Strong Finish, Quick BUSY Break, Back Into it Again – Lisa Groen

Before you know it, it’s calving time for us spring calving systems.

We finished the 2020/2021 season strongly producing 138,498 kg MS from 65 ha, and achieving our goal of doing over 2,000 kg MS/ha. It took a lot of determination, and a good pay out, to help us get there. We continued to milk our late calvers till the 5th  June. It was also nice to finish the season off being grade free for the first time.

Our concrete effluent pond started construction in mid-May, while we were still milking TAD. We were so lucky with the weather and the pond was completed in a month. The pond holds up to 500,000 litres. The reasons we went with concrete were:

  • It would see out Dad’s lifetime and my farming career (futureproof system).
  • If we ever want to clean it, we can get a digger bucket in there (no risk of ripping anything).
  • The pond is dug into the ground as much as possible, so it doesn’t create an eyesore unlike most clip-on tanks.
  • We were never a fan of “bladders” – how long will they last and eventually how will you clean them out properly?
  • Dad wanted to create a garden on one side of it and have it nicely fenced off.


We are still tossing up how to get it emptied:

  • either we get a pump put in it and connect it with the existing effluent irrigation system, or
  • get contractors out with a slurry tanker, or with their own pumps and hoses to irrigate non-effluent parts of the farm.


For the time being there is plenty of time to decide that while it slowly fills up over winter and spring. Dad has an idea for the stirrer… a windmill!

Pond complete. With native plants for the garden.

More farm upgrades and maintenance have been done over the dry period, including:

  • All the left-over dirt, sandy clay, has been put around water troughs and gateways.
  • A few truck and trailer units of metal, gap 20 and gap 40 for the tanker track and potholes around the implement shed and calf sheds. Farmers 40 for parts of the races and some gateways.
  • Over 200 posts banged in across the farm. Replacing a fence line, broken posts, and along the hedges to stop the calves from escaping.
  • Extending the holding pen yard at the cowshed, with a covered roof and access to a water trough. Eventually we plan on having a cattle crush where we can do lame cows, tag animals, and deal with any other animal health issues in a safe, covered area.
  • A handful of old, small, and cracked water troughs have been replaced with bigger new ones.

Fencing contractor putting posts in.

Hold pen construction. Nearly finished painting, then the roof can come on.

Current situation

Sixteen carry over empties stayed on farm till 1st July and are now at grazing. We had fantastic pasture growth through June, which kept our cover over 2500 kg DM/ha. Although the frosts in the beginning of this month mean the grass has slowly disappeared. EEEEKKKK!

We had a HUGE cull out of the herd last season with us only having 228 to calve (including 36 heifers). This takes the pressure off us over calving and the feed demand. The round length over the dry period has been 80-90 days. And we have only had to take the cows off four times so far. From this week on the heifers and springers are on the calving pad every night. The rest of the cows are all in one big mob. These will be drafted out every week to add more cows to the springers mob. The heifers were teat sealed, and put through the shed many times and fed 3 kg meal to get used to it.

Springers and heifers on calving pad.

Heifers well trained & enjoying the meal.

The target and goal for this season (if Mother Nature plays her part, and we have another good pay out) is to do 600 kg MS/cow (last season was 554 kg MS/cow).

We have 30 t silage left over which I plan to feed out to the milkers over calving to reduce the risk of subacute ruminal acidosis (SARA). This is a dietary issue where the pH drops in the cow’s rumen due to a low fibre diet, usually in conjunction with the feeding of starch-based feeds (maize silage/tapioca). We are at risk because of our high feeding rate (6-8 kg) and when there is a combination of plentiful lush grass being fed with high starch-based feeds such as maize. So by using silage and choosing meal pellets with the lowest starch percentage, we will hopefully prevent this.

Cows with SARA have any of the following symptoms:

  • agitated,
  • reduced dry matter intake (DMI),
  • loose faeces,
  • drop in production (milk fat is more prone to dropping),
  • reduced chews per cud (normal is approximately 40-70).


I hope you have all had a decent break to refresh the body and mind before we get back into the swing of calving. Thankfully, I have been able to get away for a few day and night trips to catch up with other farming friends across the Waikato. I have joined the Morrinsville women’s soccer team playing goalie. This allows me to have time off farm in between milkings on Sundays to play. It was a fantastic day attending the SMASH conference again too.

In my next blog I want to discuss the issues facing system 5 farmers regarding greenhouse gas emissions and nitrogen surplus. The challenges we have to lower them, and the milk companies’ incentives to do so.

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