Here are three examples of how farmer feedback has influenced DairyNZ to create farmer-focused solutions.
DairyNZ facial eczema workshop launched in wake of crisis
When Matthew Bartleet saw two cows drop dead in front of him as he brought them in for milking one January afternoon this year, he knew he was in the middle of a facial eczema crisis.
The Matamata-Morrinsville region experienced massive facial eczema (FE) spore counts this autumn, with veterinary clinics recording counts in the millions at numerous sites.
“The conditions we experienced over autumn were definitely the worst I had seen in 20 years of farming. We had spore counts of up to three million here on Tower Road,” says Matthew.
Milk volumes started dropping from January and clinical signs began manifesting a month later, with skin cracking and blistering.
Matthew tuned up his in-line dispensing, including checking flow rates and zinc concentrations, which helped reduce the clinical cases.
But after identifying 120 cows out of 700 with clinical signs, and losing 21, he felt it was time to seek more help.
“I knew if I had it (FE) then there would be others, and it was not going away quickly.”
Matthew contacted his DairyNZ consulting officer Brigitte Ravera, who teamed up with DairyNZ farm systems specialist Chris Glassey to organise a series of seminars on facial eczema management.
The events were presented by Emma Cuttance from VetEnt Te Awamutu whose Master’s thesis on facial eczema included examining spore count variability within a farm.
“We learned that the variability within a farm can be as great as the variability between regions; it is significant and more than you may realise,” says Matthew.
Matthew says a key take-home point from Emma’s presentation was ‘walking the walk’ when it comes to having a thorough facial eczema prevention programme.
“Because it’s such a sporadic disease you may think year-to-year that your programme is sound, when in fact it’s slipping a bit each year, maybe in terms of dose rate or length
He acknowledges his own operation suffered because of that mentality. “Our timing was right, but we needed to be more exact in our execution.”
He says DairyNZ’s presentations also gave him valuable advice for managing his affected cows.
“We worked on avoiding green feed (difficult in a system two operation) by putting them on palm kernel extract (PKE), hay and silage, and taking the stress off by going to once-a-day milking.”
He believes that advice helped minimise delayed losses this spring – resulting from liver damage caused by FE – which amounted to four deaths.
Farmers instigate high-performance discussion group
A group of high-performing Southland dairy farmers have tailored a DairyNZ discussion group to meet their needs.
Southland DairyNZ consulting officer Nathan Nelson learned of farmers interested in being part of a high performance group, so he went about organising it. About 20 farmers have met regularly for the past 18 months to exchange ideas, offer feedback and reveal what’s working for their businesses.
“A key requirement to be part of the group is that you are recognised as a top-performing operator and keen to be in the company of like-minded farmers,” says Nathan.
“You also have to be prepared to share all your financial information, knowing it is in confidence and will give a very clear, open perspective on how your business stacks up.”
Tuatapere farmer Peter Copeland, his wife Tanya and his parents have all been part of the group. As the youngest in the group, Peter says he’s appreciated gaining insights from more experienced farmers who are from a broad variety of dairy farm businesses.
“Being part of the group has reassured us we are on the right track. We have covered more than just the usual nuts and bolts of cows and grass, including things like farm succession. Nathan did a great job setting it up.”
New-look Spring Rotation Planner
Over the past two years dairy farmers have looked closer than ever at how to better manage their pasture and maximise it as their cheapest feed source.
DairyNZ has met this need by repackaging the tried and proven principles of the Spring Rotation Planner (SRP).
Developed more than 30 years ago, the planner was established on trials determining efficient grazing management in early stages of spring.
DairyNZ senior developer for feed and feed systems Kim Mashlan says many farmers used the planner last season during DairyNZ’s one-on-one feed review visits.
“We received feedback that the SRP is a really valuable tool and we wanted to do everything possible to raise its profile and make it more effective and efficient to use,” she says.
This resulted in DairyNZ adding a planner calculator online, with easy to enter data fields to help farmers calculate area allocation. A laminated A3 planner that can be re-written on, complete with details and key principles, was also made available.
“We’ve made it easier to find all the relevant details, including step-by-step instructions, as it’s now all in one place on the planner,” says Kim.
To get a hard copy of the SRP for your staff to use, contact DairyNZ on 0800 4 DairyNZ (0800 4 324 7696) or order at dairynz.co.nz/srp.
This article was originally published in Inside Dairy October 2016