Cole and his wife Virginia run 450 cows as part of an equity partnership on Virginia’s parents’ 120 hectare (ha) dairy farm in Hinds, Mid Canterbury. Cole is also a DairyNZ associate director and National Mastitis Advisory Committee chair. Virginia contributes to the farm, looks after children Hunter (2) and Ebony (4), and runs a part-time business in Geraldine. With such busy lives, it’s not surprising they’ve looked for ways to save time on-farm.
“We use LIC's (Livestock Improvement Corporation) 'Protrack' set up on our herringbone shed wall to update each cow’s details and treatments using its touchpad,” says Cole. “It also updates Minda automatically and, because the drug treatments have been colour-coded according to our vet's system, it makes getting the best treatment for our cows much easier for me and my two staff, Chris and Jacob. That automation and integration is a vital part of record-keeping for us, saving us time, money and increasing accuracy.”
Dry cow therapy
Another approach the Groves are using is based on the principles of DairyNZ’s dry cow therapy trial. “Any cow above 150,000 somatic cell count (SCC) gets dry cow plus teat sealant; any cow below that just gets teat sealant. In the last herd test, we only had to treat 27 percent of the herd with dry cow treatment."
With two irrigators electronically-linked to the pump, Cole knows as soon as one fails there’s always a backup during repairs. “Adding global positioning systems (GPS) will also help reduce nitrogen losses, as we’ll know exactly where we spread effluent on the farm, and on what day.”
The Groves moisture-monitor things regularly and they don’t put fertiliser on when temperatures are low. “Our three-speed effluent irrigators allow us to easily control applications to conditions, targeting paddocks. Even when consented, we often hold off applying effluent after taking our water table levels into account.
“Using technology to keep things simple – and ensuring everyone knows what to do and why – means the farm can keep going regardless of who’s on deck,” says Cole. “It costs money, but compliance means we should ‘front-foot’ things more. It’s certainly working for us.”
Cole's top tips
- Ensure staff know how to do everything on-farm and have access to what they need.
- Use automation for easier, more integrated recording keeping.
- Colour-code drugs for easy identification and selection.
- Promote high standards so everyone understands what to do and why it’s important.
- Keep looking for simple solutions – they’ll also make life on-farm more enjoyable
This article was originally published in Inside Dairy October 2018