Kicking off the breeding season on a 670-cow farm in New Zealand

Liam Brophy – who is in his second year of the Professional Diploma in Dairy Farm Management – has completed a calving season and has moved on to the breeding season on a 670-cow dairy farm in the Waikato region of New Zealand.

Filling in on what has been happening on the farm since we last spoke to him four weeks ago, he said: “We had our last calf a week and a half ago, and today was the first day of breeding.

“The plan is to use dairy AI for the first five weeks, then a few days of Hereford AI before the Friesian and Jersey stock bulls are let out.

Every cow that comes bulling in those first five weeks doesn’t necessarily get a dairy straw. If there is a cow not suitable for dairy AI, she’ll get a Hereford straw.

“All the cows were tail painted four weeks ago for pre-breeding heat detection. Out of the whole herd, 75% showed a heat.

Any young cows or cows with high indexes – that didn’t show a heat – got a CIDR. This is to make sure that they come bulling in the dairy end of AI.

Touching on the bull selection, he said: “The bulls being used are all high-index bulls on the New Zealand system. They are all LIC bulls, both Friesian and Jersey. A small cow will typically get a Friesian straw and a big cow will get a Jersey straw.”

In terms of heat detection, the main method is tail paint. The AI is completed in the morning and an extra person is needed in each ‘shed’ – two parlours on the farm – every morning to pick out the cows for AI and draft them manually.

Commenting on the current grass situation, he said: “The average farm cover is 730kg DM/ha or 228kg DM/LU. Regarding grass growth, we are growing around 64kg DM/ha/day and the demand is 54kg DM/ha/day.

“Our target is to go into pre-grazing covers of around 1,500kg DM/ha but, at the minute, some of the paddocks are heavier and we are struggling to reach residuals.

“We will probably be taking a couple of paddocks out soon if good growth continues, but there is also 15ha to be sprayed off for maize. Once that is taken out of the rotation we will be down to a 25-day round from a 27-day round.”

Almost no meal has been fed on the farm to date. There was one week where the temperatures dropped and 1kg/cow/day of palm kernal was fed; but Liam said: “In hindsight it was not needed.”

The cows are currently producing 24L/cow/day at 4.97% fat and 3.87% protein – achieving 2.18kg MS/cow.

Finally, Liam mentioned how the replacement heifers are doing. He said: “The replacements are doing well. They are still being fed 5L/calf of whole milk once-a-day (OAD).

“They are also getting 1kg of meal/calf and you can see that they are really starting to graze more. They will be going to the contract rearer weaned in December.”

Stay tuned to AgriLand for further updates on Liam’s trip to New Zealand.