepers offered 10% of the paddock area of the Kale milker’s paddocks with baleage if required.
  • We have identified x67 animals that will need drying off next week based off their current BCS and calving date. In the graph below you can see the split of animals for each farmlet in columns of dry already, critical and need drying off next week, and need to watch.

Figure 2: Number of cows dry, critical and need drying off, and need to watch based off BCS

  • The most important driver behind our decisions on farm now is next season. This is through achieving improved cow condition before winter and achieving average pasture cover targets at 31st May and pre-calving. Remember there are still levers you can also pull on your farm to ensure you are on track (see key messages next). Below lists what we have been implementing so far (as listed in last week’s notes):
  • Changed our milking frequency to once a day
  • Dried off lighter early calving cows
  • Dried off Johnes culls and low producing empties
  • Using dry culls for clean up around the farm and grazing the long acre with baleage and hay in a holding area so that demand on the milking platform is reduced.
  • Constant revision of our feed budgets and comparing our APC actual vs. predicted.
  • Completed our N fertilizer applications within the farmlet rules. Time is running out for N use based on likely response rates and when the N boosted feed will be available. One option could be to consider lower N applications plus ProGibb to the bottom half of the wedge.
  • Have our stock agent on speed dial for regular updates
  • Extended the rotation length to 40-44 day

General Notes:

  • We will further increase fodder beet intakes this week from 30 mins (1.5kg DM/cow) to 40 mins (2kg DM/cow) for a few days and then up to 50 mins (2.5kg DM/cow) for both the Std. and LI FB farmlets. With our current crop yields our FB feed budget for winter is just tight enough, however when comparing with last year we will have better utilization of our autumn fed beet by grazing rather than lifting which we did last year. In autumn, the FB leaf makes up 35-40% of the dry matter (varying between crops) but in spring it drops to 15% of dry matter because of the larger bulb and leaf lost through frosting during winter.
  • Due to the importance of transitioning onto FB correctly we have also given the staff the following guidelines and we have given everyone a refresher on identifying animals who may have clinical or sub-clinical acidosis. You can also read more about FB transitioning here: https://www.dairynz.co.nz/feed/crops/fodder-beet/fodder-beet-transitioning/
  1. Need to make sure there is 4-5m per cow
  2. All cows need to enter onto the crop at the same time; FB grazing will occur in the morning after milking and all crop must be cleaned up before new break is offered
  3. Grazings need to be accurately timed and someone must be with the cows for the entire 20min grazing period.
  4. Dusting the FB farmlet pdks with DCP to top up P reserves
  • We have decided to start dusting early with DCP as we saw in spring last year when blood phosphate was adequate at end of winter that when we reintroduced FB to the herd during lactation we got clinical cases of milk fever in some cows who had been calved for more than a month. The strategy of earlier dusting is around ensuring we don’t deplete phosphate levels in the autumn as we know FB in diet will do this.

Figure 3: First week on fodder beet


  • We will need to make a decision around how to feed FB at the support block where flood damage occurred. The crop has a large amount of variability throughout so it will be a challenge to ensure correct crop allocation, baleage placement and spacing for winter feeding. From crop yield assessments done this week we have yields in the worst areas of only 1-2 T DM/ha and in the best areas up to 18 T DM/ha.
  • Because of the low fodder beet yields on the support block we have delayed when we will start transitioning animals onto the crop until closer to mid May rather than the start of May.
  • This week we commenced herd testing again. In addition to our usual fortnightly herd test we are also getting a milk pregnancy test done to identify any empty animals that may have been missed or recently slipped; this will prevent carrying any freeloaders over winter.

Figure 4: View of the cows at herd testing time


  • We are happy with how our BCS continues to increase each week and this can be seen in the graph below. Although the FB farmlet has the lower BCS, the have less ‘critical’ animals that need drying off because of better BCS gain potential over the winter and have the added benefit of now starting their FB to help gain BCS.

Figure 5: This week’s herd average BCS farmlet comparison


  • Gaining BCS is a slow process and implementation to increase it needs to start early. With BCS it is important to not focus just on what your herd’s average is but, more importantly, the lighter animals that are bringing your average down. Don’t forget you can use the DairyNZ BCS calculator to help decided when to dry your lighter animals off to reach BCS target at calving: https://www.dairynz.co.nz/animal/body-condition-scoring/bcs-strategies/

Figure 6: Herd average BCS season to date


  • We have received the pasture quality results from samples collected at the beginning of last week (Table 3). The pasture quality has improved significantly in the last couple of months with all samples now in the 11.5 to 12.5 MJ ME/kg DM range. However, associated with this increase in quality has been a decrease in dry matter percent with the average for all farmlets below 15% DM.  Crude protein concentration has continued to increase through the autumn period. There were no treatment differences in pasture mineral content and it is good to see our pasture P levels getting above 0.4 % as we start feeding fodder beet to the milkers in the two fodder beet farmlets.

Table 3: Average pasture quality from 3 paddocks per farmlet collected last week

Std Kale LI Kale Std FB LI FB
DM% 13.5 14.1 14.4 14.8
CP % 22.9 24.2 23.5 25.8
NDF % 44.2 43.2 41.2 41.3
ME MJ/kg DM 11.8 11.8 12.0 12.1
Ca % 0.52 0.62 0.58 0.56
P % 0.42 0.42 0.40 0.44
Mg % 0.21 0.22 0.20 0.20
S % 0.40 0.40 0.35 0.37
  • The kale farmlet milk production continues to track down to similar level of the other farmlets. We are happy to see that the LI FB is finally picking up a bit after a good week of grazing, although they still track significantly below the other farmlets season to date.

Figure 7: Farmlet milk production comparison


  • This week the R1s were drenched, lepto and copper bulleted. They will be weighed, measured and receive a B12 injection in a fortnights time so that they are all prepared before going onto their winter crops.

Animal Health

  • It is important to be vigilant and do regular checks of recently dried off cows. From these checks we have identified x2 cows with mastitis and were able to treat them early before their condition worsened. These two mastitis cows had received teat seal only and highlights the importance of hygiene and good management practices when drying off.
  • Unfortunately, this week a 3 year old cow slipped. With our milk pregnancy test it will be good to identify any animals not in calf so that we do not carry any extra mouths into winter.

People Management and Visitors

  • All group visits to the farm have been cancelled and we are utilising skype for our weekly meetings.

Research on-farm

  • With the move to Covid-19 Level 3 we can take a few more samples and measurements on farm as long as we maintain the necessary strict hygiene and social distancing requirements set out in Level 3. Next week we will be doing animal sampling (urine, bloods and faeces), followed by the last N intake and pasture sampling for the season in a fortnight.

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: