Time just seems to march on relentlessly; once again we are closer to the start of daylight saving than the end! That means longer days, time for more outdoorsy stuff in the evenings, and of course the long summer days to look forward to. However, right here and now it is still late winter with plenty more challenges to get through in the next month or two.
Financial challenges aside, on our place, as seems to be the case on most farms, things seem to be ticking along quite sweetly. Our cow condition is good, we’ve had very few calving issues or down cows and we have plenty of heifer calves to choose from.
Soil temperature variations have been huge this year, I noted it under 5 deg one cold day, yet it was back up to 11 deg ten days later. Growth has certainly increased with warm rain, and cover is sitting around 2100.
I don’t want to talk finances, even though I guess this is at the forefront of our thinking. The upside for me in these tight times is how much more value I put on all the positives of being a dairy farmer. The value I put on every animal on the place, be it a cow, calf or freezer beast! Even bobby calves, worth on average $35, should get a good feed of colostrum up front so that they can grow strong and healthy and we can maximise our returns from them. Attention to getting the basics right has been forced upon us so as to minimise any wastage. Collecting first milking colostrum to feed to the newborns, spraying navels, starter drench and close attention to animal health in general are paramount, and indeed should be every year, but I think we all get a bit complacent when times are good as we can “get away” with inefficiencies or we can more easily become a bit slack in our management.
Maximising our home grown feed through efficient use of nitrogen, care for our animals and pastures, home grown maize on effluent paddocks, and PKE contracts, are paramount in our thinking as we strive to optimise our production and profit.
Speaking of getting value out of our calves, the sexed semen we used last year has certainly paid dividends with the arrival of heaps of AI heifer calves. The contract to supply calves to China is certainly valuable for cashflow at this time of the year. However, I am somewhat bemused once again this year at the strict ruling of the Chinese buyers of these calves. The calves offered must be F12 and above with 4 white feet and white on the head and tail. No worries with any of that. However, there are two interesting points that never cease to amaze me. One, is the number of F12 calves that are pitch black with absolutely no white on them, and the other is how the smallest speck of black on a hoof can cause a calf to be rejected! (see photos!!).
It’s quite frustrating to print a report of the lower BW F12 calves and see upon inspecting them that the markings aren’t quite up to standard. Fortunately for me I have a mate who foresees a demand for in calf heifers in 2 years and who is willing to buy any surplus off me. And he’s not even Chinese!!
I am ever hopeful that there will be no major repairs and maintenance issues this year. However, things do bust from time to time. Last year it was pump replacement year. Now the blasted spa needs a new element….and they’re not cheap!! I am thinking that maybe we don’t need a spa for a while as summer is coming and we can then use the swimming pool instead??!! Trouble is, the pool’s gone green, I think the salt cells may be worn out! Damney damn damn!! Oh well, it may be a case of going back to what we used to do when we first bought our farm – cooling off in the water troughs!
Just in closing, Sam, the new man on the farm, is going great guns and seems to be grinning most of the time. Good relationships, a bit of banter and a beer or two together go a long way to make life enjoyable. Enjoy this time and bring on spring!!