DairyNZ supports locally-led projects nationwide. These projects provide dairy farmers with regionally relevant information, events and resources.
One of the farmer-led groups that DairyNZ works with is P3 Trust (Profitable, Progressive Plains). The trust aims to increase farm profitability and sustainability across the Hauraki Plains for the benefit of the community.
The committee runs regionally relevant events and provides regular email updates providing on-farm data from a range of farms on different soil types. Prior to that the Trust had led a focus farm project which wrapped up in 2016.
P3 selected Michael and Megan Webster’s farm as a focus farm in 2014. Information from the property including rainfall, grass growth and production figures were provided to farmers in the area as well as an insight into some of the management decisions. The farm’s final field day as a focus farm was held in June 2016, which is summarised below.
A summary of the Focus Farm
Putting pasture first helped Ngatea dairy farmers Megan and Michael Webster cut their farm working expenses by almost $1.50 per milksolid over two years.
The couple, whose property has been the Hauraki Plains Focus Farm since 2014, summarised the progress they made at a field day at the end of June 2016.
The Websters and their team have increased production by 24kg MS per cow (per ha production increased from 929kg/ha in the season prior to the project, moving to 1038kg/ha), reduced supplement by 550kg DM/cow and lowered farm working expenses from $4.98/kg MS in 13/14 to $3.51/kg MS in 2015/16. At a standardised milk price of $6.50, farm profit increased from $1,696/ha to $3,103/ha over two seasons.
Michael says a culture change that saw them focus more on pasture was a big part of achieving the results they did.
“We changed our mind-set – all our energy went into pasture first and getting all the team to focus on growing grass and thinking about it as the number one source of feed,” says Michael.
Better monitoring of pasture enabled the team to make effective decisions that flowed into other areas of the business.
“In the last two and a half years we only missed two farm walks. Having that information there is so much easier because it flows into allocation, it flows into residuals and week by week you can just make little tweaks. Plus, if you want to pick up the phone and sell cows, or buy supplements or put on nitrogen you can have absolute confidence that you know what you are doing,” says Michael.
Around $50,000 was saved by reducing imported feed, taking into account the increased spending on nitrogen. Nitrogen increased slightly but smarter decisions around when and where it was applied were made to maximise its effectiveness.
The couple have also turned their attention to regrassing.
While there is not permanent crop on-farm, chicory is used as a summer feed which in turn helped with plans for new grass.
“Before the focus farm project started only a small percentage of the farm was new grass, less than 10 years old,” says Michael. “Even when the payout kept dropping that was one thing we didn’t want to remove from our budget.”
Meanwhile, other savings were made by keeping young stock at home until late in the season and bringing heifers home earlier to avoid winter grazing rates and actually monitoring their weights. Smaller savings were also made by focusing spending on what they needed versus what they wanted.
P3 Dairy Trust Feed Calculator
The P3 Feed Calculator is a simple set of worksheets which can be used to provide an estimate of true economic return on the feeding of additional inputs other than pasture to lactating dairy cows.
Note: That DairyNZ and P3 Dairy Trust accept no responsibility for accuracy of outcomes resulting from use of the software, and accept no responsibility for any decisions which might be made from using the software. Click here for full Terms and conditions of the DairyNZ website.
P3 Trust Chairman
027 249 8306
DairyNZ Regional Leader North Waikato
0274 839 820