Back to the north, and more rain

Volatile weather, lower than predicted payouts, high costs, climate change and a dairy industry that still managed to finish up only 0.5% down for milk supply on the previous season. Chloe Mackle sums it up.

Low emission night checks.

AFTER MY YEAR MILKING 215 beautiful ladies in Cambridge, taking a step back to focus on personal development and my stock trading business, I moved back to Northland.

The moving company said they don’t often move someone into and out of the same house. I am back in Hukerenui calving 500 XB spring cows, on a system 3, 300-hectare (200ha effective) dairy farm.

Winter was challenging. I moved back to Northland on June 1 where they had already had 2200mm of rain for the year. Covers were low, ground was saturated and my heart ached for everyone who had been at the mercy of the weather since February. We got off bloody lucky in the Waikato.

We started calving on July 10. The heifers were synchronised meaning 70% had calved by the PSC for the cows (July 15) This season, and what I want to touch on in this column, we chose to milk everything once-a-day (OAD) for the first three weeks of calving.

This has been a game-changer and significantly reduced pressure on people and stock during the busy period.

DairyNZ research found OAD milking in early lactation does not reduce feed demand or alleviate body condition score loss. It does reduce the risk of metabolic issues, improves cow energy and rumination which in turn should benefit reproduction.

Trials found farms that milked OAD for the first three weeks finished 1-2% down in production for the season. But animal health has been good, metabolic issues have been low and I haven’t noticed higher than normal mastitis cases (seven cows.)

On a harder-to-measure scale, those first three weeks on OAD meant we nailed a system that worked for us as a farm team.

It enabled margin for error, created a safe learning environment and aided in producing happy, healthy people and cows – a non-negotiable for me.

Saffrin, my awesome 2IC and full-timer has been able to sit on a five and two roster and her longest day so far has been nine hours.

I achieved my personal goal of finding time to ride my horse every day during peak calving. The mixed-aged cows are now on twice-a-day, the heifers and any non-cyclers will stay on OAD all season. Our system and routines are well established and we are chugging along.

I hope everyone has a great calving, the weather is kind and the cows reward you well. When things get tricky – lean on a gate, talk to a mate.