In Southland, flooding also affected winter crops. There’s been uncertainty about access to feed supplies and meat processors have had reduced capacity due to Covid-19.
Farming has a really important role to play in our economy today, but these challenges mean it’s not business as usual. With winter looming, it’s important to consider your options to feed stock and many farmers are planning this now.
Create a winter feed budget
Having a feed budget is critical to help you quantify any feed shortages between now and calving. A simple feed budget template is online here. Your local DairyNZ consulting officer can help you complete this – phone 0800 4 DAIRYNZ. Having a budget allows you to consider your options and create a tailored action plan.
Assess your herd and plan your strategy
A whole herd body condition score (BCS) assessment will help you allocate the right amount of feed in your budget. With this information, you can create separate herds based on condition and implement different feeding strategies.
Dry cows need feed and time to gain condition. Cows fed autumn pasture will typically need 100 days to increase a BCS unit. When a high-quality supplement is added, this BCS increase can occur in 80 days.
If cows are still in milk, consider their calving dates and body condition score to make drying off decisions, with particular attention to heifers on their first lactation. DairyNZ's online calculator can help you decide which cows to dry off to recover BCS, based on calving dates, and if any can be milked on.
R2 heifer replacements coming back from grazing may need additional feed, so build this into your plan.
Pasture management and supplement use
Consider using nitrogen (N) in late autumn to boost pasture growth into winter. N fertiliser should be applied before soils become too wet and before soil temperature drops below 7°C to get the best response and minimise leaching.
Using a longer grazing rotation of 60 to 80 days, and feeding supplements, will encourage pasture regrowth when covers are low.
Check your annual cash budget
A number of farmers I’ve spoken to have felt more confident about drying off after doing a budget and finding their financial position was better than they believed. Although production may be lower, payout is higher than last year.
If you’re on track to achieving calving BCS and average pasture cover targets, milking on is an option if you have a plan identifying which cows can keep milking, and for how long.
DairyNZ consulting officers are here to help – you can contact us on 0800 DAIRYNZ (0800 4 324 7969). The Rural Support Trust can also offer drought assistance on 0800 Rural Help.