Dairying through the big wet
‘‘It's been wet since March. We're used to wet but that was really wet.’’
Dairy farming in the wet is second nature for contract milkers Teagan Gray and Ashley des Landes.
But this year’s wet was different.
Farming on wet soils was one of the reasons the Turua farm was chosen as one of five focus farms for the P3 Trust, which includes a variety of farms with a range of different soil types.
However, this season has been particularly challenging on the marine clay soil farm, because of the extended wet season.
‘‘It’s been wet since March. We’re used to wet but that was really wet,’’ des Landes said.
The couple deal with wet conditions by using a covered concrete stand-off facility, where 500 cows are placed to reduce pasture damage. The stand-off facility comes with its own set of challenges, including cows getting sore feet from standing on concrete and a higher risk of mastitis.
The facility also puts extra pressure on effluent management, with effluent scraped off the pad daily and stored in the effluent pond to be spread over the pasture when conditions allow.
‘‘But on the other hand it’s environmentally better because we don’t have leaching off the feed pad, which is why there is a change going to sealed surfaces like concrete,’’ Gray said.
‘‘At some time in the future the [wood] chip stand off pads will be non-compliant because of leaching.’’
Gray said standing the cows off the pasture was ‘‘controlling the controllables’’, which helped them get through the wet season.
‘‘[This] is, to be honest, really all we can do in the wet weather.’’
Milking once a day instead of the traditional twice a day also helped them get through the long wet season.
What they lost in production, they gained by not having to spend so much on buying in feed and having cows in better condition.
‘‘What we are doing now is set- ting us up for the next season,’’ Gray said.
‘‘It’s about looking forward in the bigger picture.’’
This is the couple’s third season on Gray’s family farm.
The property is owned by her parents Neil and Glenda Gray, who recently established Buttercup Dairies where raw milk from a separate herd of 20 cows on the 170ha property is sold from a selfservice vending machine.
This is the seventh year farming for Gray, 27, who completed a Bachelor of Agri Science at Massey University. des Landes, 24, who has completed an agribusiness diploma, came second in the farm manager category of the Hauraki-Auckland 2016-17 Dairy Industry Awards.
The P3 Trust was formed to increase farm profitability and sustainability for the benefit of the community. Data and commentary about P3 Trust focus farms are included in a weekly newsletter P3 for other farmers in the region.
Turua contract farmers Teagan Gray, left, and Ashley des Landes.