By Mike Bailey, FarmWise Consultant
The correct question though is what are we going to do now?
Pasture covers in the wider Waikato and Northland are not providing much more than 2-3 kg of dry matter, with the rest coming from combinations of available supplements. The greater part of the North Island is also under pressure meaning there is little respite outside of your own region. Everyone appears to be in the same situation, Southland and the West Coast aside.
Your usual actions around dealing with a summer dry should have been utilised by now.
Once a day milking or three times in two days are good options for relieving pressure and stress on staff and stock.
There is still some time left in the season too so if the weather does break, we want to be able to take advantage of it with as many cows milking as possible. In the meantime, you need to take stock of your current position.
What should you be doing? Sit down and acknowledge your position. Are your cows hungry and, losing weight? How is your current feed supply? Do you have a contract for PKE and the means to feed these products? Do you know what each feed costs?
The first step is to count up what supplements you have left available for the next period. Ensure you have a good three weeks feed available for when the rain comes and you have ring fenced your winter requirements. What you have left is available to be fed now.
Do a feed budget now. If you have maize coming the gap may not be as big as first thought. Source additional feed to fill any gaps that appear, use the DairyNZ supplements price calculator to check on short-term economics. The dry is now widespread so sourcing silage at reasonable prices is unlikely. The longer you wait to assess your situation, the higher the prices and the further afield you will need to go to source the feed you want.
Ensure you have made your culling decisions or at least have a plan for who you won’t be taking through next year. There is at least a three week wait so get onto your agent now.
This is not a season to be tinkering with MTs because they are giving a bit more milk. Look after next seasons capital stock now and cull your MTs.
Pressure will come on body condition score now grass reserves have effectively disappeared. With growth little more than traces and your pre-grazing height having dropped after each round cows are getting little more than a change of scenery. Overall intakes will decline and cows will milk off their backs so have a plan on condition score and stick to it. Ensure you give yourself enough time to gain that condition score for next season. Be prepared to act if cows are light and are 120 days from their due date. Critical time for a cow calving on the 15July is the 15 March.
Don’t chase showers with urea, it is simply too dry now to get a response and remember urea is a growth multiplier. Wait until the second drought breaking rain event before considering any nitrogen application.