It’s Good Friday, the start of the Easter break. The sun’s still shining, the grass is still growing, and the cows are still milking. Pretty exciting huh? That part is great. I am a bit concerned, though, about one thing.
The Easter Bunny and his mates had been living in the maize paddock not too far from the house. I know this because I often saw them in the evenings, frolicking in the open paddock nearby, hopping across the driveway and even digging holes in our lawn. That maize has now been harvested and replaced by a light green hue of Governor ryegrass. The question remains though: what happened to the Easter Bunny and his mates?? No more evidence of them anywhere…did they translocate, did they join another colony elsewhere, or, heaven forbid, did they fall victim to the gaping jaws of the maize chopper and add to the maize yield?? My fear is, come Easter Sunday morning there will be no little baskets or caches of Easter eggs anywhere and my worst fears may be realized…. the Easter Bunny is no longer, driven to his fate by our need to harvest his dwelling place!
What a different autumn this is compared to last year! Far out, the maize is in, the new grass is in and up, ready for spraying with Thistrol Plus or Tribal Gold. Undersowing has taken place, the effluent pond has been pumped out and solids dug out, a new race has been formed and sanded, and paddock 7a has had the digger through it to dry out the wet areas. All this work comes at a price though…. The odd broken strainer and cut waterline from diggers and maize trucks seems inevitable in the frantic rush of getting things done!
This time last year I think the third cyclone was about to hit and the whole farm was as wet as can be. The maize couldn’t be harvested, and new grass certainly couldn’t be planted. So far this year has been one out of the box. I guess, however, there has been the odd challenge. Low ME pasture, owing to high levels of summer grass, has meant production seems to have struggled on most farms. It seems to be coming right now as the weather cools a bit and more ryegrass appears, taking the place of all the summer grass rubbish. The infestation of yellow bristle grass is certainly a lot worse than normal. What a shocker! We are taking note of the worst patches and aim to spray it in November/December with Puma S.
Unfortunately, our empty rate was 12%, which is still higher than I would like. This is lower than the 15% we had last year and I put this down firmly to Steph, our de facto daughter, ex-tenant vet, who did our scanning last year, moving away to work in Ireland and getting Steve to do the scanning this year. Steve is such a nice boy…… It seems that there are a huge range of results after talking with the vets. I think there is such a myriad of little things that must line up in most cases to keep the empty rate down. Yes, it was very, very wet during the mating period, but we were feeding copious amounts of feed on the pad. The cows certainly weren’t hungry at mating time. Maybe there was too much maize in the diet, or not enough protein, or the the pasture ME was too low, or the grass was too watery, or not enough sunshine, or our detection wasn’t up to speed? Or maybe they were just milking too well, or not well enough?? I do know that we followed the rules as best we could. We treated any dirty cows with Metricure, we ran a teaser, we used scratchies, we had enough bulls, we rotated the bulls etc etc. On the bright side, our 6 week in-calf rate was a pleasing 77% so that part was ok. It just seems such a waste to have to cull or carryover good, empty cows, when those ugly, niggly, low BW, 3 titted, “always s…t in the shed” ones get in calf early, year after year. Grrrrrrrrrrrr.
So, going forward, we have two months left of this season. Sam, our manager, who I introduced in earlier blogs (yes, the one that got married at mating time) won the award for “most promising new entrant” in the recent Dairy Industry Awards. This award has given me confidence for two reasons.
Firstly, even though he missed some of the mating period, winning an award such as he did MUST prove that he knows what he is doing, so the empty rate can’t have anything to do with any lack of skill from him. Just thinking about it, it may actually have been a bit to do with my lack of skill seeing as I was responsible for picking bulling cows in the early stages of mating whilst he was on his honeymoon. However, I would never own up to that.
Secondly, the award of the most promising new entrant has given me the confidence to employ him next year as a contract milker. He has proven himself now and I feel confident to be able to give him more responsibility. Yes, come June 1st he will be self-employed and getting paid on a milksolids basis. However, prior to that, he is off on his big OE with his wife to psych himself up for the rigours of contract milking. The farm will be in the capable hands of yours truly for around a month, so that should be an interesting experience for me (luckily, it’s not mating time at present!). I’m picking I’ll do a drive around farm walk on the day he leaves, decide the cover is too low and then put the cows on once a day. Milking twice a day for a month seems a bit daunting!! Unless there is a reader out there who is looking for some milkings???
Time to sign off now, I need to ensure that Sam has all the sprays, waterpipes, strainers, posts, tools, and whatnot to get all his chores done before I take over as operations manager for a month. I am having a practice run milking on Easter Sunday morning. By coincidence the timing is perfect as daylight saving ends and I will need to stay in bed for an extra hour!! Funny how it worked out that way!!….. Oh, the bliss.
Footnote: It is now Easter Sunday and after a refreshing sleep in of one hour, I can report that as per the photo below, the Easter Bunny is obviously alive and well as he has delivered his wares to our place. Phew!