Hardie, National FarmWise Manager
As another summer approaches
crucial on-farm decisions will need to be made including if and when to:
- change the milking frequency, and/ or;
Decisions will become clearer as the season progresses, but some
clarity can emerge now if farmers know their true profit margins (for example,
what animals produce the most milksolids per kilogram of liveweight), and are
therefore able to identify where the farm’s genuine profitability lies.
First things first
As the natural mate bulls enter
herds at the tail-end of mating, check bull power is matching the number of
cows cycling. It’s safest to work on one bull per 20 to 30 cycling cows.
If you’re doing all-AB, keep the
heat detection aids in good order.
Use of short gestation length
semen for the last 10-14 days of AB provides the advantage of mating for longer
and lowering the empty rate, and retaining a relatively tight calving pattern.
Looking slightly ahead, ensure a
pregnancy test plan is in-place (scanners get booked up quickly). Doing an
early pregnancy test at 12 weeks can help with culling decisions, and in
reviewing 6 week in calf rates.
Stay in control and be agile
When the mating period finishes,
it’s important the feed plan is reviewed for the summer months ahead:
- What feed, pasture, crops, and supplements are
stockpiled and contracted? Is there enough to cover a tough summer?
- What if the weather is significantly different from
what’s planned, or milk prices change substantially? How can the feed plan, and
livestock levels, be adjusted accordingly?
- How is pasture management best-optimised to achieve
an effective rotation plan (including use of irrigation and fertiliser) to
accomplish high-quality grass for milk production? Remember, it’s imperative
the farm stays within nutrient and water-use limits.
- What circumstances or timings will be the triggers
for a change to the plan? i.e. what are the catalysts for progressively drying
off, culling, or moving animals off farm?
Contingencies, round lengths,
supply and demand.
Three summer feed budget
scenarios can certainly help: For example,
- a great summer;
- an average summer, or;
- a tough summer.
What resources are needed in each
A good plan of attack is to first
reconfirm what your pasture cover is now, and what you intend to do based on
current weather predictions.
Adjust the stocking rate and
stock numbers early so pasture rotation can be lengthened in early summer –
this is critical.
Plan fertiliser and nitrogen
applications for late spring/early summer – generally this is a good time to
get pasture cover accumulated.
The reason for adjusting round
length out is to build Average Pasture Cover (APC), and to match rotation with the
slowing leaf appearance rate.
Lengthening is done easily and
quickly with supplements. However, if this is uneconomic, the farm at least
needs to be lifting target pre-graze covers instead of cutting silage, and
reducing areas allocated per day.
Other options include reducing
demand. This can be done by changing the milking frequency and/or starting to
cull cows that are empty or genuine culls.
From the middle of December any
repeat offenders for mastitis or lame cows (that are older cows with low production
worth or lactation worth figures) could be worth more by being culled: This has
the effect of lowering demand and feeding remaining cows better.
Once January/February arrives and
the farm has its first pregnancy test information, culling can continue on the
re-checks that may be empty or are at least late-calving.
All on the same page
Make sure you and staff know what
the plan is, and monitor the situation weekly to see if the plan needs tweaking
Undertake weekly pasture
measurements (eg. walks, towbehinds, eye-ometer, SPACE™).
Enter information in MINDA Land
& Feed to identify paddock rankings and average pasture cover for checking
against the plan. Regularly inspect any crops for growth progress and weed
control; ensure there is some technical support for the crop maintenance
Use herd test data and the body
condition score (BCS) of animals to check cows are at optimum condition and
performance for efficient milk production.
Weigh young stock monthly, and
enter this data into MINDA for future reference. Beware of animal heat stress
and ensure there are mitigation options available.
As mentioned above, consider
changes to milking frequency – there are several variations that can lie
between once-a-day, three-in-two days, and twice a day. Depending on the time
of year and how the summer unfolds, work out one that best suits the cows, your
staff, and you.
There’s bang-for-buck in seeking
For self help with setting up a
plan, DairyNZ’s summer management plan, accessed through the DairyNZ website,
is a good guide.
If you need a hand or want your
plan reviewed or modelled, book in a FarmWise advisor. They have access to
effective modelling tools, which combined with their experience, help to
predict feed requirements and associated costings (which can be updated when
Money spent planning should be
thought of as an investment rather than an expense. A robust plan provides a
good basis for monitoring, reviewing, and adjusting as situations change.
If unexpected events occur seek
help early, because this will help minimise unnecessary expense and can provide
guidance on the best way to maximise profit. Whatever happens there will be
choices and options for your farming business.
Make good decisions, and make
Best wishes for achieving your
goals and a good profit this summer.