Need for feed ver­sus milk out­put

Matamata Chronicle - - Rural Delivery -

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.

Photo: FAIR­FAX NZ

TURN­ING BROWN: The dry con­di­tions are putting pres­sure on stock feed.

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