They milk 490 cows on 190 ha, milked as two herds of 280 and 200 cows. The business has 58 ha of support land nearby.
The majority of imported feed is in the form of baleage, cereal silage, hay and winter grazing, although this season about 110 kg DM per cow of PKE has been added to the budget for use in the spring as supplements on hand are less than needed.
The predominantly crossbred herd is stocked at 2.6 cows per ha. Calving starts July 27.
2018-19 Numbers at a glance
|Total Milksolids||Cows Milked||Hectares (Effective)||Net Dairy Cash Income ($/kg MS)||Total Farm working Expenses ($/kg MS)||Total Operating Expenses ($/kgMS)||Dairy Operating Profit per ha ($/ha)|
2018-19 half-yearly update: December 2018
Six months into the season this farm has provided an update on how they are tracking, what, if any major challenges to their budgets they are facing and plans for managing any variances for the rest of the season.
Season to date 19-12-2018
Production to date is 95,000 kg MS which is 10,000 up on last year with 20 more cows and 15 more ha’s. With the additional cows and land this puts production on budget.
Pasture utilisation this spring has been much better than the previous 2 season. This, combined with better growth rates have meant that while production is just on budget, it has been achieved with less imported feed and significantly more supplement harvested.
It was a quite dry though late October and into November, so 150 cows were put on to once-a-day November 20th.
Signals have been there even early in the season that milk price was likely to drop so steps have already been taken to control costs. The focus has been on areas that won’t affect output.
Rainfall for December has been above average and temperatures have been warm. Production on a daily basis is about 2% above budget. Pasture cover is about 3,000 kg DM which includes 2 more paddocks of silage to cut. There is grass everywhere!
Current CS for the OAD herd is 4.6, the twice a day herd is 4.1 which is about usual for this time of year.
Supplement taken into the summer is 52 kg DM per cow higher than budgeted. Supplements now available will allow for up to 3 kg DM per cow per day of baleage to be fed through to the end of May.
Given the current feed situation, and crops contributing to the round over the next two months, the summer is being approached with cautious optimism. However, it can turn dry quickly and although the farm has irrigation, there are restriction on how much water can be taken.
Plans to manage risks
With the volatile milk price forecasts, the budget has been revised and is now based on 185,200 kg MS, (the original was based on 190,000kg MS).
Early action has already reduced farm working expenses by about $0.18 per kg MS, (based on the revised production). If need be reducing the autumn fertiliser can be cut another $0.15 per kg MS from the budget.
Summer drought is always a risk for this farm and the summer/autumn management plan and budget always has contingencies to deal with this. Reducing stocking rate early, milking once a day with the whole herd and strategic drying off all factor into this plan.
With the lower revised season’s milksolids, additional supplement and crop, as well as reduced spending the impact of a drought on the revised budget should be slight, and the forecast operating profit for the year of $3,000 still achievable.
Feed and Pasture
- Supplements made will be about 100 bales of baleage up on budget.
- With current high pasture growth rates of 80-100 kg DM/ha /day cover at the support block is still increasing and it is likely some surplus there will need to be made into hay. The original budget included a contingency to buy some but this is likely to not happen, (may even have surplus to sell).
- This will increase supplement making costs but will save on purchased feed. Net gain to the budget is at least $10,000.
- Surplus pasture cover currently has been exacerbated by needing to graze an early crop of Pasja. This put about 33 t DM into the feed supply in early December. (173 kg DM/ha over the milking area).
- The heifers have been on the milking platform at times, following cows to maintain pasture quality rather than topping.
- 50 t PKE was contracted in the spring. With better grass growth and utilisation only used about 36 t PKE. Fortunately the surplus was able to be off loaded to someone else so another $5,000 was saved.
- Crops are planted and growing well, costs are on budget. Three paddocks, (8.5), ha of barkant turnips, 11 ha of barley/ryegrass mix and 3.5 ha of Pasja have been sown.
- The turnip plantings have been staggered about 15 days apart, starting with the first paddock on planted mid- November. The last paddock went in December 10th. The first grazing will begin Mid-January.
- N use on budget (46 kg N/ha for the year).
Calving and reproduction
- Mid-point of calving from planned start, (August 2nd), was 21 days. This compares with 17 days for the 2017-18 season.
- The very wet spring in 2017 had an impact on mating that year which has resulted in a slower calving rate for 2018.
- The number of cows calved after 3 weeks was 52%, after 6 weeks was 89% and after 9 weeks was 100%.
- Submission rate, (SR) was 83% after 3 weeks.
- The decision was made to only do 3 weeks of AB instead of 5 weeks, to reduce costs. This will still give enough cows in calf to AB to get replacements next spring. There is good demand for non-dairy calves, (either at 4 days old or as weaners), so options have not been limited by reducing the length of AB.
Other points of interest
- Peak cows 488 (budget was 490).
- Irrigation was used during the October/November dry period. There has been no irrigation irrigated since the latter part of November so overall irrigation days are lower to date, (and therefore irrigation costs).
- 2 t milk powder less than budget was used, (saving about $14,000). This was in response to milk powder prices rising sharply. More milk was taken from the vat instead and also a 1 t more of calf pellets used (about $1,000 more). With the better spring weather, calves grew more quickly so overall costs were well down.
- Early in the season it was decided to reduce herd testing from 4 tests to 2 tests. This was partly because there were already enough cows identified for early culling , and partly as a cost cutting exercise in response to indications that milk price was likely to be less than originally thought.
- If milk price forecast remains lower, the plan to control costs includes reducing the autumn fertiliser applications. This could potentially save another $30,000. Soil fertility levels are good so missing some autumn fertiliser wont impact too much. Also, more of the milking area is getting effluent applied that area will need less.
Bio-security & Environment
- Purchased Angus bulls from a closed farm with a known history.
- Fences are all up to standard and have electric wire outriggers.
- Work in with neighbours to keep stock form being on the boundary at the same time.
- Controlled movement of visitors on farm
- Riparian planting in the budget and ongoing.
- Extended the area under effluent irrigation. This area is still less than 1/3 of the milking area so as cash flow allows more area will be included.
- Production is achieved through a mainly grass/forage-based system (approximately 99% of cow intakes is grass or grass/cereal silage or hay).
- Approx 13% of cow intake is imported as off farm grazing or silage/hay.
- Pasture monitoring is key. Weekly farm walk and feed planning done all year.
- Protecting pasture is critical - effort to made to minimise pugging or over grazing.
- The purchase of 37 ha in 2017 has led to a reorganisation of farm layout resulting in the dairy shed now being more centralised. In conjunction with upgraded race access, the dairy shed is now able to cope with 2 herds coming and going, so the decision has been made to milk both herds twice a day for the first part of the season.
- The heifers and thin or "hospital" cows will make up a herd of 200. This herd will go onto once a day at Christmas time or sooner if conditions dictate. Previously it had been milked OAD all season.
- Tend to adjust SR when required (unseasonal events, droughts etc), or use OAD, instead of putting more supplements in to reduce intakes for short periods.
- Farming within environmental limits is very much a focus, in particular limiting N leaching levels. N is used strategically up to 50 units annually.
- Twelve hectares of barkant turnips grown for early summer feed.
- 12-14 ha cropped each year with a rotation of winter oats, barley-ryegrass mix Oct- Jan, permanent pasture Mar/April. This grows about 20-23 t DM/ha over the whole year.
- Young/Dry stock are grazed off the milking area but do come back at critical times to help with pasture quality control. Eg to graze new pasture or clean up over long residuals behind the milkers. Zero topping if possible.
- Culls sent to works ASAP.
- Focus on cow condition at key times.
- Winter cow grazing of 230 MA cows to support block for 7-8 weeks. Balance remain on platform, mobbed based on weight/CS factors, lighter mob fed to get to CS 5 by calving, (usually baleage or cereal baleage). Usually easy to achieve because both herds milked OAD last 4-6 weeks of season.
Key success factors
- Maintain a focus on why we do it. For our family, in a sustainable and profitable way!!
- High utilisation of pasture, conserving the genuine surpluses (not topping to waste).
- Budgeting/monitoring all aspects of the business – financial and physical.
- Concentrate on doing the basics well - forget about marginal inputs (There are no easy fixes – if it sounds too good to be true it probably is!).
- Having good staff and a good retention rate.
- Surrounding ourselves with good positive people.