Getting the ‘shades and shorts out’ on a 670-cow dairy farm in New Zealand

Liam Brophy – who is in his second year of the Professional Diploma in Dairy Farm Management – has just concluded a busy breeding season and is now onto the ‘short season’ on a 670-cow dairy farm in the Waikato region of New Zealand.

Liam, who is now into his fifth month of his six month trip to New Zealand, has been filling AgriLand in on what has been happening on the farm during the course of his trip.

Updating us on what has been going on since we spoke to him last month, he said: “Yesterday was the last day of AI [artificial insemination]. We had five weeks of AI and now the Jersey bulls have been let out. They will be out for about six weeks.

“All the cows have been served with a straw at least once and we achieved an 86% three-week submission rate.

During the peak of the breeding season, we could have had 30 plus cows to breed a day between the two ‘sheds’.

There are two parlours, or ‘sheds’, on the farm which are located in two different yards about a kilometre from each other – a 20-unit and 36-unit herringbone. Liam predominantly works in the big one.

“There are 12 bulls in total and they are being leased off another farmer. The big shed has two teams of four bulls and the small shed has two teams of two bulls – which are rotated each day,” explained Liam.

Like many farms in New Zealand, Liam’s farm usually has a period of drought which, for this farm, is common in the month of February. As the farm is not irrigated, they must prepare every year for this period.

The last time we spoke to Liam, 15ha had been sprayed off for maize which is going to be fed out in paddocks using a silage wagon – to extend the grazing rotation – when the drought hits.

Maize planted on the farm which will be harvested and fed out when the drought hits

In addition to this, Liam explained that another paddock has been taken out which they are going to plant with turnips – also to be used to drag out the rotation in the drought.

Commenting on the current grass situation, he said: “The average farm cover is 400kg DM/ha or 150kg DM/LU. We are growing around 70kg DM/ha/day, which they hope will hold – as the weather is pretty dry at the moment, but I think there is rain due at the weekend.

“Pre-grazing covers are between 1,400kg DM/ha and 1,500kg DM/ha. Since we last spoke, I think we have taken out 16ha for silage and put it in the pit. We are trying to keep bales to a minimum,” he added.

Currently, the cows are producing 22L/cow/day at 4.88% fat and 3.78% protein; so, achieving 1.95kg of MS/cow/day – with virtually no meal fed to date on the farm.

In terms of how the replacement calves are doing, Liam said: “They are doing well; the majority of them have been weaned.

“They are all still getting 1kg/calf of concentrates and are being grazed in a leader-follower system. The stronger group is moved every day and the other group is moved every second day.

There is just one more group of 37 calves – which is still on milk – but we will probably weigh them soon and draft out another group for weaning.

The Holstein-Friesian calves are weaned at 95kg, the Jersey cross calves are weaned at 85kg and the “very Jersey calves” are weaned at 80kg.

“We weigh them using a Gallagher weighing scales which reads their EID [electronic identification] tag. It can then: tell us what their daily live weight gain is; record their weights into a system; and can track their progress over time. It is a really useful system,” he explained.

Making a final comment, Liam said: “The days are a lot less hectic now; by Christmas there will just be the milking to do. The weather is really picking up too; it is 25° here today.”

Stay tuned to AgriLand for the final update on Liam’s trip to New Zealand.