Gearing up for another dry summer after a tight winter – Graham Smith

Well, we got through winter, but it was a push. I used a bit of PKE to keep the cows topped up just prior to calving. Calving was quick, with a start date of the 20/7 and all over by 28/8. No cows lost and only two still born calves which I felt was a good result. PKE has been needed from the start with grass growth sluggish. Two applications of Ammo 36 kept the grass moving but as I write this (4/10/22) PKE is still needed with growth still tardy. Even so the cows are milking well peaking at 1.88 kg MS/day. The girls are cycling well, as you would expect from OAD cows, but as usual a bit more sunshine at this time of year never goes amiss.

We hear all the time how communications are being invested in in the rural sector. The latest Fed. Farmers survey would dispute this. We have copper line for our home phone and the lack of maintenance is showing. In the last three months we had three outages of about 8 days duration each time. After the last one we had enough and booked in a rural connections provider. My contribution was to place an old telegraph pole on the top of our hill where there were two bars of cell signal and fell three trees in the direct line of sight.  It took Remote Solutions almost a day to fit their technology to the pole to be able to concentrate and redirect the signal to our house. From there it can be redirected to the other two houses and the result is a four- bar signal at all the houses. For the first time I can now give my cell phone number to people and know we will be connected. Not a cheap option, but we are no longer at the mercy of Chorus and their procrastinations.

The calves have just been moved to full paddocks and are experiencing the joys of a full gallop, I will see them a bit less compared to their twice daily shift behind wires in front of the house. They are still on two litres of milk per day plus they are getting through two kg meal as well.

The rising 2-year heifers come home from the lease soon in time for mating. They will do three weeks AB and then will run with the bull for 4 weeks.

One of my quests has been to find something that will grow in a bit of shade to complement my trees. With this in mind, I have been germinating tagasaste (tree lucerne) with the idea of interplanting it among the tree lines to provide summer feed. Tagasaste is an N fixer so that is an added benefit. I hope that by year two they will be big enough to cut off foliage and feed to the cows through the summer. Time will tell if they make a difference, but nothing ventured!

I have fitted a Marshall heater in the dairy. It takes a bit over an hour to heat 200 litres of water from 20 to 80 degrees centigrade. That is a couple of armloads of wood per day and well worth the effort. The effect on my power bill will not be seen until next month. It is sure to improve my fitness as 300 days of firewood will take some chopping.

Silage is being cut today on my lease and will be placed in my home pit. The target is to make as much as possible to help in what is looking like another very dry summer. Although the grass suffers in a dry spell the deep-rooted trees just carry on and show no ill effects. Although the grass hangs on longer due to the protection of the trees, last summer’s long dry spell meant that we still went into winter short on feed. How to bridge the gap will be exercising all farmers’ minds and I expect the price of purchased supplements to go at least as high as last season. I have already forward ordered PKE to avoid the inevitable price hikes.

Last Saturday there was a big thunderstorm over the hill which we were lucky to avoid. Sunday  morning I went to my lease to shift the R2 heifers and got a surprise as in the same paddock were 48 calves, obviously still on milk as they were bellowing for it! By their tags they were from two different mobs but whose? I went on the local community Facebook page and no response. I was able to contact an LIC rep who was able to tell me whose they were. The owners brought meal for them which settled them a bit. On Monday we moved them to my neighbour’s yard, drafted them, and trucked them back to their respective farms. They tiptoed across the road because their feet were tender from their previous run on the road. Tender feet were no surprise as one mob had moved themselves 14 km from their home farm!  It ended well but it made me consider what would have happened if they lacked ID.

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