With production improved, cows holding condition, and renovations finished, Carla Staples is looking forward to a family holiday.

How things have changed since our last article! The 19/20 season is done and dusted – we’re glad to see it end – and, in bigger news, we have moved from a complete Level 4 lockdown to the mostly unrestricted Level 1 with the cases of Covid-19 dropping to zero for the past three weeks. As most dairy farmers would agree it has been farming as normal, and it almost felt like calving time when we are on farm for weeks on end anyway. The effect it has had and will continue to have on our economy may last for generations – fingers crossed that it’s not for too long.
All in all we had a very good end to last season. May was a lot drier and settled than we have experienced over the last few years, which meant we could carry on milking longer than the previous season. We dried off on the 29th, which was five days longer than the season before. This meant we could close the gap in production on the 18/19 season. We ended up just over 2000kg milksolids down, which was a good result considering we were over 5000kg down at Christmas because of the weather and poor start to the season. The cows also held condition through the April/May period and have transitioned well into winter.
This winter the girls’ diet again includes swedes and grass with the addition of palm kernel to replace the silage that we did not make enough of to last through winter. It has been a bit of a juggling act to get their feed allocations in line with the feed budget, but after a couple of weeks we got it sorted and now they seem to be gaining weight nicely. The weather has also been playing its part so far, which has made things a lot easier to manage.
As we write this we are nearly half-way through winter. Next week we will be teat sealing the heifers – it’s something we haven’t done before but because a lot of heifers came into the shed with mastitis last season it’s an area we really wanted to focus on and improve this season. It will be interesting to see how much of a difference this makes at calving time – it was disappointing to watch heifers come in full of milk only to find one or sometimes two quarters full of mastitis, which in some cases they never fully recovered from.
As far as winter maintenance goes we haven’t got too much planned, which is a refreshing break from the past two seasons when we have been flat out with builders and other tradesmen running around everywhere. With the inside of the house nearly completely gutted and renovated we are looking forward to having no one in the house during calving time this season. We are installing a new backing gate in July and there is also a bit of fencing to be done around the farm, which Chris will do before the calving.
In July we are looking forward to heading away with the kids for a week-long holiday. No doubt the rest of New Zealand will be trying to do the same over the school holidays. It will be good to get away from the farm for a bit and catch up with friends and family in other parts of the South Island without many foreign tourists on the roads. One thing we have noticed, especially in our neck of the woods, is when there’s a long weekend the roads are packed with Kiwis checking out our backyard, which is good to see. It’s great that everyone is supporting local businesses – they have been hit hard by the lockdown and will need all the support we can give them to get through this tough time.