Feeding lessons learned – John van der Goes

I have just finished watching the end of the first stage of this year’s Tour de France. It looks like another three weeks of getting up each morning and watching the computer while the Tour unfolds. I thought that since I was up and it’s too frosty to go out I might as well write this blog which I have done in my head for the last few months.

We ended up milking till the 22nd of May. This is the longest we have milked ever. Production finished just behind our best, so not a bad result considering we didn’t start the season that well. Most months were just below the previous season. We managed to reach our SCC target, and stay below 100,000 on average, which is quite pleasing. Most of the cows were in really good nick and the cows we dried off early were gaining weight nicely. By the time we dried off we had only just started the last fodder beet paddock. Also, we had a reasonable amount of pit silage left. So we were well off for feed.

I decided that it would be better to feed out the pit silage first, as we seemed to be juggling all the different feeds we had, plus good grass growth, which was making things complicated. I thought that it might be a bit drier at the start so the pit silage should go first. Also I didn’t want to shut down the pit again. Of course it was wet while we fed silage and dried out when we finished the stack. This was around the time we finished milking.

We started the fodder beet again and had to transition cows back on to it. So now we are a little over halfway through the paddock, putting two mobs of cows on one after the other. They get about two hours on beet each which means around 4 kg DM. Good feeding, but extra time and a big tie. I think that we probably should have just kept one mob on full time. This would have reduced the work load and cows walking every day. At the time I thought to put cows on and take them off would reduce the pugging. It didn’t really work. I’m looking forward to the changes we will make this season, after all the things we learnt last season.

JVG cows on fodder beet

Just as we finished milking I was talking to a friend who was working off farm in town. He said that the firm he was working for were really busy and could do with more staff. I said I could help out if they needed. So soon after we dried the cows off (three days) I started work there as well. It was a great arrangement for me as I only worked the hours that I could, meaning that all the basics still got done and I could do 25 hours a week of paid work. Hopefully, it would be enough to pay the supermarket for the food bill.

Of course this meant that all those jobs that I was going to do in the summer and didn’t, plus all the jobs I had planned to do with the cows dry, never got done. It will be a very busy year in catch-up mode.

After I finished work I had three days to get organized for my relief staff, then we were off to the South Island for seven days. The main reason was a wedding in Queenstown, but we added a visit to friends in Southland and a trip through the Mackenzie Basin as well. This was to check out the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail, which I’m now really keen to do.

Back home things had got a little damp – 134 mm of rain in a week. Starting with 75 mm overnight on the day we left. Wet weather in winter is the part that I hate in farming, but I did feel really guilty leaving my staff to deal with it while I was away. We came back just as the rain finished to very tired cows, after having to be on the yard overnight nearly every night. But the farm was in really good shape. All credit to Craig who looked after the place.

Now we are concentrating on calving. I managed to set up the calf shed before it started (first time without calves on the ground for ages). We have just over a dozen cows calved, so we will be sending milk soon. At least it will mean some income.

JVG milk plant3

I have also put new dropper tubes in the cowshed (changed from 16 mm to 19 mm) with the aim of reducing foaming in the plant while the cows are at peak volume. The good news is that it has meant less foaming in the plant while the acid wash is going through. Hopefully this will also mean less milk foaming. Fingers crossed.

I hope all goes well for everyone as we crank up into a new season.

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