One of the tools to help farmers during this critical period is DairyNZ’s Spring Rotation Planner (SRP) designed to help take the guesswork out of grazing management.
DairyNZ farm system specialist Chris Glassey says the tool is designed to help create a plan that the whole farm team can understand.
“Pastures in early spring are affected more by frequency of grazing than severity. The Spring Rotation Planner (SRP) will help farmers wisely manage the pasture and number of grazings which means pasture cover at balance date is well positioned to maximise growth and supply the quality feed needed for milksolids production.” says Chris.
“If pasture cover gets too low in early spring it can take months to recover, meaning feed deficits can extend into November, compromising production performance or requiring supplement to be fed during a period when most farms with average stocking rates should be able to feed cows on pasture only.
“People often think the SRP is about pasture only when really it’s about looking after your pasture first. It doesn’t matter how much feed you buy in or what part of the country you live in, the SRP can help you plan ahead.”
“It’s also worth noting the SRP will help you allocate pasture but it won’t guarantee you will have enough of it. If your starting cover is too low and your post grazing residuals are consistently below target, then adding supplement is likely to be profitable – provided you get it at a reasonable price.”
Setting up the SRP
Setting up the SRP is straight forward, especially if using the online tool at dairynz.co.nz. The difficulty is knowing what cover is required at the start of calving and at balance date.
“Generally you wouldn’t want to bottom out less than 1900kg DM/ha at balance date (when pasture growth equals demand) so you need to set your farm up at the start of calving to hit this target,” says Chris.
“Working this out can be done with a feed budget or by benchmarking against similar farms or trial and error.” In most cases it will be between 2200 and 2400kg DM/ha.
Tactics campaign continues
Over the next few months DairyNZ’s Tactics campaign will focus on helping farmers perfect their pasture management as a way to survive the current low milk price.
David McCall, DairyNZ general manager of research and development, says all of New Zealand’s farming strategies rest on pasture management.
“The best dairy farmers have mastered pasture feeding, kept their farm working expenses low and focused on margin,” says David.
DairyNZ events before and after calving will showcase the ‘pasture first’ message and help farmers get the most out of their pasture.
Budget case studies will also be updated. This resource details the financial spending of top performing dairy farms to help others identify ways they can reduce the impact of lower milk prices on their farms.
For more information visit dairynz.co.nz/tactics.
This article was originally published in Inside Dairy July 2016