Drought is broken – Brian Frost

It’s been a long time coming but finally the rain has arrived, hopefully not too late as we are very short of grass. With a bit of luck we can still see a pretty good finish to this season – we do need some good growing conditions over the next two months to set up well for the winter, so here’s hoping things go to plan.

It’s been a couple of months since the last blog, so there is a bit to catch up on. Frostie has been working hard on the runoff and the main farm with fencing, drainage, maize silage, and many other things. Mrs. Frostie has been working close to full time in various jobs. Stafford (18) has been working and saving hard. Now he has headed off to Queenstown to DTS (Discipleship Training School) run by YWAM (Youth with a Mission). He will be studying for three months (and enjoying all Queenstown has to offer, like bungy jumping and snow, while he’s there) and then spending three months on a mission somewhere in the Asia/Pacific region (not sure where yet). Siobhan (20) is in the process of deciding on a placement for Camp America. Devon (16) is working hard and fundraising for a school mission trip to Fiji in July. Ella (daughter-in-law) graduated as a registered nurse and has started her new job at the hospital. Mrs. Frostie’s dad is getting married again (very exciting). Frostie, Mrs. Frostie, and Devon are off to Oz on Monday for a visit with family and to visit the farms we have interests in. And that’s just a few of the things happening and changes going on!

On the Farm

There are currently 376 cows on the farm and runoff – all grazing 1 – 1.2 ha/day (55-65 day round). 320 milkers are grazing ⅓ paddock at night and ⅓ paddock during the day (1 ha/day), plus each cow is getting 6 kg meal, ½ kg molasses, and 5 kg DM maize silage. 44 dry cows are also on farm getting maize. A zinc mineral mix is going through the water.

Production to date is 156,312 kg MS compared with 139,626 kg MS at the same time last year. Current production is 6.3 – 6.5 kg MS/ha/day and 1.45 – 1.55 kg MS/cow/day. The cow condition is 4.6 – 4.7 for the milkers and 5.5+ for the dry cows.

71 autumn cows have calved so far – with not many issues – just a little milk fever last week. There are just 44 cows left to calve over the next five weeks.

The continued dry weather means we are planning on dropping out some cows. In early May we will cull 15 – 20 and all the low producing cows will be dried off and sent to the run off.

Feed

The grazing round extended a little as soon as the turnips finished and the maize was increased. The plan is to be around 60 days going through May and a 74 day round when all the new grass paddocks are back in the grazing round. We are starting the grass silage to help get the residuals lifting ASAP.

The average pasture cover is around 1,600 kg DM/ha – on the ‘normal’ winter equation. The pasture cover targets for the next six weeks are 1,600 – 1,700 kg DM/ha in late April and 2,000 – 2,100 kg DM/ha in late May.

Supplements

  • P8: 765,000 litres in total so far this season. We have had the last delivery for the season so have changed to molasses now.
  • Molasses: 15 tonnes arrived on 16th April and will be fed at ½ kg/cow/day through the next 2 – 3 months – until the P8 becomes available again.
  • Meal: 624 tonnes so far this season. The mix is still 90% PKE and 10% tapioca. The feeding rate got up to 7 kg/cow/day while the P8 was being fed, but at the moment, with the change to molasses, the cows are eating a bit less.
  • The maize started on 27th March at 3 kg DM/cow/day and built up to 5 kg DM/cow/day when the turnips finished.

A great crop of maize – Stafford is 6’3”

Cropping / new grass

The turnips finished on 2nd April and all of the turnip paddocks were sown into new grass on 12th April. Some of these paddocks also had drainage work done. The chicory paddocks have been undersown, with just two paddocks left to get done, and there is one more paddock for cropping next spring that needs to be undersown.

Fertiliser

Two tonnes of SustaiN (urea) was applied in March and 0.6 tonne in April. The aim is to finish the whole farm with urea before starting a round of PhaSedN (120 – 150 kg/ha) through May and June.

On the run off

Currently on the run off 102 spring 2017 heifers, 1 dry cow, 3 beefies and 4 older extras are getting maize plus pasture (70 of these have been sold and leave in early May). 4 empty spring 2017 heifers, 16 autumn calves, and 111 spring calves are also getting maize and pasture.

No fertiliser has been applied since December. PhaSedN will get applied over this block through May at 120 – 150 kg/ha.

All of the new grass has been sown – with the permanent paddocks getting a top-up as the continued dry weather caused a huge loss of pasture. 2 ha of annual is left to be done in next spring paddocks and 3 more paddocks will be undersown with cheap seed. There is still heaps of maize on hand so this will be used to balance out the pasture – hopefully holding the round to get the pasture building as quickly as possible.