Tough love, more protein in the diet, repro results – Lisa Groen

I feel like a lot has changed since my last blog back in November. Not so much on farm related but off farm in the dairy industry. The milk payout setting new records, but at the same time costs have reached new highs too (fuel, grain, PKE and fertiliser). Also, the supply chain of farming goods. I know of a few farmers locking in some feed prices, storing bulk fuel, getting as much fertiliser delivered on farm either in bags or in bulk and ordering all their magnesium, lime flour, calcium, acids, alkalis and teat sprays for next season already.

The inconsistent rainfall in the Waikato over the summer has you thinking one week “Sweet I’ve got lots of grass”, next week “Where’s my grass gone”! Some parts of the Waikato are green and some places brown with little pasture cover. Our total rainfall this year is only 57 mm. During the summer we have been able to give the cows midday shifts into the trees to mitigate the summer heat with 2 kg of silage to keep them happy till afternoon milking. On the really hot days we didn’t milk till 5 pm.

From mid-November till mid-January the cows endured some tough love. Meaning I only fed them meal in the morning (6 kg) this wasn’t the plan until I ran out of meal one afternoon and the milking was really enjoyable. Just how quiet the cows were, less noise from the cows fighting, pushing and less POO! Looking back we should’ve kept feeding it because look at the payout now. But at the time we were hoping to utilise the pasture and save money on buying in meal. I held off opening the silage stack till 16th  January. Topping paddocks up until then. At the time of opening the stack we discussed adding more protein in the meal, shifting from 13% to 22%, at an extra cost of $607 per tonne up to $653. We put the meal back up to 12 kg per day. We took the gamble and boy did it PAY OFF! On the 4th January the cows were only producing 1.73 kg MS per cow, that then skyrocketed to 2.1 kg MS per cow on the 4th February.

Maybe we need to feed our cows more protein in their diet throughout lactation?

Introducing this higher protein and the 20% PKE meal meant we were walking the line when it came to the FEI alert and grading system. Thankfully only getting alerts and no actual grade. We have made a note to make sure we add this higher protein meal a lot earlier for next season, looking at early December to maintain production.

Giving the cows some tough love may have resulted in our empty rate being high at 19%. We had nutritionist Grant Richards look into the results and what we were feeding during mating. I had basically given the cows a “shock to the system” by cutting half their meal diet in half during mating. Although Dad and I weren’t too worried about the empty rate (we were hoping for 15% or less) we felt that we still fed them plenty of grass and a high-quality ME meal at 6 kg. On a positive note… there are a few old saggy baggy cows that are empty and need to go anyway. We will be carrying over 17 young cows. Dad and I took the opportunity to buy an extra 23 kiwi cross heifers ($1,650 per head) that were for sale just 5 minutes down the road. They will be delivered on farm on the 1st May.

Previous 3 years’ repro results:

  2019-2020 2020-2021 2021-2022
6 Week 75% 71% 65%
Empty 13% 17% 19%
Days mating 74 71 70

We have 42 heifers coming back from grazing (hopefully around the 10th – 20th  June). At this stage we’ll calve over 250 cows next season.

Before Christmas I managed a Zoom meeting with Pip Gale from Coprice (Top Cow Top Calf) in Australia to discuss an innovative product called Agolin. It can be added to meal with the aim of reducing enteric methane output and improving feed conversion. I also went to a discussion group recently about Biozest. It’s pleasing to see and hear about the latest technologies targeted at helping us to reduce our methane emissions.

Stuart Rogers from Hoof-It delivered our own crush to do lame cows more safely and easily. Dad still needs to do the finishing touches.

138 square hay bales @ $95 per bale were purchased and delivered around Christmas / New Years. Giving us hay for 2 weeks to dry the cows off and hay over winter and early spring.

Current situation:

  • 10 carry over cows arrived on farm 25th February to help clean up behind the milkers as all they really need is air and water. At $15 per head per week I’ll shift and feed them myself to save on grazing costs.
  • 42 calves are still on farm receiving 3 kg meal (out of cow silo, which includes zinc), 1kg silage and getting shifted every day.
  • Current round length is around 25 days.
  • Last rainfall was over 5 weeks ago (EEEEKKKK).
  • Diet for the cows consists of 12 kg meal and 8 kg silage. March production is just over 1.9 kg MS per cow. We are on track to reach our target of 575 kg MS per cow. But we have used 100 T more meal with 15 less cows compared to last season. At the end of February meal usage was 554 T.
  • I have 10 T DAP to be applied to block B (17 ha) at the beginning of May.


There is plenty of stack silage available to get me through to dry off. I hope to milk a week into June, depending on how much rain we get between now and the start of June. Hopefully the calves will go to grazing before the 23 new heifers turn up on 1st May.

Here is a quick break down of February’s cost of feed and milk income:

Cost of meal    $7.83 per cow

Cost of silage  $2.40 per cow

Total cost:       $10.23 per cow

Milk solids per cow average for February was 2 kg MS per cow x $9.50 = $19

$19 minus $10.23 = $8.77 income per cow per day.

Before Christmas I picked up my bonus to myself (with the help of Mum and Dad) …… a brand-new JET SKI, or as dad calls it SKI JET haha. I call this my GET OFF FARM / SWITCH OFF FROM FARMING toy! Over summer I have been trying to make the most of it and having a few afternoon milkings off.

I just want to congratulate fellow SMASH farmer Aleisha Broomfield on making it into the Waikato Sharefarmer of the Year finals. An award my parents won back in 1990 when I was 2 years old.

That’s a wrap for now until the end of the season. Control what you can and remember it’s a $9+ payout. Keep feeding those cows and milk them as long as you can. Once we do get the autumn rain there’s awesome production to be made!

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