2019/20 Season HUB Weekly Farm Update as at 9th 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

General Farm Information

Table 2: Key Numbers 9th April 2020

Kale Fodder beet
Soil temp (C) 12.8
Rainfall (mm) 9.6
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 3 7 3
Number OAD milkers 187 155 186 149

Key Decisions: this week

  • What’s driving our key decisions this week?
    Cull cows are still on farm and look to be for a while longer, supplements for the FB farmlets are tight until we can start feeding the fodder beet, and pasture cover is declining for two of the farmlets. We know that the same pressures are applying to many other farmers in Southland and we discuss our decisions throughout this report in more detail. The key decisions we are making to ensure correct dry off pasture cover and BCS at calving include:

    • Changed our milking frequency to once a day
    • BCS the herd and identifying the lighter cows that have early calving dates; earmark to dry off but continue feeding at milker feed allocations to ensure BCS gain
    • Dry off Johnes cows and empties that are low producing
    • Use dry culls for clean up around the farm and sent to graze Long Acre, feed baleage and hay so that demand on the milking platform is reduced.
    • Constant revising of our feed budgets and comparing our APC actual vs. predicted.
    • Application of N fertilizer to our Std. farmlets (due to kind autumn weather this is still an option for farmers if not already done)
    • Keeping in touch with our stock agent
  • This week Holly was able to do the farm walk. From the wedges you can see that the Std. FB are struggling to hit feed demand with their pasture covers and requiring extra supplement to do so. In the tables below produced by our autumn feed budget, the LI FB farmlet is significantly below predicted pasture cover. The Std. kale farmlet, however, has lots of grass and we will have to make sure that the residuals are met as they try to eat it all.

Figure 1: Autumn feed budget APC actual vs. predicted


  • We are still waiting to get our culls away which is impacting on our autumn feed budget. It was decided, to take the pressure off the LI FB and Std FB, we will dry off the LI FB empties & Johnes and Std FB Johnes cows. The dry cull cows will be used to graze behind the milkers, clean up rougher patches of the farm and laneways.
  • Once we have dried off the LI FB and Std FB, a decision will need to be made regarding the low BCS at risk cows and when to dry them off.
  • 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 but we are tight for baleage for the FB farmlets. In the graph below it shows the amount of supplement feed vs. what was budgeted for each farmlet. Both the LI farmlets have eaten on average 50kg DM/cow over budget compared to the Std. farmlets which have eaten 6kg DM/cow (Std Kale) and 13kg DM/cow (Std FB) more than budget.

Figure 2: Supplements fed vs. budgeted for each farmlet 

General Notes:

  • Last week we completed the first crop yield estimates on the 20 crop paddocks on farm. Samples were processed and put into the oven for DM determination. From the yield samples, Dawn will convert into tonnes of crop and update the autumn and winter feed budgets. In the graphs below you can see where the FB and Kale crop yields sit compared to the 2018/2019 season. We have determined that the FB crop, although below the previous season, has more leaf which will hopefully drive bulb growth, depending on the weather we get between now and grazing.  The kale is also below the previous seasons average, sitting currently at 10.4t, but we had already predicted a lower yield in our budget (12t) and still have 6 weeks of growth left to catch up.

Figure 3: 2020 FB yield and leaf % compared to 2018/19 season

Figure 4: 2020 kale yield compared to 2018/19 season


  • The autumn FB paddocks will need to be opened up and this will occur with in-situ grazing rather than lifting. We found last season that the lifted autumn FB had a lot of soil incorporated. We will get better utilization and it will be easier and cheaper to graze in-situ if the conditions and weather are good.
  • We have identified x20-30 at risk cows based on current BCS and calving date. Allowing for winter weight gain based on crop type and calving date, these cows need to do between 0.4 and 0.6 BCS gain per month between now and 1st June to hit target. We will need to act soon on these cows which will include drying off and continuing to offer milker feeding levels to ensure they gain required BCS to achieve 5.0 (MA) and 5.5 (R3s) targets at calving.
  • In the figure below is the kg MS and L/cow farmlet comparison. Litres per cow is slowly tracking down with the Std. FB taking a hit this week due to some poorer quality paddocks. Also FB farmlets offered average quality baleage to fill feed gaps has impacted in milk production.

Figure 5: L/Cow/day farmlet comparison

Figure 6: kg MS/cow/day farmlet comparison


  • The calves were drench and weighed last Friday averaging 0.6kg growth/calf/day over the 22 day period. They are on average 5-6kg behind last years calves at the same time. It was good to see all signs of photosensitivity have gone.

Animal Health

  • Cows were stripped Monday/Tuesday and x4 mastitis cows identified
  • 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.

Figure 7: Hoof mat at the entry bridge

People Management and Visitors

  • 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

  • Spraying occurred on the AgResearch crop drainage trial plots this week
  • 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: