Spring pasture management for Dairy Holdings is crucial, which says its bible is the spring rotation planner, CEO Colin Glass told the Positive Farmers Conference.

“We are affectively allocating each portion of the farm through to the magic day when feed supply and demand are equal.”

Dairy Holdings Ltd, which has 51 farms in New Zealand milking over 44,000 cows said it operates high comparable stocking rate systems on all its farms, which means it stocks its farms aggressively, he said.

“This is where Dairy Holdings has chosen to position itself. It means we have to be very disciplined in our gazing rounds, grazing roations have to be right, particularly during the spring time.”

He said the spring rotation planner is a model developed by DairyNZ to enable dairy farmers to manage grazing rotations from the period when dry, pregnant cows return home from winter grazing immediately prior to spring calving, through until the break even date when pasture growth rate equals feed demand.

“Pasture cover targets are developed to enable the speed of the grazing rotation to be adjusted and to ensure early decisions are made so as not to suppress pasture growth rate at the crucial stage of the dairy season.

“Strict adherence to the planner ensures spring pasture growth are optimised and that cows are on rising plane of nutrition in the lead up to peak milk production and mating.”

He also said that a tight calving spread is crucial. In a temperate climate, he said, that a highly fertile herd with a tight seasonal calving spread is essential to ensure sufficient grazing pressure is applied as spring pasture growth rates increase.

“Ensuring sufficient cows are in-calf and available to calve down as quickly as possible at the start of the season is extremely important for achieving higher pasture utilisation.”

Pasture weekly walks achieve a number of things, he said.

“When we see a deficit coming through we look at the weather forecast, and try talk ourselves into things coming better and invariable they don’t.

“So, the earlier decisions we make are the best decisions.”

  • Weekly walks ensure the manager/sharemilker is aware of the feed position on the farm and able to tract this against the targets in the spring rotation planner.
  • Entering weekly data enables pasture growth rates to be calculated and benchmarked across farms. The information can be useful when predicting growth rates for the subsequent week and the expected pasture cover at that time.
  • Grazing residuals are carefully monitored and benchmarked across all farms.
  • Monitoring weekly pasture covers indicates whether pasture walk data is consistent and believable.
  • High pasture utilisation is the principle driver of high profitability and cash flow.
  • Fundamental requirement is high stocking rates with appropriate management systems.
  • Other management techniques are also important, but stocking rate is the main driver of pasture quality.
  • Consistent high levels of pasture harvested applies to all business units – heifers and bull operations as well as dairy units.