Time to take stock of sea­son so far

Matamata Chronicle - - Rural Delivery - By DR CLIVE DAL­TON

It’s the start of a new year but only half-way through the pro­duc­tion sea­son. It’s a good time to work out how things have gone, now that the re­pro­duc­tion part of the sea­son is over and it should be time to get some cash back on lambs and weaner calves sold.

It’s very im­por­tant to work out where money went and why noth­ing came back.

You can use the ‘‘hobby’’ ex­cuse for so long but then you need to get the axe out and face re­al­ity.

The main thing is not to re­peat mis­takes made in 2011 by blam­ing the weather or umpteen other things. You can af­ford to make a mis­take only once.

Have plans ready be­fore an event and not for af­ter. Start net­work­ing among neigh­bours and on lifestyle­block.co.nz when plan­ning to change things.

Pas­ture growth de­pends on rain, so have plans ready in case things get dry from now on, to en­sure you will have feed well into Fe­bru­ary.

Don’t rely on of­fi­cial long-term weather pre­dic­tions – have plans to cover all pos­si­bil­i­ties.

There’s a lot of sup­ple­ment around this sum­mer, so if you need some buy it now when prices are sen­si­ble. Things can change very quickly. Ev­ery­thing is rac­ing to seed and it’s too late to make high-qual­ity silage from ma­ture over­grown pas­ture that’s as high as the fences.

But this will make hay and/or baleage, which you can al­ways sell later or it will keep.

If pas­tures get to­tally out of con­trol and you don’t want to turn this growth into sup­ple­ments, just speed up the graz­ing ro­ta­tion and let the stock eat the tops off.

This is called ‘stand­ing hay’, or ‘ de­ferred graz­ing’, which sounds bet­ter.

It’s re­ally bad graz­ing man­age­ment from the view­point of grass use and clover re­cov­ery.

Only big hun­gry ma­ture cat­tle can chew off this mass of feed and even they will waste most of it.

The re­sult­ing flat­tened pas­ture ‘‘thatch’’ will de­lay the growth of fresh green qual­ity feed, both for the rest of the sum­mer and au­tumn, and it is ideal for fa­cial eczema spores to grow in.

De­ferred graz­ing is said to pro­vide a sup­ply of free seed into the pas­ture but that’s not a fea­ture worth much.

There are years of unger­mi­nated seed in the ground al­ready. It’s more im­por­tant to get rid of the flow­er­ing heads and dead mat to al­low new growth and let the light into the bot­tom so the clover will sur­vive.

Clover won’t grow in the dark. Buy­ing ex­tra stock to graze sur­plus feed can be tricky – if you have too much feed be­cause of the good sea­son, so will ev­ery­body else and stock prices will be high.

But if you have fat stock to sell, this will help, as­sum­ing there is a profit in an ex­change deal.

Don’t ex­pect weaner calves to eat ma­ture hay pad­docks – they need good green feed to keep grow­ing.

Do a bud­get to see if it’s worth­while to cash some stock now and make silage or hay of any sur­plus feed to sell now or later.

If pas­tures dry up quickly, then you may have to get rid of stock be­fore win­ter when prices may not be as good. On the other hand, don’t graze (or mow) pad­docks too bare be­cause this lets the sun and wind dry it even more.

Sheep don’t like hot weather so make sure all have been shorn. Wool prices have been good but what you get from the wool mer­chant de­pends on the New Zealand dol­lar fluc­tu­a­tion that week – and the way you have pre­pared the clip.

If you still have wool to come off, get the shearer’s ad­vice on how to pre­pare the wool.

If you still have the wool on the farm and you didn’t sort it, then this is what you should do.

Throw each fleece on to a clean floor. Col­lect up all the bits that fall off, like the wool from the legs (called fribs) and around the crutch.

If they have not fallen off re­move them. Put them in a sep­a­rate bag and have the bel­lies in a sep­a­rate bag. From the main fleece, re­move any short and stained bits around the edges to bag with the pieces.

Re­move all wool with veg­etable con­tam­i­na­tion and any stained with rad­dle.

Put the dags around the fruit trees for mulch. You may think that you’ve thrown half the fleece away af­ter this ex­er­cise but if you throw ev­ery­thing in, then you’ll get the low­est price for the lot.

There’s not an army of peo­ple in wool stores any more re-sort­ing wool like there used to be so clip prepa­ra­tion on the farm is the best op­tion, whether prices are high or low.

Watch for fly­strike on shorn sheep if any get dirty. It doesn’t need much to at­tract the Aus­tralian green blowfly, which op­er­ates for the whole of the sum­mer.

Shear­ing lambs is never very prof­itable but left in the wool they are prone to fly­strike even when clean. Giv­ing them an in­sec­ti­cide spray around the britch and along the back is very ef­fec­tive. Get as many lambs as pos­si­ble away fat off their mothers and work out if it’s best to get rid of the re­main­ing lambs as stores, es­pe­cially if you will be short of feed.

Keep­ing lambs on the farm into the new year starts to cost money in drench, fly treat­ment and time, and if they are go­ing back­wards in con­di­tion be­cause the feed dries up they be­come a fi­nan­cial li­a­bil­ity.

They are bet­ter sold as stores. But if, on the other hand, there’s plenty of good feed around, lambs kept to higher weights will earn you more.

Quit any ewes that haven’t earned their keep or have any phys­i­cal or health prob­lems – for ex­am­ple with teeth and ud­ders.

Don’t drench any lambs un­til you have talked to your vet, so your ac­tions are based on fae­cal egg counts and not drench pro­mo­tional gim­micks.

Ewes in good body con­di­tion should not need drench­ing be­cause their nat­u­ral im­mu­nity pro­tects them from worms.

The main ob­jec­tive is to get some weight back on all flock ewes for next sea­son.

Al­though most rams don’t go out till March in the North Is­land, you should have your rams sorted by now.

Newly pur­chased rams need shear­ing and any that have been kept from last year need vet check­ing.

Fit healthy rams in Jan­uary will start to ‘‘pink up’’, will smell strongly and be keen to get to ewes.

This smell (the male pheromone in the wool grease) can bring ewes into sea­son so keep rams away from the ewes if you don’t want early lambs.

It could be worth join­ing them with ewes in good body con­di­tion to get some early lambs for the early pre­mium mar­ket.

Start fa­cial eczema pre­cau­tions. The only prac­ti­cal way to treat sheep with zinc is with a bo­lus, which lasts about a month.

Don’t give them more than three a sea­son be­cause it costs money and they can risk zinc tox­i­c­ity. So de­cid­ing when to start pre­cau­tions is a con­cern, know­ing that fa­cial eczema can be danger­ous right up to May.

Talk to your vet about do­ing spore count­ing from pas­ture sam­ples or fae­cal sam­ples to see when pas­tures are ‘‘hot’’ and hence danger­ous. Fae­cal sam­pling for spores is be­com­ing more pop­u­lar be­cause at least you know that the sheep has eaten them.

If you are se­ri­ous about your sheep en­ter­prise, buy fa­cial eczema-tol­er­ant rams to breed re­sis­tance into your sheep.

Young grow­ing stock, es­pe­cially dairy wean­ers, are the main con­cern, es­pe­cially when it gets hot and pas­tures start to dry.

Keep of­fer­ing them the best pas­ture, to hope­fully keep grow­ing at least about 0.6kg per day. If feed qual­ity drops then 0.4kg per day is more re­al­is­tic.

In drought con­di­tions they will lose weight and stunt­ing the growth of young stock has se­ri­ous long-term ef­fects.

They never catch up fully later in life. Beef cows in good con­di­tion suck­ing calves take lit­tle hurt when it starts to get dry. If it per­sists then it’s bet­ter to wean their calves and give the calves the best feed go­ing.

Use the cows to clean up any rough feed around the farm. If you put stock out on the road verge to clean up feed, check our web­site for ad­vice on safety and your le­gal re­spon­si­bil­i­ties if they cause ac­ci­dents. Older store cat­tle in good con­di­tion can han­dle dry spells, and if feed gets short, their main pri­or­ity is good wa­ter.

Watch for bit­ing flies and get vet ad­vice for a treat­ment if they be­come a se­ri­ous nui­sance. Bulls should be out from the cows in the North Is­land to avoid late calv­ing.

If you are keep­ing any bulls over for next sea­son, keep an eye on their health through the warm sum­mer weather.

Send any not needed to the works. Fa­cial eczema pro­tec­tion should be well un­der way. If you wait un­til spore counts rise, the dan­ger is that your farm (and pad­docks within the farm) will all vary.

Don’t rely on gen­eral spore counts pub­lished in the lo­cal pa­per, at your vet clinic and on web­sites, be­cause they may not ap­ply on your farm. Talk to your vet about what to do. If you want to use zinc bo­luses, the points made above for sheep ap­ply to cat­tle.

Zinc sul­phate in the wa­ter trough is not palat­able so how much each an­i­mal gets can be very vari­able and hence not ef­fec­tive.

Note: For oral drench­ing you use zinc ox­ide, never zinc sul­phate.

If you are mak­ing plans for a later break be­fore school starts, dou­ble-check se­cu­rity plans. Bur­glars are back on the beat af­ter their hol­i­day break and are wait­ing for you to leave easy ac­cess to your prop­erty with all your new gear to pick up.

Keep check­ing the wa­ter sup­ply. You can­not af­ford to waste any. Keep check­ing the power fences and the earth pegs which will dry out. If hay has to be cut keep in reg­u­lar touch with the con­trac­tor. Make ac­cess easy for them and re­move all haz­ards or mark them. You don’t want to be the cause of a me­chan­i­cal dis­as­ter, or you may be look­ing for a new con­trac­tor next sea­son.

Get farm records up to date and pay all ac­counts on time. No doubt you’ll still have vis­i­tors and chil­dren around the farm this month.

Be bru­tal – keep them off the mo­tor­bikes and ATVS. There’s some­body in­jured on farms ev­ery day and a death once a month. Don’t add to the sta­tis­tics.


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