NEW ZEALAND – Northland dairy farmers, suffering the effects of more than a month of persistent rain, are talking through their options at DairyNZ discussion groups.
DairyNZ regional leader Tafi Manjala says sodden soils mean farmers will have to tailor their decisions to suit the conditions.
â€œThe majority of soils are saturated and in Northland we have quite a number of heavy soils, so a lot of pugging damage has occurred,â€ says Mr Manjala.
â€œLow pasture utilisation, caused by cows trampling the pasture, is causing quite a bit of pain for people because most need to use supplement to ensure cows are well fed.â€
Ruawai farm owner Peter Flood is one of those relying on supplementary feed.
â€œWeâ€™ve had to stand cows off because itâ€™s so wet and weâ€™re basically zero grazing the pastures at night. For seven or eight days cows only got pasture in the morning and they were just on the feed pad for the rest of the day,â€ says Mr Flood.
â€œIf we didnâ€™t have the supplements on hand it would have cost us quite severely, particularly on cow condition, but cow condition is still on target â€“ they didnâ€™t go below four condition score but a small number that did, have been put on once-a-day to pick them up before mating starts.»
Cow health has also been closely monitored on the farm, with more cases of mastitis and tender hooves than usual, because of the long periods of standing off on concrete.
Mr Manjala says it is best for farmers to focus on what they can control, rather than what they canâ€™t.
â€œIdentify where you are now and how you will manage your cashflow for the next eight months. Also, monitor feed supply every two weeks as we get closer to balance date, when grass growth equals cow demand. Donâ€™t over-buy feed that you may not need after two weeks,â€ says Mr Manjala.
â€œMaintain a rotation length of at least 30 days and minimise pasture damage by on/off grazing the dry cows and grazing paddocks from the back. Ensure cows are getting enough magnesium and calcium, as one downer cow can take up a lot of your time and energy.
â€œWhen the farm starts to dry out, plan to apply a compound fertiliser with nitrogen and sulphur, as they will be depleted from the soil after the extended wet conditions.â€
Mr Manjala suggests farmers continue to focus on the basics, such as matching feed demand to supply and protecting soil structure by minimising pugging.
â€œThe platemeter is likely to be over-estimating cover in the paddock, so use it as a guide and trust your eye,â€ says Mr Manjala.
â€œCreate a plan and communicate your plan with staff and your advisory team, such as your banker, accountant, farm consultant and rural suppliers. Implement it, continuously monitor results and make necessary changes.â€
Source: The Dairy Site