- Wintering on can be more profitable
than wintering off should the cost of that grazing increase (a total cost of
$29.50/head/week including opportunity cost “on” vs >$30 /head/week
- Average Pasture Cover (APC) must be
built up through autumn to at least 2,100 kgDM/ha at drying off (as a minimum).
A targeted proportion of the farm shut up for wintering in late-March or early
April is also ideal.
- Target cow Condition Score (CS) needs
to be a minimum of 4.5 at drying off.
Keep early calvers, light CS cows, and very high CS cows on farm to
manage CS change better.
- Changing to a flexible milking
frequency or OAD milking is advised from March onwards to reach cow CS targets.
With a drier
year, winter crops have been yielding lower than budgeted, resulting in a
potential increase in wintering off costs. Below are some suggested tactics to
manage the possibility of wintering some cows on farm.
- Farm system: Table 1 below shows an example of
wintering on 1 cow/ha or a 200 cow mob of early calvers. This is using a 750 cow (200ha) irrigated
farm in South Canterbury/North Otago as an example. In order to protect soil,
pasture and profitability next year, not more than a cow per hectare is suggested.
All costs included opportunity cost has been accounted for.
- Environment: Ensure the wintering system meets the
environmental compliance requirements for the farm. Does it work within your Farm
Environment Plan and nutrient management?
- Average Pasture Cover (APC): Have 100-200 kgDM/ha extra of APC at
drying off to support the wintering on (i.e. a minimum of 2100 kgDM/ha, pre and
post-grazing respectively as 2700 kgDM/ha and 1500kgDM/ha). This is a 200 day round, and gives 1,200
available/ha and importantly a 1,500 post-graze residual for spring (50m2/cow).
- Feeding out. Have a solid standoff area or
sacrifice paddock to reduce wastage and protect pasture. Graze pastures on/off.
Cows can consume feed at a rate of around 2kgDM/cow/hour. Therefore, 6 kgDM/cow of pasture will
take 3 hours to consume. Then remove the mob and stand it off in a
‘standoff area’ with PKE and straw. Alternatively have a solid area to place PKE
trailers and feed out straw to reduce wastage and potential pasture damage.
- Supplements. PKE and straw feeds were chosen as
best and most profitable supplements to maintain or lift cow condition. Silage
on hand was assumed to be saved to feed out in early lactation.
Table 1: Example of
cost, feed type and quantity of potential supplements (500 kglwt cow)
*Total cost is before labour and
** Offered 14kgDM/cow/d, consumed 12kgDM/cow/d or 120 MJME (14%
wastage). This will allow weight gain of
300-400 gms/day LWT.
***Opportunity cost was calculated as an extra 100kgDM/ha
to lift the APC x 200 ha = 20tDM at $280/tDM as grazing cost = $5600 / 200 cows
/ 8 weeks = $3.50/cow/week. This also include the opportunity cost from
If your pasture cover and cow condition are set up in the
autumn to the optimum outlined above and soil types are favourable then your
farm is suitable for wintering on. When reviewing the plan make sure it follows
good management practice and environmental requirements and nutrient budget
targets are met. Wintering on may be an option if the usual local wintering
options are limited and/or proving expensive for your budget. A cow per hectare
on farm over winter is old school – but old school still works if you plan
It can be an alternative and profitable way to manage the
highly demanding grazing situation that is unfolding in our district. Start the planning process now – and if you
need an experienced eye to have a look at your options – just let me know.
FarmWise Consultant, Alexis
Perez, South Canterbury/North Otago
027 281 7070 E email@example.com)