Rocketing ahead – Graham Smith

In my last blog I was talking about getting a third cut of silage. Well, the weather was good, so I started filling the second pit. I then managed a fourth cut, which I baled as it was off half the saved area. I saved the rest as standing silage and am just grazing the last day today (7th March). This has kept the R2s fully fed and on my other block the R1s are also still on all grass.

The cows have been getting between 4 and 8 kg DM per day in silage, on top of their grass and, of course, topped up by tree prunings. Pruning takes place most days so long as the trees need the prune, and the cows are in the right place to eat them. After the cows have eaten what they need I am left with a mass of branches which need cleaning up. I have adapted the silage forks on my old FEL by welding a short but strong gate on the back rest. This allows me to push up the mess without worrying about branches piercing the radiator. From there I can pick up and load them on a trailer for consolidation and burning. Ultimately, I will buy a mulcher to break them down on site leaving a good mulch for the pasture and making cleaning up a lot quicker.

The girls are still milking at 0.9 kg solids a day, and I am still milking all 80. Scanning showed an improvement on last year, with a six week in calf rate of 93%. Production in total was on a par with last year until mid-February when summer rain helped it get ahead of last year. I hope to milk into May which should put a bit more on the total solids than last year. With the pay-out still trending upwards I am looking to the future with positivity.

As you know, I am a member of the Waikato Farm Forestry Branch, on the committee and write their newsletter. They nominated me for judging for the 2020 North Island Farm Forester of the Year. I came out on top and will be officially awarded the trophy at the end of March. It has all been delayed due to covid. The obligation with winning is to host a field day, which will be happening on the 14th March to which you are all invited. Dedicated farm foresters are visiting another farm in the morning and will start here at 12.30 pm. This is a chance to mingle with and hear the opinions of foresters about my system. I look forward to the critique, as it speeds up learning.

The study into shade continues with half the cows wearing leg, neck and ear attachments, a data logger to capture their details, and a weather station all installed in the last few weeks. I divide the herd into two from tomorrow and then later in the week they will get alternate days in the sun or with shade available. Results will be available later in the year. The benefits of the shade on grass growth in a hot summer have been lessened this year with the good rains we have been getting. Still, no complaints from me, as I would rather see the grass growing everywhere rather than just in the shade.

Tess is a keen photographer, and we went to the rocket day at Orini. Quite amazing to see so many rockets in one day. With a clear day and little wind, it was a good chance to learn how rockets work. They are all powered by small motors with different types of fuel. Motor sizes start at A, which is the beginner’s rocket. A rocket with a B motor has a motor that is twice the size of an A motor. A C is twice the size of a B motor and so on. With some of these rockets having motors in the middle of the alphabet they put on quite a show. The larger rockets have a GPS system to locate them on their return to earth. Because they are not going so high as to burn up on re-entry, they all have parachutes which deploy as the rockets falls to earth after finishing their rise. It helps if there is little wind because then the trajectory is straight up, and the parachute doesn’t drift too far from the launch site. The largest rocket was 6 metres tall and required its own launch pad. But in the field of rocketry things don’t always go right. This rocket was only 3 seconds into its launch when it burst apart, deploying the parachute luckily, and then used the remaining 13 seconds of its burn time doing circles in the sky. Without the chutes it could have been quite dangerous with a rocket pointing sideways and I was ready to run, but which way?

Near the end of February, Tess and I took my old ute to the South Island to do a five-day excursion with NZ Adventures. It was fully guided off road each day onto large farms and stations where we met the owners, saw their systems, and asked them how they worked. You need a four-wheel drive vehicle with the correct safety gear. We took the 46 South Tour which took us into the Catlins Ranges, from there to the Hokonuis, and then on to Fiordland, finishing by taking the old Nevis road over the Crown Range. Fabulous scenery, interesting farms and farmers, a great look into the history of the area, and a chance to meet new people. Each night we stayed in a motel and during the day had some interesting, and at times exciting, driving. Of course, to get to Lawrence, our starting point, we took a great road trip through both islands. We took the chance to look up friends and family, luckily the ferry ride was calm both ways. A point of interest was the ferry being jam-packed both ways and I gathered the other sailings are similar.

photo supplied by Connie Crickett NZ Adventures

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