2019/20 Season HUB Weekly Farm Update as at 5th 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

PS: The BCS data for the LI FB herd was unfortunately lost when the BCS app malfunctioned during assessment yesterday. We will schedule another assessment for these animals next week.

General Farm Information

Table 2: Key Numbers 5th March 2020

Kale Fodder beet
Soil temp (C) 15.9
Rainfall (mm) 4
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 4 4 6 4
% TAD Milkers 80% 75% 70% 81%
% OAD milkers 20% 25% 30% 19%

Key Decisions: this week

  • Baleage was cut this week (as noted in the key decisions last week) to control quality even though there was a risk of declining growth rates. With the round length getting too long and pasture quality declining making baleage was considered to be the best option to get cows back grazing optimal pasture. Unfortunately growth has slowed more than expected this week and it is looking like we may need to feed out some baleage to the LI FB farmlet depending on how their paddocks in the grazing plan respond.

Figure 1: Farm team having some fun when out labelling the bales so we know which paddock they came from and which herd they need to be fed back to.


  • We will be sending the pinks back to this paddock on Friday morning as they all sat down in the third break of the paddock and weren’t likely to hit residual.

Figure 2: Pinks in their paddock on Thursday morning unlikely to hit residual so they are back in here Friday morning.


  • Nitrogen fertilizer on crops:
    • Kale crops – are to receive a second side dressing of nitrogen in line with soil mineral N testing: 150 kg N Protect/ha to second year crops and 100 kg N Protect/ha to first year crops unless the crop was flooded in which case it will receive 150 kg N Protect/ha to top up N lost through excess summer drainage.
    • Fodder beet crops – 4 paddocks to receive 60 kg N/ha as urea where the paddocks were significantly flooded for a period of time.
  • The first yield assessment of all our crop paddocks has been scheduled for the first week of April.
  • N applications will continue on the Std. and LI farmlets as noted last week: Std farmlets N fertilizer applied following the cows, LI farmlets two thirds of the paddocks to receive N to maximise response rate pre-grazing.
  • Decision was made that we won’t be doing any topping post grazing.
  • We have kept the intake target the same as last week at 16.5 kg DM/cow/day for both kale farmlets and the Std. FB farmlet, and 16 kg DM/cow/day for the LI FB farmlet.
  • 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:

  • With the harvesting of the baleage and a slowing of growth rate, average pasture cover, especially in the Std farmlets has dropped significantly this week.  Based on the number of paddocks we are having to send cows back to we have concluded that the plate meter winter equation is currently underestimating pasture mass.  This lines up with 20+% DM in pasture samples and the drier weather conditions. Despite a bit of light rain for our Farmers’ Forum visit it has been another week of minimal rain.

Figure 3: Average pasture cover (kg DM/ha) season to date


  • Average monthly growth rates (Figure 4) 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 (Feb data includes growth to the 4th Mar).

Figure 4: 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.
  • Individual herd milk production continues to fluctuate at each pickup which we attribute to the range in pasture cultivars and growing conditions across the farm. Following the decline in production but the FB farmlets last week they have recovered somewhat this week however they appear to be more sensitive to change in pasture quantity and quality than the kale cows.

Figure 5: Milk solids production (kg MS/cow/day) farmlet comparison

Figure 6: L/Cow/day farmlet comparison


  • Out second pregnancy scan was completed on the 4th of March (see results below) and we are pleased with the results following a challenging spring and early summer and a 10.4 week mating period. Over the next few months we will interrogate this data to look for treatment trends.

Table 3: Herd average reproduction statistics

LI Fbeet
STD Kale
LI Kale
Herd size 193 163 194 163
% herd submitted to AB 99.0% 97.5% 99.0% 99.4%
% CIDR 6% 6% 5% 4%
% 6 wk IC rate final 71% 70% 73% 69%
Scanned MT rate (cows on farm) 14.0% 12.7% 8.9% 12.3%
Not in-calf rate (repro status unknown due to culling pre scanning) 14.0% 14.8% 9.7% 13.5%
  • Of note is the higher percentage of 2016 and 2017 born animals NOT in calf in the fodder beet farmlets (Table 4).

Table 4: Herd average reproduction statistics the numbers in brackets below the % figures are the number of animals of that year group in the herd.

Year Born Pink Blue Green Yellow
2008 0% (1) 100% (1)
2009 0% (2) 0% (1) 0% (1) 0% (2)
2010 20% (5) 25% (5) 25% (4) 25% (4)
2011 0% (7) 0% (4) 40% (5) 29% (7)
2012 13% (15) 23% (13) 12% (17) 100% (2)
2013 0% (19) 22% (18) 27% (15) 6% (16)
2014 7% (29) 21% (24) 9% (32) 13% (24)
2015 8% (36) 14% (35) 3% (38) 19% (36)
2016 20% (41) 6% (32) 22% (41) 11% (36)
2017 8% (40) 6% (32) 13% (40) 9% (34)
  • We have booked in a milk test confirmation of pregnancy for last herd test in April to ensure no empty cows are wintered.
  • We visited the R2s at the grazier on Sunday. There is one pregnant small heifer which we will look to rehome before winter as she does not have the frame size or maturity to compete well in the dairy herd.
  • The calves are currently grazing at the support block in two mobs and last week they finished the 10 t of PKE we had purchased for them in mid January when liveweight gains were slow following the coccidosis outbreak. They will be drenched next week when they are in for liveweight and stature measurements.

Animal Health

  • Lameness continues to be a major issue on farm and we attribute it mostly to soft feet from continuous wet weather and laneway damage following the floods. We have discussed the use of copper sulphate mats but these are difficult to keep clean so we have decided that the best option will be zinc supplementation through the diet. We are investigating options to add to our in line dispenser mix.
  • Cows continue to receive magnesium chloride plus the trace element mix through the water.

People Management and Visitors

  • We hosted the DairyNZ Farmers Forum on the 3rd of March. We estimate around 100 people attended. We had lots of positive feedback about how the farm is looking with good quality pasture on offer and weeds under control thanks to lots of hard work by the farm team.
    The Hub team gave an update on the farm system research season to date and we utilised the captive audience to canvass more farmer views on the priorities for future farm systems comparison.

Figure 7: Farmers attending the DairyNZ Farmers’ Forum


  • This week we had a Research Advisory Committee meeting where we reviewed the current farm systems comparison, discussed the physical and financial data that has been collected and set a plan for engaging with our stakeholders around the priorities for the next farm systems comparison at the hub. 
  • 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
  • Coming up we have
    • BCS accreditation training on-farm on 26 March
    • A Nuffield Farming Visit on 31 March
    • Lincoln Schools outreach programme visiting on 1-2 April

Research on-farm

  • Botanical dissections are almost complete with just one paddock to go! Once completed we will be able to determine if the trend of higher clover in the LI farmlets has continued this season.
  • Next week is our nitrogen intake measurement week where the research team do pre and post grazing plating for at least two paddocks in each farmlet and take pasture samples for quality analysis.
  • On Thursday next week the research team with help from the farm team will be weighing, measuring and drenching the calves.

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: