2019/20 Season HUB Weekly Farm Update as at 9th January 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 January 2020

Kale Fodder beet
Soil temp (C) 13.2
Rainfall (mm) 96 mm since the 19th Dec (46 mm this week)
Milker Dry Matter Allocation 17 17
Animal Summary Std Kale LI Kale Std FB LI FB
Pink Blue Green Yellow
% milkers in Penos 0 2 <1 1
% TAD Milkers 95 91 83 87
% OAD milkers 5 9 17 13

Key Decisions: this week

  • Following a prolonged period of growth at or just below demand and a rotation length of 20-22 days we have decided to extend the rotation of the Std farmlets out to 30 days. This will allow us to maximise growth by grazing at the 2.5-3 leaf stage. Because we are now mostly post-heading, we are confident quality can be maintained. To achieve the extended rotation length we will require a lift in pasture growth plus the use of supplementary feed.
  • Along with many farms in Southland we have been faced with challenging growing conditions and wet weather. Below is an outline of what we have been implementing to try and be proactive in minimizing the carryover effects of the last 5 months and ensuring we have a solid plan in place leading into winter:
  • Maximising Crop Yields:
    • Working with our agronomist and technical field rep to ensure all pest, weed and nutrient requirements for our crops are optimised. 
  • Being proactive with baleage acquisition:
    • Reviewing our autumn and winter feed budgets and ensuring we have enough supplement on hand.
    • Can we make enough supplement on farm to fill any gaps or does extra supplement need to be bought?
    • Baleage made on farm is behind target and we are not confident in generating surpluses over the next 2 months so we have just purchased x500 bales of baleage to cover the shortfall in the required number of bales on farm to meet predicted autumn and winter supplement demand.
  • Being Realistic with crop yields for feed budgeting:
    • We have erred on the side of caution with our crop yields due to late planting, cool temperatures and reduced growing degree days. 
  • Monitoring herd BCS:
    • With an average BCS of 4.1 and up to 18% of herds at 3.5 we need strategies to lift BCS during autumn. Considerations include
      • how much time and what feed is available to each farmlet to achieve this
      • what BCS gain is realistic for each system over the winter
      • To achieve BCS targets at dry off and calving will require a proactive over the autumn period. We need to aim to get condition on cows early to manage what could be a tight winter feed budget. We also know that better conditioned cows cope better with cold wet conditions.
  • We have pulled the pin on the 2 weeks of short gestation AI we had planned due to the small number of cows that are being mated by the bulls.  Based on numbers coming up to bull mating post the 3rd cycle and projected calving date we have also decided to remove bulls from the mobs rather than carry on to a 11.5 week mating length.

General Notes:

  • The range of cultivars on the farm is creating challenges with our pasture mass assessments requiring additional monitoring to ensure residuals are being achieved. There is a range in density and most likely DM% between the paddocks so we are utilising notes about the growth stage and state of the pastures to help with the weekly feed planning (see example below).
  • We are still topping seed head and weeds out of pdks as required, though very few pdks continue to need it. Since 21st Dec x6 paddocks have been topped.
  • The kale farmlets have been offered 1kg DM/ha in-shed feeding since 5th January.
  • Our new grass paddocks have had an initial nip off and have come back nicely so they are in the grazing plan over the next week. Following this full grazing they will receive 25kg N/ha as Urea.
  • Nitrogen continues to be applied to Std. farmlets at 25kg N/ha and none to the LI.
  • Weed spraying and pest control continues to be of high priority on farm including the use of slug bait and scaring away ducks off the crop paddocks. 
  • Cow condition is holding but we are seeing a difference in the range across the herds. On wet days cows choose to huddle into the corner of the paddock and this is taking its toll as the poor weather continues. The herds have averaged BCS 4.1, with the FB animals having the most below BCS 4.

Table 3: BCS of cows and % less than 4.0

Std Kale LI Kale Std FB LI FB
Pink Blue Green Yellow
BCS – milkers 4.1 (+0.1) 4.1 (+0.1) 4.1 (+0.1) 4.1 (0.0)
% Less than BCS 4.0  5% (-12%) 12% (-13%) 17% (-4%) 14% (-4%)

Figure 1: Herd BCS distribution


  • Milk production has wobbled around with wet weather but we continue to see the Kale herds outstripping the Fodder beet in production.
  • Yesterday the R2s were scanned and returned an 84% 6-week incalf rate. We have scanned them earlier so we can have good drafting dates for when they are on winter crop and avoid animals calving on crop. The R2s were also weighed and they are averaging 1kg/head/day growth rate. We did note a range in size and stature across the mob. They will be weighed again at the second scan and have stature measurements when they return to the farm pre-winter
  • The Std FB paddock that was sprayed out and direct drilled pre-christmas has struck well (Figure 2).

Figure 2: New grass has germinated in our grass to grass paddock in the Std FB farmlet

Animal Health

  • Young stock management has been challenging with the cooler and wet weather and feed conditions at the support block. Unfortunately more calves have contracted coccidosis and are under-going treatment. This includes drafting them into priority mobs and feeding PKE/meal to supplement their energy intake from pasture.
  • X2 cows have been culled for poor udders and x1 for lameness

People Management and Visitors

  • The SDH Research Advisory Committee are 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

Research on-farm

  • Next week is N intake and urine/blood and faeces sampling week.
  • In an aligned project with the SDH farmlets we are still seeking expressions of interest from farmers in the Three Rivers, Northern Southland, South/West Otago and Tairei/Milton areas who would be interested in being considered for one of our monitor farms (see details below)

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: