Many things have changed for us over this past year, which has bought about many changes in the way we are running our farm.
One of the first major changes was our worker, Rex, got an infection in his leg and sadly on 12th March, after many complications, he passed away. He is very sadly missed. He had become part of our family after being with us for 14 years – we still cannot believe he is not here.
We took this opportunity to change the way we were working on the farm and chose to put a manager on. This was a new experience for us – advertising the job, contract negotiations etc. Although we had employed others throughout our farming career generally they had been people we knew and so we hadn’t had to sort through applications since employing Rex 14 years earlier. Because of this decision we also had to move off the farm, as we only have one house on our property.
Also this past year Bridget’s mum has been unwell and passed away recently (on Jan 2nd) so as much as things have been busy on the farm and ticking along nicely our focus has been on our family for the last few months.
December 2014 until now
December seems a long time ago now and was a month where lots of things are happening on the farm.
There were 332 cows on farm – all grazing 3 ha/day (20 – 25 day round). Added to this is 6 kg/cow/day of meal (80% PKE, 12% soy hull, 8% minerals) plus ½-1 kg/cow/day of molasses (note: this mix was sticking a bit so we added a Fluidizer system to help the higher rate of PKE flow well). Other stock on the farm was 6 bulls, 2 beefies and 112 calves.
Production to date in December was down on the same time last season, at 7.9 – 8.3 kg MS/ha/day and 1.85 – 1.9 kg MS/cow/day. Cow condition was 4.1 – 4.2. Stocking rate 5.0.
There were no minerals going through the water at this time but zinc was started in the water in early January at low rates and built over January to be at full rate by February 1st.
Feed budget – December
Average pasture cover was around 2,380 kg DM/ha. With the pasture cover targets for the next 10 weeks – 2,500 – 2,600 kg DM/ha in late December and 2,600 – 2,700 kg DM/ha in late January.
In December we tried to use any ‘surplus’ growth to reduce the grazing area to try and get onto a 30-day round – this means grazing ⅔ of a paddock/feed. The plan is to hold to this grazing area/day through to when the turnips start being fed in January at which time the round extends out to the 40ish day round.
Residuals – we were able to keep excellent pasture quality through good milking residuals (with a little help from the mower!).
Turnips – 10.5 ha has been sown and looking really good with a 14 tonne yield. § 3 ha were sown on 22nd October, 3 ha on 1st November and 4.5 ha on 20th November.
- These had weed and insect spray followed by 150 – 200 kg urea/ha.
- The turnips were started on January 4th – taking care about nitrate issues. We started at 4 – 5 kg DM/cow/day to help extend the round out for summer – getting 10 – 12 days out of each paddock.
We adjusted our mating program this year to try to accommodate no inductions and minimize the cows lost through this. We brought forward our mating dates by 10 days and also didn’t PG any cows, instead just mated what was on.
- AB started on 27th September and finished on 9th November. The submission rate was 90% in 3 weeks and 99% in total to AB.
- The bulls came out on 5th December with a further 3 weeks of short gestation semen being used after that time.
- The bulls went in with the heifers on 27th September and came out mid December.
The cows were pregnancy tested on the 23rd December. At first we were disappointed with the results, with 76 rechecks but after talking to the vet, and thinking about how we have changed things from our norm, there could be lots of explanations as to why the results are not what we normally see – i.e. we bought the mating date forward and took the bulls out earlier. Time will tell how successful this plan is at our next pregnancy testing in February.
Unfortunately we have had problems in the new grass paddocks with Poa annua which has been very frustrating. Fescue takes a while to establish and the Poa annua has taken over these paddocks. It has also wiped out the clover in these paddocks. We haven’t had this problem before and so after talking to Ben from Agricom we are looking at another regime to help eliminate this problem happening – will keep you posted on what we do.
December also saw the finishing and commissioning of our new pond and irrigation system. This has been a big project that has been on the go for a long time. From the initial planning to choosing who to get to build it and all the other components needed. With the new pond we also got a new rain gun as part of how the whole system now runs.
The pond is 40x40m, 1.7 million litres. It took a long time to fill enough to put the pump in, but once in is working wonderfully – only now need more rain to fill it up again – we are looking forward to next year being able to use this saved valuable resource all summer.
Time off for all
December and January are the months to have time away from the farm for everyone, so organizing different rosters can always be fun. We were able to give our workers Christmas and New Year off, and coped with the many extras in our home due to Bridget’s mum being sick as well. After the huge funeral and all the extras leaving we were able to get away for 12 days, enjoying time at the beach having fun and recharging ready to take on the new year. I’m back into the shed again now for a week to give Adriaan and Mariette a few days to enjoy the end of the holidays with their children.