2019/20 Season HUB Weekly Farm Update as at 7th May 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 7th May 2020

Kale Fodder beet
Soil temp (C) 9.5
Rainfall (mm) 7.6
Milker Total Dry Matter Allocation 15 15
Animal Summary Std Kale LI Kale Std FB LI FB
Pink Blue Green Yellow
Number milkers out of farmlet herd 4 4 2 2
Number OAD milkers 172 139 181 130
Dried off keepers 20 7 33 12
Dried off culls 1 4 6 12

Key Decisions: this week

  • We have dried off our second group of cows to ensure they have enough time to achieve their pre-calving BCS targets. Decisions were made based on current BCS, calving date and rate of gain in BCS since we moved the herds to OAD milking. Low producing culls were also dried off to ensure our good autumn feed is being utilized for cows that will be in the herd next season.
  • We have pushed out the rotation length to approx. 54 days for the milkers in the kale farmlets, however with larger dry cow mobs (x33 Std Kale and x35 LI Kale) the overall farm rotation lengths stay at approx. 44 days. The dry mob is now too big to graze 10% at the ends of paddocks following the milking herds so we have allocated x1 Std kale and x1 LI kale paddock for these dries to graze through over the next 2 weeks once the new dries are dried down. We will continue offering 10kg DM pasture and 5 kg DM baleage to these dry cows.
  • The fodder beet farmlets remain on a 44 day rotation. With only x20 (Std FB) and x6 (LI FB) keepers dried off we will utilize the ends of milker paddocks for these cows once they are dried down. Fodder beet will continue to be offered during the drying off process at 2.5 kg/cow/day by grazing the ends of a few beet paddocks to open them up.
  • X4 low producing high BCS keepers have been dried off and will run with the dry culls for the next 3 weeks to minimize any further BCS gain
  • The cows are transitioning well onto FB however we have decided to hold them at 2.5 kg DM FB (50 mins on crop) for the next week as paddocks at the top of the wedge are above the target line so we need a bit more grazing pressure to ensure residuals are met.
  • Fodder beet cows will continue to receive DCP to boost P reserves. We 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.
  • It was good to see our autumn feed budget actual covers move closer to our budgeted covers. This is not only because autumn growth has been greater than we budgeted for but also due to proactive management, correct rotation lengths and balance of pasture management and supplement input. We are happy with how our graphs are tracking towards target average pasture cover and this will further improve with drying off cows and decreasing demand.

Figure 1: APC actual vs. target dry off


  • In the graph below you can see how our seasonal growth rates have tracked and many of those farming in Southland will be able to relate to the poor season of growth which has impacted both ability to make supplement and crop yields. Below the Southern Dairy Hub’s growth rates is the Woodlands long term pasture growth information, which includes both this seasons growth (excludes N use), 2018/2019 and the long term average growth from which we can see how tough this season has been.

Figure 2: Seasonal growth rate for the Southern Dairy Hub

Figure 3: Woodlands pasture Rate of Growth 2019-2020

General Notes:

  • Although the region has had a poor growth season we are proud to announce that our season to date production is ahead of last season by 10,124kg MS to date, we have now exceeded last year’s total production by 901kgMS AND we have exceeded 1200kg MS/ha on one of the farmlets for the first time.
    What is even more special is that this has all been achieved with a 10 day later planned start of calving meaning by the end of August we were 7,706kgMS behind last year. In the graph below you can see how the farmlets are tracking season to date and their kg MS/ha so far. This result demonstrates how far the farm and the team has come this season. The whole farm team have worked tirelessly on

    • improving consistency of feeding across the 4 herds,
    • making proactive feeding decisions utilizing all the information available,
    • upskilling in pasture management and residual assessment and
    • managing BCS through strategic OAD milking and priority feeding (just to name a few).

It is a huge team effort and so great to see everyone buying into the vision of SDH and working together to achieve the desired results under the extra pressure and demands of a complex research farm and having all our decisions analyzed on a weekly basis by those who are following our journey.

Figure4: kg MS/ha/STD farmlet comparison


  • It was a very busy week for staff with drying off cows and taking bloods and milk samples from 200 cows for an external research trial. By Friday we would have dried off a total of x69 cows this week; The farm team dried off cows receiving dry cow combo however we will have vet techs in to do the teat seal only animals to minimize the risk of introducing bacteria during the process. Many of the team are new to drying cows off so we don’t want to put extra stress on them while they are perfecting their technique hence using the vet techs with teat seal only cows.
  • This week we did not do a visual BCS (done fortnightly) but instead have used the information captured by the BCS camera. In the graph below is the BCS trend for each farmlet taken by the camera. We are happy with how they are tracking upwards and the importance of using the BCS information to make key, seasonal on farm decisions.

Figure 5: The farmlets average BCS camera comparison season to date


  • The image taken below is a great example of how we are using the BCS information. The two R3’s in the photo have the same calving date but are currently in very different BCS. The animal on the left is a long way down the track to her calving BCS so she can milk for longer compared to the one on the right who has triggered the dry off decision rules based on BCS and days to calving.

Figure 6: R3s of the same calving date but different BCS


  • As mentioned in the notes last week we have received the pasture quality results from samples collected a fortnight ago (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.
  • Since last week we have got our baleage quality results back so they have been added to Table 3. The batches currently being fed are high in DM and low in crude protein and with average ME content for baleage.

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

Std Kale LI Kale Std FB LI FB Baleage
DM% 13.5 14.1 14.4 14.8 49.4
CP % 22.9 24.2 23.5 25.8 13.3
NDF % 44.2 43.2 41.2 41.3 53.1
ME MJ/kg DM 11.8 11.8 12.0 12.1 10.3
Ca % 0.52 0.62 0.58 0.56 0.47
P % 0.42 0.42 0.40 0.44 0.30
Mg % 0.21 0.22 0.20 0.20 0.16
S % 0.40 0.40 0.35 0.37 0.24

Animal Health

  • We identified and treated x5 cows for mastitis this week. With more cows going through the dry off transition we will continue to monitor for any early signs of mastitis.
  • The calves are doing well at the support block with good overall condition and fat cover. Due to a couple with dirty tails and the parasite challenges they have faced this year we will consider giving them one last drench before putting them onto the crop for winter. We have to be very vigilant with our drench program as the young stock are more prone to worms at the support block
  • Cows continue to receive MgCl and trace elements through the inline dispenser.

People Management and Visitors

  • We have employed casual staff member Grace, who has already started, and also have a full-time science tech starting later in the month.
  • All group visits to the farm have been cancelled and we are utilising skype for our weekly meetings.

Research on-farm

  • It was a big job of sampling this week. Bloods and milk samples were required from x200 cows, plus quarterly blood, urine, milk and faeces collection for N balance work from the 20 monitor cows in each herd. With a big team on farm for these collections it was important to maintain the necessary strict hygiene and social distancing requirements set out in Level 3.
  • May crop yields were completed on Monday and Tuesday and pre-winter sampling started on the SFF Fodder beet monitor farm this week.
  • Next week we will be completing our last N intake assessment of the year and the R1’s get their pre-winter weight, stature and blood measurements done.

Figure 7: Holly collecting urine samples; a box full of milk samples

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: