As I stumbled my way to the dairy this morning in the dark (no, not owing to a big night or anything like that!!) I lamented the fact that the spotlight was out of action and low cloud cover meant any hope of a glimmer of light to illuminate the way was sadly just wishful thinking. Along with a bit of a cooler feel in the air, this reminded me that we are indeed now into the autumn period of the season and before we know it winter will be upon us. However, autumn has only just kicked in and we have several weeks ahead of us to enjoy cooling temperatures, falling leaves and Super rugby.
I’ve heard many comments around the place, comments that I must agree with to be honest, asking how autumn can be here when summer hardly turned up? I mean, how much rain were we fortunate enough to get over the last three months? Most of us expected, with a little trepidation, that after the bucket-loads of rain that fell over the winter/spring period, we would be in for a rather dry summer……and rightly so. Well, thankfully, that wasn’t the case around our neck of the woods. I realise that there was a lot of variation in rainfall amounts, even across our region, but we must have had close to 200 ml in the last two months, and a lot less heat that normal.
This certainly kept our pastures in good shape, with good covers going forward and minimal summer grasses invading our nice ryegrass and clover swards. Clover growth has been particularly strong this summer with lots of those lovely little white flowers dotted all through the paddocks. Following several years of dry to extremely dry summer/autumn months, this year has been exceptional.
What a relief!! Thankfully, the decision to sell surplus grass silage from the maize block back in spring turned out to be a good one as I would never have lived it down if we had run out of supplements owing to a dry summer. I could tell by the way Sam looked at me when I said that we wouldn’t be bringing any grass silage home that he thought I must have lost the plot. On the contrary, we now have had the opportunity to empty the bunker of 3-year-old grass silage (which was still in top condition might I add) and have plenty of room to store the maize when it arrives.
Speaking of maize, a topic never too difficult to discuss, I guess if there’s one downfall of a cooler and wetter summer it’s the fact that the harvest will be later than normal. The only impact of any consequence at our place is that the regrassing of these paddocks will be a bit later than normal. However, I still expect to have the maize off and the new grass in by the end of March at the latest; I can live with that. We aren’t looking for any maize in a hurry as we still have around 50 tonnes on hand which will last well into April. We plan to get stuck in and do any other regrassing shortly, taking advantage of higher than usual moisture levels, so at least these paddocks will be growing strongly by the time winter arrives. Next year’s maize paddocks will get undersown with an annual, such as Hogan or Winter Star, and we have identified another couple of paddocks that will be sprayed out and replanted with a perennial diploid, such as Alto, Trojan, or the like.
My ‘no-till’ maize is looking good, and at this stage I have no reason to rule out using the ‘no-till’ method again next year. We do have a higher than usual weed burden in the crop, mainly grasses, which I put down to the length of time the crop took to canopy. This is due to cooler soil and air temperatures, so the plan next year will be to consider a post-emergence spray as late as possible to deal to any grasses and flat weeds that appear. Our maize has been grown in effluent paddocks again this year, so no fertiliser was applied as a base dressing. However, I was ‘challenged’ at our recent discussion group as to whether a side dressing of nitrogen may help lift the yield. Consequently, we did a deep N test (or should I say that Marty from Ballance did a deep N test!) and we found that our N levels were indeed adequate, so applying any more N would probably make no difference. But I was curious now so we did anyway! We flew 200 kg of SustaiN onto half of the paddock and will do a yield cut at harvest. I sure am looking forward to the outcome as I’m pretty sure we had a bet on it at discussion group!! Roll on next group I say!!
I’ve heard from other farmers that empty rates are higher than usual, so I have delayed scanning for as long as possible. I don’t know that this delay will help, but ignorance is bliss… However, I think Sam has booked a vet for later next week so I guess we will know before too long.
I must be going on a bit as my computer tells me that I’m now onto page two! Sorry about that, it must be time to end! Oh, just one more thing, what is everyone doing about bobby calf loading this year?? We need to follow the rules and no longer have our bobby pen on the roadside, so now we need to look at options that comply with the new regulations. Many of us smaller farmers don’t have many bobbies, what with doing AI for a long period of time and having beef bulls over the herd. Is it wise spending thousands of dollars on loading facilities just to load 30-40 calves a year? What can we do to get around this? I might go see the neighbour who has lots of Jersey calves and put mine with his. It will get his average up!!!! Maybe do a bit of bartering and swap each calf for a nice bottle of Pinot Noir or a six pack of ‘Panhead’? Any ideas welcome!!
Anyway, enough is enough, may the days stay warm, the rain turn up regularly, the Chiefs keep up their winning form, and may we all remain enthusiastic about the challenges and opportunities that dairy farming has to offer.