Waitangi Day, 2018. Yet another day off! Yay!
The long, lazy, hot days of January have been and gone, along with the bliss of social holiday gatherings with food and drink, day trips and holidays with food and drink, unstructured and unplanned days around the pool with food and drink, family gatherings with…… And so the list goes on.
Yes, the thing I love about the Christmas/January period is that it provides a chance to be less driven by time commitments, agendas and appointments, and more able to follow a whim. Crosswords, swimming, reading, games……so the list goes on. I love my bumper new year’s crossword from the Waikato Times. Gives me hours of pleasure and learning. By the way, did you know that in 18th century Ireland a potato was called a pratie? And a baby eel is called an elver? And if you jump into a pool a certain way it is called a manu?? I didn’t know that! Had to ask the kids that one – it was one of the few they knew….
In December we were all facing an uncertain summer with extremely dry conditions. Crops were struggling, cows were overgrazing in some cases, and the soil moisture deficit was severe. I wrote in my last blog that we had seen conditions like this before but usually had some decent rain early in the new year. I must say that I was getting a tad nervous as we got into January and no rain was in sight. Fortunately cyclone “what’s his name” came along on the 4th bringing some much needed respite in the way of 80 odd ml of rain. Since then we have had several other rain events that have kept the grass growing at epic proportions for the last few weeks. When cyclone “what’s his name” came along, we went out to an 80+ day round for two weeks to give the grass a chance to recover, as learnt from our friend Will Henson from Agriseeds. Will has told us, at several fieldays, that new shoots grow from root reserves, and if we nip these off too early (prior to more leaves growing), we risk the demise of the ryegrass plant. I have a graphic image in my mind of Will sharing this at our SMASH fielday late last year in Tatuanui. And I quote (in a South African accent…..) “The poor little plant sends out a shoot and is trying to grow. Next minute, the farmer comes along, opens the gate and lets in a whole herd of big, hungry cows that nip the little shoots off, thus severely restricting, if not murdering the poor little ryegrass plant”. We fed heaps of grass silage and no more than 4 kg PKE per cow to keep the cows content over this period and I believe it paid off.
The heat has been a challenge to man and beast. Thankfully, since we got to February it has eased back a bit. The cows just eat so much less when it’s hot. We try to give them most of their pasture at night in these conditions and only give them a small break during the morning, after which we bring them onto the pad for silage and PKE before putting them into the standoff shade paddock for the afternoon. I was on cow duty during some of this time while Sam was away, so it was a case of getting the cows to the shade before I could go do a big manu into the pool…. Lucky I learnt that word!
Sam has entered the Dairy Industry awards in the Farm Manager category. This is a super way of him being able to articulate our farming system and the reasons that we do things. He has put a lot of hard work into getting his presentation prepared, not to mention getting the dairy floors scrubbed (they’re so clean you could eat your dinner off them!), the dairy diary up to date, and catching up on all those “nice to do” aesthetic chores that are sometimes difficult to get to…..imagine if he gets to the second round and the judges come back again… our place will be eligible to be listed on “TripAdvisor” as a place you must visit!
Current on farm challenges include pasture management and getting the feed balance right. I am tempted to close the silage stack as we are only feeding a small amount out now. We are struggling to get across the face fast enough to avoid heating, which is causing me concern. Could this lead to a thermoduric grade? What about the waste and decline in feed quality? The forecast looks like there is more rain to come, it may be cyclone “what’s her name” this time so we can probably bank on consistent growth going forward. If we close it up we can always feed a bale or two in time if needed, as we wait for the maize harvest in about a month’s time. We started our undersowing programme last week, aiming to get a head start repairing and rejuvenating paddocks from the aftermath of the terribly wet winter/spring. I know it’s early, but moisture seems to be no issue now so I figured it was worth a go.
It’s now 25 deg and the cows are looking for shade, so I will sign off and go and open the gate. They will appreciate the shade, and I will relish the opportunity to go and relax by the pool with a beer and maybe some pratie chips before I do a few manus into the pool prior to milking. Hope there’s no elvers in there! Yep, food, drink and relaxation, after all, it is still summer!!!