Dry conditions affect Waikato farms
Many farms in the Waikato, especially in the Morrinsville and northern areas, are struggling with dry conditions.
Rainfall figures on my own farm are less than 50 per cent the normal average for both December and January, with very little for February to date – although the rain over this last week was a welcome relief!
Combine this with the windy weather, and the upshot is very little pasture growth.
Average pasture covers are now between 1500 and 2000kg DM/ha
Production has also come under pressure, and in terms of total milk solids most farms are still below last season.
Contributing to this situation is that many farms in the Waikato made less than normal amounts of supplementary feed in the spring, and some crops were planted later than usual, which has reduced yield.
In practical terms this means many farms have a limited supply of supplement, which is likely to impact the price of feed purchased in the autumn.
Even if there is significant rainfall, there will be a lag of two to three weeks before pasture cover starts to recover.
Therefore, it is important to make sure every farm has its pregnancy tests done, with empty and cull animals identified and sold.
This will reduce feed demand and take some pressure off the remaining animals.
It is also important that not too much cow condition is lost over this time, and regular observation needs to be part of farm management into the autumn.
Once a day milking or three milkings in two days can help maintain cow condition, but may put some pressure on somatic cell counts.
Ideally, this decision should have been made while there were still good levels of feed on farm, and will form part of any season review.
So in summary, you should make sure there is enough feed on hand to adequately feed cows on the farm.
Culls (in most cases) should be gone.
And in some areas some cows (mainly younger) may start being dried off.
There is still an opportunity to produce milk in to the autumn, but not at the expense of next season’s production.