After a challenging, wet spring the sun has shone on Carla and Chris Staples’ West Coast farm.

It’s mid-September and we have fewer than 30 cows left to calve. Spring has certainly been challenging as the rain and westerly winds seemed to be very consistent and relentless. The sun has been shining over the last week and what a difference that makes.

All our replacements were born in the first half of calving, something that hasn’t happened before and lots of heifers there are, more than needed but this will help in the future meaning no carry overs will need to be kept.

We tried something different this season with ad lib feeding of the calves, this made a huge difference in the calf sheds with no hungry calves as they could drink to their hearts’ content 24 hours a day. We certainly used a lot more milk, and the calves were averaging about 18 litres each in the 24-hour period! But you can see the difference, their weights are up on previous seasons which will mean a lot earlier weaning and has been a lot less stressful.

They are all outside now on the calfeteria and drinking about 7 litres OAD and should be all weaned by late October early November. With mating just around the corner, we will be putting our heifers up to sexed semen to increase heifer numbers – this will be another first and it will be interesting to see the results next spring.

Throughout winter Chris has been tearing up the winter crop paddocks as we finished them to prepare them to be sown back into pasture as soon as the weather allows and so far two of the three have been sown back into permanent pasture. Hopefully they grow as it has been quite wet and cold since he got the first one in.

Fingers crossed it gets out of the ground before any weeds take hold although it will get a weed spray once the pasture is established.

We are using a mix of Shogun, Platform and two different types of white clover. This is a mix we used last autumn, and those paddocks have been growing strongly over winter and early spring so it will be interesting to see if they carry on this way right throughout the season.

In total we’ll try to get another three paddocks regrassed this season on top of the three crop paddocks, adding these to what we have already done over the last three seasons we will have renewed almost 50% of the farm, which is a great achievement.

Another nationwide lockdown has been happening around us, which made no major impact here to us as we were busy onfarm, although it seems very strange to make visits to town and to be required to wear masks everywhere.

These lockdowns now seem to be our new normal, we feel extremely sorry for all those businesses whose livelihoods are severely impacted financially, and many will more than likely close their doors for good.

This will be our last article and we would like to thank everyone for reading over the last four years. It’s been awesome to get lots of positive feedback from farmers all over New Zealand and has also been great to introduce farmers from around the country into some of our practices and strategies we use here on the Coast to get around some of the challenges we face, and we look forward to reading someone else’s stories. We hope everyone has a great season, the payout stays where it is, and we don’t have to face another lockdown before Christmas.

– Thanks for your contributions, Chris and Carla. Ed.