Need for feed versus milk output
Industry body DairyNZ is urging Matamata farmers who are facing drier than normal farming conditions, to carefully consider how they make their feed planning decisions to keep cows in milk while maintaining their condition.
General manager of extension, Craig McBeth, said farmers are now reaching some crunch points for making the calls on feed planning and milking frequency.
‘‘We know some farmers have moved on to once a day milking or milking every 16 hours, as a way of managing their way through what are still very dry conditions in most parts of the country despite the recent rainfall,’’ he said. ‘‘In the last couple of weeks we’ve seen pastures go from green to brown pretty quickly with limited post grazing regrowth. Soil moisture levels are still well below the average for this time of year and we’re now seeing that reflected in crisp pastures. With a low milk price, these kinds of judgement calls become much more complex as you delicately balance the profitability of keeping your cows milking and using supplementary feed.’’
He says farmers have to consider that drying off their cows too soon, is also an expensive decision.
‘‘ Generally, for the North Island, we know that in dry summers, March 20 is the date by which we need substantial rain before farmers would need to dry off all cows, to secure pasture and cow condition targets for the next season.’’
He said it is good for farmers to keep some of their cows milking until that date, to maintain their milk income at a reasonable level and to have the option of having cows in milk should grass growth accelerate after good rainfall.
‘‘Options include a combination of selective culling, possibly milking once a day or every 16 hours and buying in or using their own supplementary feed.’’
He said this still makes economic sense as there is some reasonably priced feed (less than 30 cents/kg of dry matter landed on farm) about for farmers to buy in, to keep cows milking profitably.
‘‘This latest rain will give crops a growth boost so we’re advising farmers to keep growing their crops too, rather than feed it early to their cows. This will maximise the benefit of that rain.’’
McBeth said making the calculations for feed planning is always an individual call.
He said farmers need a lot more rain to get soil moisture levels back to normal.
‘‘ Farmers have to make the calculations and judgement calls now, about how much grass growth we can expect in the next two to three weeks.
‘‘They will need to make their own individual decisions about how to balance feed supply and feed demand. Factors to weigh up include costs and how many cows to keep milking and how often.
DairyNZ advice on feed planning and summer management is available on dairynz.co.nz and at DairyNZ discussion groups.
TURNING BROWN: The dry conditions are putting pressure on stock feed.