Hot and dry may be great for summer holidays, but Nic and Kirsty Verhoek would welcome a bit of rain for their pastures.

Ironically, it was only in the December Dairy Exporter issue that our biggest problem was managing pasture quantity and quality. Like with Covid-19, things have taken a quick turn over the past two months. They say the two non-negotiables in late lactation are: 1) pasture cover at the end of May in preparation for calving, and 2) cow body condition score. As you can see from our current terrain in the northern Waikato, if we don’t get some rain pretty soon, target pasture covers come May could be a bit problematic!

Our farm goal at this time of year is to have a strong finish to the current season without compromising ourselves for a good start to next season. Maximising lactation length, cow condition, and low somatic cells are front and centre. Cows are holding up well under the heat, with no grass or rain, and pasture cover is dismal. It would be most upsetting if the girls weren’t doing such a good job. We are counting down the days and watching out the window for the storm clouds. Just a farmer’s luck, the maize is due to come in and we are sure the rain will follow as we scramble to pull the silage cover out.

Despite the lack of a live blade of grass, the chicory is earning its keep this season. Not only do the green strips of chicory give some visual diversification to the brown landscape, but the girls also eagerly await the autogate each day to get their allocation. With irrigation not an option, we are really seeing the benefits of concrete investment at this time of the year. The mixer wagon is working as hard as the cows in this heat, with the feed pad currently providing the majority of our cows’ diet. This has allowed the girls to keep the condition on and continue to milk twice a day, producing well.

Although this time of year things slow down a bit, there is always plenty to do: spring cleaning the dairy and calf sheds, getting on top of machinery maintenance, aggressively attacking weeds, and hoof maintenance to name a few. Our young stock also went off to the graziers. Although it is good to have them off the farm, it is also not the time to get complacent and we will continue to make sure we visit and track their progress. The eagerly anticipated pregnancy scanning results have also just come in: 11.3% empty which given our circumstances (sexed semen, short AI, long calving tail, multiple PG Why Wait Programmes), we were satisfied with this result.

Along with our farm goals we also have our personal goals and one of those has been to take regular time off together as a family. This year has been one of our first in a long time to have a significant break off the farm after calving. We have been able to do so knowing that three great permanent staff are committed to staying on next season. Our time was well spent playing with the kids, hanging at the beach and lake, and generally just taking things easy. Something we highly recommend.