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It has been an unusual spring so far, and quite a contrast to last season for most of the South Island. Late August-early September have seen double the usual grass growth rates and good weather conditions for calving cows and less metabolic problems in general, which is good timing for farmers who are currently experiencing financial pressure. Less silage, more pasture and higher intakes have resulted in an early and higher peak in milk production per cow. The peak delivery to the factory will depend on last year’s submission and conception rate in the first six to eight weeks of mating.
Quite often the 10 day peak period is mentioned in pubs and discussion groups. A peak of 2.4 kg MS per cow or 7.5 kg MS/hectare/day sounds really good, but the challenge is to hang on to this as long as possible and keep the so called “post-peak decline to a minimum”, ideally below a 5% drop per month. This is really important for the total production per cow and per hectare for the season.Dairy farms in New Zealand differ substantially; this is dependent on geographical and individual farming factors. Geographical factors include weather and soil types. Farm management also creates vast differences between farms, such as farm size, cow numbers, fertiliser application per hectare, cow type and feed inputs. Maintaining pasture quality is the one factor that should be consistent, as this is crucial to ensure that the farm is able to keep riding on top of the wave for as long as possible.The following practices will help achieve pastures of 12+ MJ ME and 20+ % protein:Maintain grazing residuals between 1500 and 1600 kg DM/ha.
Don’t forget to stay on top of animal health issues:
Remember not to assume that what worked last year, will be sufficient this year. Have the cows wintered differently? Have you got more new pastures? Have you changed your fertiliser use?
The in shed feeding system can be a great help to control post-peak decline too, but should not cover up pasture management issues:
Keep on the ball and make sure your cows have every reason to keep riding that wave and get in calf as well!
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