Lessons from OAD, knocking off the odd jobs, pampas vs toetoe, and a new electric bike – Graham Smith

Looking out my lounge window this morning I can hardly see the farm for the trees. I am not unhappy about that. Climate change has certainly brought more heat and wind to the farm. The shade has already benefitted the cows, but I do admit that the trees have suffered from the wind. Even the seven year-old pines had the tops blown out of them in this last storm. The Paulownias had some damage, but it might have been worse if they had been in full leaf. I have a large conical hill in the middle of the farm, and this always protects trees on at least two of its sides. My other advantage is being in the bottom of a valley, so the worst wind goes over the top. Pruning the trees up also helps by allowing the wind to pass underneath and not creating an air dam.

This cold, slow spring has required a bit more supplement than usual, but growth is certainly away now. I have been topping (or should that be bottoming?) ahead of the cows to ensure quality pasture for early summer. In another month I will be trying to keep as much cover as possible with little regard to quality to carry through summer, go figure! Still, the farm looks great now and although per cow production of 1.43 kg MS is a little lower than I had hoped, the girls are still 3% up for the month and 7% for the season. The seasonal figure has come about due to a concentrated calving and by bringing the calving date forward five days. I am sure there are more gains to be had as I breed from those cows more suited to OAD. Having 15 replacements instead of 22 is also pushing for higher quality and allowed me to sell 12 calves early on. The other key will be my in-calf rate; if I can match or better 93 % in-calf last season then I would expect some wins. It has been noticeable that my better cow families are starting to gain momentum. Whereas once I would have expected some of my better cows to go empty due to production pressure, they are now getting in-calf – a great proposition for the future. For me, personally, not stressing about who may or may not cycle or cow condition is a considerable bonus.


Seasonal work is well underway with two cuts of grass silage in the pit and the third cut due in the second week of December. Cleaning up fallen branches and trees from the poplars for firewood has kept me busy. I have also just done my annual Round-up spray; no, not of the drains, but of fescue and pampas. The fescue is of the wild variety, which the cows find unpalatable and ends up shorting out the fences. The pampas I initially thought was toe toe, until I got taught otherwise. To help you differentiate, pampas keeps extending its crown above ground level, its flower is erect and can be white or purple, it flowers in late autumn/early winter and sets seed more aggressively than toe toe. Toe toe is a smaller plant with a low crown, and its seed head tends to droop and appears in late spring/early summer. On my summer to do list is pruning my poplars along the stream bank.

For over 40 years I have used Honda CT 90s, or latterly CT 110s, to cart me around the farm. The last CT 110 stopped during calving and rather than spend more money on it I ordered a new Ubco electric bike. Due to shipping delays it took two and half months to arrive. My old Fergie 28 filled the gap, but it was slow, and the arrival of my new bike was really appreciated. I am once again up to date with all the odd jobs because I can quickly get to them.

Lastly, I am looking forward to some summer holidays, even if I have to share them with Aucklanders!

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