1. Know where you are at now, quantify the size of the feed deficit (tonnes DM)
There are several simple feed budgeting tools to help with this on our website.
2. Develop and implement a feed and financial plan
- The plan should go through to at least start of calving but also later into spring.
- The aim is to limit any damage to the current season.
- There is still time to recover and achieve calving targets for BCS and pasture cover if you “go hard and go early.”
- Use your farming colleagues, and trusted advisors to develop and implement this plan.
3. Reduce feed demand
- Drying off. The window for more production this season is fast closing. Will the revenue gained cover the immediate costs of this production and any costs that carryover into next season due to missing feed and body condition?
- Assess current herd body condition score (BCS). Use the DairyNZ online calculator to determine which cows need to be dried off in relation to their calving date to recover BCS and if any can be milked on.
- Under Covid-19 BCS is listed as an essential activity by MPI, so independent assessors are able to assist on farm. More information is available on BCS assessment and BCS targets and in our Facts & Figures book.
- Culling may be a challenge particularly in the South Island where killing capacity is tighter. Extra stock including sheep are already impacting on blocks used for winter feed supply. Chip away at culling as it is still achievable in small amounts.
4. Increase feed supply
a: Use nitrogen fertiliser – download our FarmFact on nitrogen use after a dry summer.
b: Increase rotation lengths to 60-80 days to provide more opportunity for pasture recovery and growth.
c: Source more cost- effective supplement or grazing if possible.
Pasture (and winter crop) growth is key to whether the deficit can be filled or not. The biggest unknown is pasture growth. Don’t let this prevent you making a plan. Unsure of likely pasture growth rates? See our pasture growth data or take a look at this quick video for some practical tips on what you can do heading into the cool season.
Pasture growth should be regularly monitored against any figures that are used for planning.
5. Include young stock in your feeding plans
- A common problem under these circumstances can be poorly grown in calf heifers returning from grazing.
- Options under these circumstances include:
- targeted feeding of this group prior to calving
- once a day milking for them after calving
- reduce the number entering the herd and allow the remainder to suckle rear their calves.
6. Prepare a feed plan for support blocks and purchased winter grazing as well as the dairy farm
Check that winter crop yields will meet your expectations and work on any contingencies if they don’t.
7. Discuss implications of contractual obligations for employment and grazing agreements etc.
- Treat people with respect and kindness.
- Communicate with your grazier. Do they have a plan? What are the concerns? Work through issues now.
- Where grazers are involved, agree on additional purchased feed now and who will pay.
- Get third party advice.
8. Carefully review any farm system changes prompted by your feed and financial budgets
e.g. reducing stocking rate to balance the feed budget.
- Consider any reduction in the number of cows to calve this spring with care.
- A small proportion of the herd, e.g. equivalent to the last row in a herringbone, are often the cows that have the highest costs of production on the farm and may not be adding much or anything to profit. It's tempting to think you may not miss them.
- Be careful that this doesn’t compromise your productivity next season.
- Also be aware that this is a sale of capital stock and will there be a demand for them. Avoid fire sales.
9. Share your plan with your staff, your banker and other professional advisors
10. Update your plan regularly against actual progress
Celebrate small milestones achieved e.g. all culls off the farm or pasture cover has reached an interim target such as 2000 kg DM/ha and try to stay as positive as possible!