The sound of rain falling on the dairy shed roof as I milked this morning was a welcome tonic and one which gave me a much needed boost as mid-summer slowly but steadily approaches along with the prospect of El Nino conditions. To be fair, the weather during the last month or so has been extremely favourable in our neck of the woods as we try to grow grass in order to fully feed cows, harvest some surplus or extend the rotation. Sporadic rainfall events of varying quantity have certainly made our district look a picture, with cows standing in abundant grass and contractors finally getting in big demand to get silage harvested. We are in the process of extending our round to 30 days or so, maize and PKE is still going in but only in very light quantities, and not every day, depending on paddock size and pre-grazing covers.
The year has flown by and the busyness of the season is upon us. Farming is certainly a favourable occupation as far as timing goes, with mating as good as over and enough grass to fully feed the cows meaning that this time of the year is probably about the pick of the year as far as ease of management goes. No zinc supplementation yet, no flies to speak of, very little or no feeding out and things like overgrazing and heat stress still out in the future somewhere.
On our place, the last round of urea applied had a stunning result, meaning that pasture quality has been the focus over the past few weeks. Sam has enjoyed doing a bit of mowing in front of the cows, which may have contributed to a small drop in daily production, but will hopefully lead to a lift once again as we get back into the lusher pastures next round. I never did like mowing after the cows as getting covered in the proverbial isn’t much fun, especially when you don’t own a cab tractor! Sam is away for a few days so the buck stops with me at the moment. No time for a farm walk to determine pre-grazing covers, so I have to rely on the chihuahuameter to indicate whether there is a need for pre-grazing mowing. If most of the dog is “submerged”, it’s getting close. If the whole dog is invisible then it’s time to get the mower out, although it’s a good idea to find the dog before the mower is started!
Discussion groups are all focusing on setting up for summer and making sure we have a plan in place to deal with what may occur. I am of the opinion that the last three summers have been a huge learning curve, and have given us a bit of practice on how to deal with old El if he does throw his weight around as is suggested. Things like OAD milking, a long summer round, early PD testing to get rid of surplus cows, summer crops and contracted feed are all tools we have to help combat this potential threat. Our strategies are very similar; we have around 800 kg of feed per cow on hand in the shape of maize and grass silage and contracted PKE. The maize on farm is the greenfeed backup if needed, or will end up in the stack with the autumn harvest of around 250 tonnes. I have been challenged by the DairyNZ figures in the recent technical series as to whether to milk known cull cows on in a dry summer or cull them, thus spreading their valuable feed among the rest of the herd. Things like the value of supplements fed including wastage, the anticipated final payout, plus the time of the cull and the production of the cow to be culled are all major factors that need to be considered. In our case, we rarely cull many cows early, as our supplementary feed is contracted or home grown and wastage is minimal as we feed out on a pad. The major factor for us to consider is the daily production of the cow and the amount of supplement we can afford to feed to avoid a deficit in the future. As long as we are getting a positive return from milking these culls on, we will endeavour to do so as maximising production is our goal, providing it is profitable.
So, looking ahead in the short term, it’s all about managing the grass, feeding the cows, controlling the weeds and catching up on those chores that we had no time for during spring. The pool is clean, the gas bottle is full, the calendar between now and Christmas is even fuller and I haven’t done any Christmas shopping yet. However, I have attended several end of year functions and booked a week away in January, even though that had to be changed as I realised that Sam was going to be away at the same time! Note to self, it pays to write things down! As far as the beach holiday goes, I have sorted out a win/win situation. You may, or may not, know that Bev works in a shoe shop. The good news is that her boss is opening a pop-up shop at a popular beach resort and Bev is able to work in the shop for a week or two over summer! You may see my cunning plan! We all go to the beach, she works to pay for the holiday and I have a break! Perfect!!
Merry Christmas to you all.