This technology fits well with the vision Pete Morgan and Ann Bouma have for a simple, efficient, profitable and environmentally sustainable system that will allow them to enjoy a quality lifestyle with family and friends.
Business type: Owner-operator
Location: Pokuru, Waipa
Farm size: 230ha effective milking platform, no support block
Peak cows: 620 FJX (630 wintered)
PSC: 18/7/2021 MA cows (15/7/2021 Heifers)
Stocking rate: 2.70 cows/ha
Farm system: 2 (1-10% feed imported)
Production: 210,000kg MS/year budgeted, 913kg MS/ha 339kg MS/cow (206,000kg MS average for last 2 years)
The whole farm system is evidence-driven, so research science is behind all decisions and achieving a high standard of environmental outcomes is an important part of implementing the farm plan.
The 2021-22 budget includes $0.36 per kg MS for the Halter programme. The focus for the future is to achieve optimal utilisation of the programme to ensure a good return on money spent.
Scroll down to get into the latest budget!
Numbers at a glance
Financial KPI 2021-2022 budget
Physical KPI 2020-21
Net dairy cash income
|Total farm working expenses
|Total operating expenses
|Dairy operating profit
Pasture and crop harvested
|Purchased N surplus
kg N/ha/yr *
t CO2 equiv/ha/yr *
|Six week in-calf rate
*Find out more about these KPI's and how to calculate them for your own farm here.
Strategy and financial
Operate a simple, evidence based, low cost, profitable business that enables the owners to enjoy a quality lifestyle with family and friends. Have a strategic plan that includes looking for opportunities to future proof the business.
- Review budget regularly
Review the budgets regularly to assess options and act early. This is at GST time or sooner if there is a significant change in the forecast payout, a severe weather event or a major breakdown.
Review each season, (good record keeping is a must for this), and use that for planning the next one. Carry out planning for next season early in the prior autumn. Use this plan to build the budget.
Once the last of the major capital expenditure programmes have been completed the focus will return to retiring debt.
Ensure all staff understand the farm plan and have regular, (usually weekly), team meetings to keep everyone updated.
Utilise expertise from other professionals, in particular accountant and local farm consultants and specialists.
Share information, seek out top performers in the area and learn from them as well as use benchmarking.
Achieving a high standard of environmental outcomes for the farm is a priority. The whole farm system is evidence driven with research science behind all decisions, many of which impact the key environmental KPI’s.
- Technology and science
Keep up to date with current research and technology, evaluate and implement appropriate systems early.
Farm policy and infrastructure
- The cows are run as 2 separate herds and are milked through 2 herringbone dairy sheds, one 34 bails and one 28 bails.
- It is 1.5 km from the farm dairy shed to the furthest paddock.
- All 630 cows are wintered on the milking area with predominantly all grass feeding.
- Focus is on getting the basics right. The correct calving date, stocking rate and pasture management leads to good pasture utilisation.
- Light soil types mean the farm is susceptible to summer dry. Once a day milking is used for the whole herd early in the season. Depending on cow condition and feed supply this is usually mid-December, but can be as early as November or as late as January.
- Drying off decisions are made on cow condition, feed budgets and calving dates, (not production), to ensure pre-calving target CS of 5.0 for MA cows and 5.5 for 2 year old heifers are met.
- Know the correct target pasture cover for the farm at critical times, (start of calving, mid spring when growth exceeds demand and start of winter), and use feed budgeting to ensure these are achieved.
- Utilise Halter to fully achieve the gains this system can provide: reducing time and labour requirements on farm whilst increasing production outputs, through more efficient pasture utilisation, better animal welfare and improved sustainability standards.
Aim to optimise the amount of pasture grown through good pasture management which includes achieving optimal soil fertility, strategic use of nitrogen, minimising pasture damage in the winter and overgrazing in the summer, and have a planned approach to pasture renovation.
Pasture cover and growth rates are monitored at least every 2 weeks and this information is used along with the spring rotation planner to manage pasture allocation during the spring. Frequent monitoring of feed budgets allows for proactive and early decision making.
- Feed policy
The feed policy is developed around managing low growth rates through the summer dry period. The budget includes the purchase of 60 t DM of maize silage to cover the summer dry period.
5 ha of maize is grown as part of pasture renovation and for weed control. To minimise the impact of cultivation on the light soils the maize is direct drilled with minimal tillage practices. The maize provides a bulk of feed to use in the autumn when pasture growth is often low.
10 ha of clean crop turnips are planted for weed control and to transfer feed from December to February.
20 ha of chicory are planted for summer feed.
- Supplements made
Surplus pasture is made in to silage or hay. The amount can vary each year from 0 to 40 ha, (120t DM). This is used to fill summer deficits.
- Supplements purchased
A small amount of hay, (about 15 T DM), is purchased each year to be used in the winter and spring during wet weather to help settle stock so trampling damage is limited.
Using Halter effectively will allow better allocation of feed and reduced pugging and it is estimated this farm will achieve an additional 1 t DM pasture should be utilised by the herd
- The animal health focus is on good observation, prevention and early treatment if required. Using Halter will greatly assist in the ability to do this by providing very early alerts based on real-time cow behavioural data which indicates subtle changes in cow behaviour before they can be noticed visually.
- The breeding policy is formulated with the aim of achieving a compact calving of 12 -14 days to mid-point for a planned start calving of July 18th for cows and July 15th for heifers. The PSC has been moved forward over the last 3 years to better utilise spring and early summer pasture grown.
- Pre-mating heats are taken and used to identify cows for anoestrous and synchrony treatment. The 2 yr old heifers are put on once a day milking from 1 month before mating and fed additional supplements if feed is short to ensure better mating outcomes for this age group.
- AB is for 3 weeks plus 2 days to cover returns from cows treated for anoestrus, followed by 4 weeks with leased bulls and then 2 weeks of AB using short gestation bulls semen.
- During mating the herds are split so there are 4 mobs on the farm which means 12 bulls are needed, 3 for each mob.
- Heifers are at grazing and mated with leased bulls at a ratio of 1 bull to 20 heifers.
- The replacement rate is 20%. Systems are in place to ensure that high live weights at weaning for replacements are met. This is 100 kg for crossbred calves.
- The herd health benefits of using Halter this season will be more fully realised during calving and mating with the live health monitoring the system provided for individual cows.
People, health and safety
- Staffing levels are set that allow flexible work rosters that provide the owners with better work/life balance.
- The farm has 2 sheds and is staffed with 2 full time farm managers, 2 FTE farm assistants and 0.7 FTE for 2 part time staff members, to cover relief milking and contract work. These employees are supported by 1.0 FTE of owner unpaid input.
- The owners are stepping back from hands on farm work this season. Their time will be spent learning to fully utilise the Halter technology and ensuring the farm staff assimilate into their roles effectively.
The aim is to eventually have the farm being able to be managed with less FTE’s, so the owners can spend more time pursuing interests off farm.
- Good documentation is provided for occupational health and safety and training undertaken to ensure staff follow protocols and processes.
- Staff are encouraged and supported to undertake further study through industry provided courses.
- Soils and testing
The farm soil type is predominantly Maeroa ash which is a well-drained allophanic soil. Protecting soil structure and maintaining weed free pastures are key considerations when implementing the farming system and do impact the budget.
Individual paddock testing has been done in the past so this information is used to enable strategic fertiliser applications. Olsen P levels are 27 and pH is 5.9.
The policy relating to N use is
- need to be sure of a good response
- need to be able to utilise the feed effectively
Realistically the opportunities that meet the above criteria for N use are limited, so N applications have historically been less than 50 kg N per ha. Attention is paid to application rates, timing of the application and the type of N used so that the risk of N leaching is minimised.
- Farm environment plan
The FEP was completed in 2020 and is used to prioritise planning to ensure continued progress is made towards achieving the best environmental outcomes for the farm and business.
- Riparian planting
The farm plan includes continued focus on improving riparian areas. The farm has over 16 ha of fenced riparian areas as well as 2.1 km of fenced river boundaries.
The plan for 2021-22 season is to carry out extensive weed control to prepare the river boundary for riparian planting.
The current effluent irrigation area is 75 ha. Work is ongoing to increase this area as time and budget allow.
E-motorbikes will be used for the first time this season as part of the farm policy to improve environmental outcomes. Not only are they cheaper to run and don’t use fossil fuels, they are also quiet which reduces noise pollution.
The use of virtual fencing via Halter is one of the features of the programme. This will enable fertility transfer to be controlled by excluding cows from camping areas which will reduce leaching and in the long term also fertiliser use.
Advanced mapping as part of the programme gives better 3D views of the farm and will allow improved grazing management of sloping areas which will aid in minimising surface runoff.
- Soils and testing
2020-21 Season Review
2020-21 Numbers at a glance
Milk Production (kgMS/ha) 931 936 Milk Production (kgMS/cow) 339 349 Net Dairy Cash Income ($/kgMS) $6.54 $7.60 Total Farm Working Expenses ($/kgMS) $3.99 $4.25 Cash Operating Surplus/Deficit ($/kgMS) $2.05 $3.35 Gross Farm Revenue ($/kgMS) $6.49 $7.54 Operating Expenses ($/kgMS) $4.11 $4.42 Operating Profit ($/ha) $2,173 $2,916
*These KPI's are based on cashbook actuals to 31 May 2021 and estimated non-cash adjustments. The final financial performance based on financial statements may differ.
- The financial performance for the 2020-21 season was defined by better than expected production and milk price. Net cash dairy income was 19% up on budget while total farm working expenses were only up 9%.
- The operating profit per ha for the season is estimated to be $2,916, which is 34% up on budget. A major contributing factor to this result is an increase in pasture eaten for the year of 1.3 t DM/ha. This is up 11.7% compared with the 2019-20 season.
- The majority of the increase in farm working expenses was due to a 90% increase in repairs and maintenance. With the better than expected payout more discretionary work was carried out, equating to $0.24/kg MS, with projects including a major upgrade of the vet race and yards at one shed, double glazing 2 houses, and clearing willow trees.
- In November 2020 the farm signed up to be part of the Halter programme. This farm management tool uses solar-powered, GPS-enabled smart collars fitted to each dairy cow and combines with a simple app to allow farmers to remotely shift, virtually fence and proactively monitor their cow’s health, feed and behaviour.
- This system provides a greater level of information for less physical input than less technical options. To gain the full benefits from this programme effort is still required to interpret and act on the information provided.
- Setting the farm up to fully integrate with this programme has taken a lot of the management focus for the latter part of the season. There will be ongoing changes to infrastructure as fences are removed so paddock sizes change from 1.8 ha to 4 ha to optimise land use.
- Benefits are already being seen with cows moving a lot more quietly, particularly entering the farm dairy, and the farm owners and staff are looking forward to the first full year with this programme, particularly the additional information that it provides for monitoring cows during calving and mating.
Other points of interest
- The early part of the season was great favourable weather conditions through winter and calving and with a better calving pattern getting the season off to a good start.
- Early gains were eroded later in the spring as it seemed impossible to maintain pasture quality due to early seed head emergence and very high November pasture growth rates. This impacted pasture resulting in feed with lower digestibility and DM%. The situation was further exacerbated with delays in getting supplement off due to contractor unavailability. Production was 7% behind budget by the end of December.
- Rainfall in the latter half of the season was much more regular than the previous season, and pasture growth rates were well up on the 2019-20 season. This made up for the earlier losses in the spring and the season finished with 5000 kg MS more than budgeted.
- Both herds went to once-a-day milking on the 18th of December. 70 Culls went off the farm through February and March and the remaining 539 cows were milked through to May. The last of the herd was dried off in mid-May, which is the latest dry-off date for the farm for some years.
- By May 31st pasture cover was at 2,350 kg DM per ha. 50% of the herd were at body CS of 5 and 50% were at 4.8, so well on track to meet the targets for planned start of calving.
- Silage made on the milking area in the spring was at 69 ha or 30% of the farm was nearly double the area made in 2019-20. This was a result of better spring growth rates, but also due to having less area out for growing maize. Maize grown was only 3.7 ha instead of the budgeted 8 ha. Increased silage-making costs were offset by decreased maize growing costs.
- Purchased feed costs were down as no hay was purchased. The good winter and spring meant very little of the hay on hand was fed out so there was still sufficient inventory on hand going into the 2021 winter. Maize purchased was 110 t DM (20 t DM up on budget), however, the price was less than budgeted, ($300 per t DM compared with $390 per t DM) so total costs was similar.
- The not-in-calf rate was 16% which was disappointing as it is higher than the 2019-20 season of 11%. The six-week in-calf rate is 70% E which is below target and the lowest for the farm for the last 3 seasons. Some of this poorer performance could be attributed to the poorer pasture quality through November. This will be an area of focus for the 2021-22 season.
- Sexed semen was used on the top 20% genetic merit cows for the first time this season. More of the lower genetic merit cows were mated to beef breeds. The aim of this strategy is to ultimately reduce the number of calves bobbied.
- Incidences of downer cows as a result of low phosphorous meant the decision was made to use DAP despite soil tests indicating soil phosphate levels were more than adequate.