Wet and challenging start – Matthew Zonderop

Woow what a start to the season this has been. The heifers returned home at an average liveweight of 484 kg and condition scored at a 5.5 and going into calving our cows were at a 5 average.
This season’s start has really tested our management skills as farmers, not only financially, with a drop in payouts across all sectors, but also as stock managers.

A saving grace for us this season was the purchase of a new silage wagon with scales…oooohhhh, fancy, I can hear you say. But if ever we needed to budget our feed this was, and will be, the season to do so. The ability to load the wagon to the boards and feed three to four herds in one pass to within 10 kg DM has saved us, not only in feed but also in time. We saved almost 10 hours per week and the savings in feed enabled us to stretch it out to make it count when we really needed it, especially with the average pasture covers that the Waikato has faced over the calving season.
Due to the pasture covers and supplementary feed on hand and our farming system (1) we opted for a conservative approach to the early part of the season. We started out on the 10 and 7 milking regime enabling us to maintain some form of modest production without sacrificing cow condition under the circumstances. We fully expected the grass to start growing at some point and as we all found out, it didn’t, and the rain kept coming. And for us, like many of you, it was all too much. Over the crucial five week AI calving period we were down almost 50 ha due to the water table being so high, meaning we were burning through our supplements faster than we would have liked. Cue new silage wagon (oooohhhhh) and bales (“measure what is measurable, and make measurable what is not so”).

After completing a pasture ride we decided to go once a day, our average pasture cover had dropped to 1735 kg DM/ha, growing 9 kg DM/ha/day, and a the soil temperature was 6.3 degrees. Preserving cow condition in the lead up to our planned start of mating (12th October) was now our main focus and the Spring Rotation Planner was key in our decision making as well. Four weeks out from PSM we had the cows condition scored at a 4.5 which was fantastic news to us, the doubts and hesitation certainly has paid off. Pasture growth rates started to lift as well as our average covers, so after a month on OAD we were back on 10 and 7 but, as we all know, the rain really still hasn’t let up, which is disappointing.

But what a calving season it was, we’ve never had so many heifer replacements as this season. They just kept coming and coming. After two lots of extra tags ordered we finally finished up with a good line of surplus heifers which we managed to sell at a good price that everyone was happy with. And now we are back to where we started, synchronizing the R2s, weaning the calves, and tail painting. Everything we are doing now is preparing for the best we can be next season, the weather might differ but our goals remain the same.

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