Dairy Focus

Page 1

Dairy Focus May 2012

A multi-million dollar robotic milking shed under construction. Page 2-3

Dairy Industry Awards winners. Pages 4-5 & 20

An Ashburton Guardian Supplement


Dairy Focus May 2012

Robotic milkers, the future of milking cows Linda Clarke,

rural reporter, Ashburton Guardian

Mid Canterbury dairy farmer Bryan Beeston is building a multi-million dollar robotic milking shed to cater for a herd of “super cows”. The Beestons milk around 2300 cows, including 1500 pedigree Holstein Friesians that are the result of a 20-year breeding plan. “We are going to 2800 cows next season but will take the top 15-20 per cent of cows doing over 12,000 litres and put them on the robotic farm,” he said. A new dairy shed on Anama Station Road is under construction and it will house eight Lely robotic milking machines, each worth $250,000. Beeston says the super cows will milk themselves three times a day, on a grass-based diet. “We already milk three times a day on one of our farms, but the shed runs 12 hours and it is not much of a life for the people working in them, or the cows.” It is the first large scale grass-based commercial robotic operation in the country. The first robotic milkers were bought and installed by the Carr Agricultural Group four years ago on its showcase farm Stradbrook. The farm produces 170,000 milksolids from 75 hectares. Beeston says the robots are an investment in research and development for his big dairy business and are a “quantum leap” into the future of milking cows. The Anama operation is expected to be “standing on its own feet” within a couple of years. Lely Ashburton managing director Paul Tocker said 16 other robotic milkers had been installed on two Oamaru dairy farms and another four at North Canterbury.

Photos Tetsuro Mitomo

“That’s quite a lot of expansion. We are employing people and expect to install 20 or 30 a year at the least.” The machines are made in Holland and shipped to order. Specially trained technicians install them. “These are smart people. They are good at computing work and milk and mechanical.” A strict schedule of servicing is important so the machines don’t break down; they are expected to run 24 hours a day, seven days a week in climates hot and cold. Story continues over page

Dairy Focus

An advertising supplement of the Ashburton Guardian

Opinions expressed in this publication are not necessarily those of the Ashburton Guardian Publication date: May 17, 2012 Next issue: June 26, 2012

We welcome any correspondence to either: Amanda Wright, phone 307-7927 email: amanda.w@theguardian.co.nz or Linda Clarke, phone 307-7971 email: linda.c@theguardian.co.nz

Dairy Focus May 2012

Tocker said some 12,500 Lely robotic milkers were in use around the world and demand was growing. Around seven per cent of the Dutch dairy herd is milked by robot, and he says between 5-7 per cent of the Kiwi herd will be milked by robot within 10 years. Clients generally fall into two groups: High performance dairy farmers wanting to realise the milk production of their best cows or arable, sheep and beef farmers with some free land wanting to join the dairy industry.

about feeding, how the cows are going and weight gain, so pad, electronically-operated gates and the large milkers you can focus on nutrition.” in an enclosed space. Extras include back-scratchers for cows and mood lighting for cows who prefer to milk in the Tocker said the Stradbrook farm now had four years of middle of the night. information to call on when farmers were interested in turning robotic. “When people come and look they are amazed. They see these cows standing there being milked making money for them.

“People worry about the cost and it is a lot of money, but it provides opportunities and it is a different system. We never get anyone saying it is a crock.”

“A barn operation often suits them (the latter). It gives them a revenue stream without having to be a dairy farmer He said robotic systems also allowed dairy farmers to stay and convert.” in the business longer, as they were not burned out by Tocker said robotic milkers also attracted a different type early starts and unsociable hours. of dairy farmer. These farmers could avoid the unsociable “Some of the smaller herds are being run by husband and hours of traditional milking systems and sit happily wife teams, and they have got to the point where it is too analyzing the screeds of information generated by the hard.” machines. Laser Plumbing and Electrical Ashburton has teamed up Electronic ear-tags on the dairy cows connect to the with Lely to install the Beestons’ robotic milkers. Owner computer and together they collect data about herd Brent Christie said two staff had been specially trained for activity, body temperature, feed consumption and milk the job and others would join the installation and servicing production. crew as the number of robotic milkers grew. “There is so much information available from the robots


Electrical ducting for the machines is laid under the concrete when the shed is built to ensure no interference with the data network and robotic operating system occurs. Christie said a back-up generator kicked into action if electricity was lost and many issues could be dealt with remotely as the system included self-diagnostic software. The Beeston set-up also includes cameras which see into the shed and around the farm. Christie said the robotic milking revolution was yet another step for the district’s innovative and progressive farming community and his company was pleased to be a part of it. Christie’s father Les was also involved in wiring up the district’s first rotary milking shed for dairying pioneer John Roadley in the early 1980s.

Back then the rotary design was a novelty and the shed attracted plenty of attention. Thirty years on, the spotlight Robotic milking sheds are designed to incorporate a feed is on robotics.


Dairy Focus May 2012

Mid Canterbury dairy farms under the spotlight If there had been a trophy at the national Dairy Industry Awards for the best dairy farm employers, then the Johnson family of Mid Canterbury would surely have won it.

participation in a vibrant industry. The finalists are thinking about security for their family and about enjoying a more balanced lifestyle.” Judges say the change in ownership structures through equity partnerships and corporate farming had opened different career pathways and opportunities.

cows and have secured a 50% 650-cow sharemilking position for the new season. Mr Ewen says the couple had made huge progress since first entering the industry six years ago, amassing impressive equity Richard, Jan, Ben and Shannon Johnson growth over that time. The only single own the farming properties that man in the contest, John Butterworth, 24, sharemilkers of the year Enda and Sarah representing the Central Plateau region, Hawe and dairy trainee of the year Nathan Christian have worked on for the past “The finalists believe that farm ownership placed second. “The farm is one of 22 in the Rotorua Lakes catchment so he is extremely season and more. is no longer the only way to achieve security in the industry. The finalists are also environmentally aware.” Mr Butterworth is The Johnsons were as delighted as their 50% sharemilking 500 cows at Mamaku. concerned about the way the industry is employees when the national titles were Third went to Otago representatives, announced at a big black-tie gala dinner in perceived publicly and they are prepared to do something about it. It’s not just James and Helen Hartshorne, aged 34 and Auckland earlier this month. To complete about milk production and making money, 33. “They love what they are doing and the sweep for Mid Canterbury, Rakaia farm the fi nalists are aware of environmental manager Mick O’Connor was farm manager of the year. “It is incredible really and great for the farm,” said Shannon Johnson. “It just shows how strong the region is. It has been a real growth industry and we have attracted some top people.” Both the Hawes and Christian are moving on for the next season, leaving big boots to fill. Ben and Shannon are in charge of 880ha at Westerfield, converted to dairying in 2005. They milked 850 cows in that first season, but through development and land buying, they aim to be milking 2500 cows next season. Their operation has already been recognised for water efficient practices in the Canterbury Balance Farm Environment Awards. Judges in the dairy awards noted great relationships with employers and other top dairy farmers were features in the winners’ lives. National convenor Chris Keeping said organisers were blown away Enda and Sarah to have the three big winners from the Hawe won the title same region. “It also underlines the strength Photo Tetsuro Mitomo of sharemilkers and powerhouse the Canterbury region has of the year at the become in terms of dairy farming, and the national Dairy issues and looking after work tremendously Industry opportunities that creates for young people New Zealand’s global well as a team.” The Awards 2012. to progress their dairy farming careers,” she reputation.” Hartshornes, who are 50% said. sharemilking 540 cows at Judges also say the people While Canterbury was dominant, the Tapanui, both studied agriculture advancing the best in the industry finals judges noted other trends among in the United Kingdom and came to have great relationships with farm this year’s group of 36 finalists representing New Zealand in 2000 with nothing and owners and a good support network with 12 regions throughout New Zealand. have made great progress in the industry. mentors around them. The attention to Judges say it is clear the changing nature detail that 2012 Sharemilker/Equity Farmers There were also two Australians among of farm ownership structures is having of the Year Enda and Sarah Hawe gave to the sharemilker/equity farmer finalists – an impact on finalists in how they are every facet of their business was impressive, Northland’s Lucy Heffernan and Taranaki’s planning their future goals, there was head judge Andy Ewen said. “They are both James Van Den Brand. The 2012 Farm greater consideration of environmental really enthusiastic about the industry. Enda Manager of the Year, Mick O’Connor, 31, concerns and public perceptions of dairy is Irish and has come over here and made was a standout on-farm performer in the farming, and finalists had developed strong every post a winner.” competition, head judge Leo van den support networks to help them progress Beuken says. Mr O’Connor is contract The Hawes, aged 33 and 29, have been their career. “There is an acceptance that milking an 840-cow Dairy Holdings farm ownership isn’t the only way to enjoy lower order sharemilking (17.5%) 1400

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property at Dunsandel. “Mick is making the best use of the tools available to him to get the required results for all aspects of his farm, including his pasture management, record keeping of livestock, and health and safety. He had plans in place for the next few years, including going onto a 400-cow 50% sharemilking position.” Second place went to Waikato contract milker Thomas White, 23, who has a Diploma in Agriculture from Massey University. “Thomas is on a family farm close to the Putaruru township. The town looks down on the farm and there are lots of eyes watching him, so he has a strong sense of responsibility to ensure that he is farming responsibly. He was also doing very good production per cow and per hectare,” Mr van den Beuken says. Third place went to Auckland Hauraki representatives and career changes, Paul and Amy Koppens, both aged 32. “Not only have they had to contend with split calving, but the farm has two run-offs associated with it that they have to manage.” Paul Koppens was a drainlayer for 11 years and Amy Koppens worked as a property manager and also had her own wedding planning business. They are now contract milking 240 cows. The Dairy Trainee of the Year, Nathan Christian, 22, was an outstanding young man who is focused and determined to achieve dairy farm ownership, says head judge Don Seath. Mr Christian has a Bachelor of Commerce in Agriculture from Lincoln University and has competed in the Coast to Coast multisport event. He has a goal of farm ownership by 2020. “I would have a high level of confidence in the fact that he will achieve the goals he has set himself in the future. He is a very mature balanced person who works hard and manages to achieve activities off the farm as well,” Mr Seath said. “The trainee competition is gaining traction and I believe the trainees coming into the competition are better prepared than in the past – certainly they are receiving some good schooling from their supporters and advisors.” Southland farm assistant Robert Ankerson, 23, was second in the trainee contest, demonstrating strength in industry issues. Third place went to West Coast / Top of the South representative Michael Shearer, 19. “What separated Michael from the others was his confidence and ability to express himself.”


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Dairy Focus May 2012


Winners of the Dairy Industry Awards 2012 NZ Sharemilker/Equity Farmer of the year


NZ Farm Manager of the year

1st – Enda and Sarah Hawe, Canterbury/ North Otago, winning $39,970 in prizes 2nd – John Butterworth, Central Plateau, $22,000 in prizes 3rd – James and Helen Hartshorne, Otago, $13,380 in prizes

1st – Mick O’Connor, Canterbury/North Otago, winning $26,920 in prizes 2nd – Thomas White, Waikato, $11,000 in prizes 3rd – Paul and Amy Koppens, Auckland/ Hauraki, $3000 in prizes Merit Awards DairyNZ Human Resources Award – Scott DairyNZ Human Resource Management and Alicia Paterson, Auckland/Hauraki Award – Hannes and Lyzanne du Plessis, Ecolab Farm Dairy Hygiene Award – Enda Southland and Sarah Hawe RD1 Farm Management Award – Mick Federated Farmers of New Zealand O’Connor Leadership Award – Richard and Amy Westpac Financial Planning and Fowler, Bay of Plenty Management Award – Mick O’Connor Honda Farm Safety and Health Award – John Butterworth Fonterra Interview Award – Thomas White LIC Recording and Productivity Award – James and Rebecca Van Den Brand, Taranaki Meridian Energy Farm Environment Award – James and Helen Hartshorne 1st – Nathan Christian, Canterbury/North Ravensdown Pasture Performance Award Otago, winning $7500 in prizes – Barry and Nicky McTamney, Waikato 2nd – Robert Ankerson, Southland, $3000 Westpac Business Performance Award – in prizes Enda and Sarah Hawe 3rd – Michael Shearer, West Coast/Top of DairyNZ Interview Award – John Butterworth the South, $2000 in prizes.

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Dairy Focus May 2012

An Ashburton Guardian Advertising feature


Canty dairy farmers dependent on migrants The rapid growth of By Bruce Porteous, Immigration Placement Services farms. The majority the dairy industry of applicants have in Canterbury has created a critical agriculture degrees from the Philippines. shortage of local skilled dairy workers, There is some confusion amongst farmers and increasingly this shortage is being on what the definition of an Assistant Herd filled by skilled migrants from overseas. To Manager is. meet the demand Immigration Placement Immigration NZ will only approve an Services Ltd (IPS), a New Zealand company AHM for farms with over 600 milking cows, specialising in matching skilled migrants and can show that they have a broad with NZ employers, has been bringing range of farm skills. While AHMs are listed into New Zealand experienced dairy farm on Immigration NZ skilled shortage list, workers for the last seven years. which allows farmers to employ them with Four years ago, to meet the demand for approval from Work & Income NZ (WINZ), dairy farm workers, the directors of IPS very few Filipinos will qualify. Therefore they established an office in place of company need to come into NZ as Dairy Farm Workers based in Manila, Philippines to screen (DFW) and their employers will need to have and interview dairy farm workers for approval from WINZ before visas can be New Zealand farmers. The Manila office approved. interviews applicants and forwards resumes However the Ashburton WINZ office of those who qualify for work visas to realises that there are not suitable farmers. Those selected by employers are then interviewed on video with Skype. Over applicants in South Canterbury and gives WINZ approval for farmers to recruit from the years IPS has arranged for hundreds of farm workers to be placed with NZ farmers. overseas. More recently IPS has been bringing in experienced dairy farm workers Immigration NZ maintains strict guidelines from Sri Lanka. Many of the applicants from on only approving work visa for applicants there have a broader range of skills and as dairy farm workers, who must show that qualifications than Filipino DFWs and qualify have at least two years previous experienced as AHMs. As the demand for experienced on a commercial dairy farm, supported by DFWs workers is growing world-wide, New verifiable documents. As most applicants Zealand employers need to be prepared from the Philippines are unable to provide to accept suitable applicants from other the supporting documentation, applicants countries as demand continues to grow. are sourced from large commercial dairy farms in the Middle East and those with Currently IPS has qualified applicants from experience working on Japanese dairy Sri Lanka, Philippines, Nepal and Kenya.

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Bruce Porteous from Immigration Placement Services (centre) with Ernesto Bautista and Efren Mazano at Domore Methven Road, Ashburton.

Bruce Porteous from Immigration Placement Services with Joe and Cindy De Kort.

Bruce Porteous from Immigration Placement Services with Fe Dumaguing, Ashburton.


Dairy Focus May 2012

Meet the best breeders in South Island The contribution South Island dairy farmers have made to the genetics of New Zealand’s dairy herd was celebrated last month.

“With the dairy industry accounting for somewhere in the region of 40 per cent of New Zealand’s GDP our Premier Sires Breeders make a real difference not only to dairy farmers throughout the country but the country as a whole. “The contribution of the Premier Sires team to the New Zealand economy is conservatively estimated to be in the region of 17 billion dollars and its net present value around 300 million dollars each year – and growing.”

About 120 breeders and their families, from as far as Winton in the south and Hikurangi in the north, gathered at Livestock Improvement’s (LIC’S) base in Hamilton to celebrate the contribution bulls they bred, have made to the industry and the local and national economy as members of LIC’s elite Premier Sires team of artificial breeding bulls. LIC has two 2012 South Island breeders with bulls Premier Sires teams – those proven on the basis of their DNA in the Premier Sires teams and, older bulls, proven traditionally on daughter performance. Seventeen South Island bred bulls made it into the LIC Premier Brendan and Jacqui Durcan (Timaru). Bull, Durcans Labyrinth Sires Daughter Proven and DNA Proven Teams and were ET. John and Donna Dowdle (Invercargill). Bull, Ambrose Super recognised at the 2012 LIC Breeders Day. Stan. Fraser and Christine Macbeth (Nelson). Bull, Cawdor Pharoah. Steve and Nina Ireland (Temuka). Bulls, Lynbrook One South Island bull made the LIC Daughter Proven Kiwi Aftershock, Lynbrook OM Titan ET Cross Premier Sires Team and three, the DNA Proven KiwiCross S3J and Lynbrook HTA Trifecta ET. Team. Reefton Bred Jersey bull, Kerstens TGM Regal ET S2J Michael and Rachel Kersten (Reefton). and Temuka bred bull, Lynbrook OM Titan ET S3J were both Bulls, Kerstens TGM Regal ET S2J and members of first the DNA Proven and then the Daughter Kerstens KRC Ronaldo. Allan Maxwell Proven Premier Sires Teams and two other South Island bred (Wyndham). Bull, Maxwells Dan bulls were selected for the DNA Proven Premier Sires Team. Jazzman S2F. Nelson Cook (Hokitika). The South Island was also well represented in the Holstein Bull Westland CL Jasper-ET S1F John Friesian Breeds with three bulls in the Holstein Friesian and Jenne Kennedy (Winton). Bull, Daughter Proven Premier Sires Team and seven in the DNA Whinlea Dan Supersonic-ET Nathan and Proven team. LIC Premier Sires Product Manager Mike Amanda Bayne (Outram). Bulls, Busy Wilson said Breeders Day was a very special day on Livestock Brook Rapture-ET S3F and Busy Brook Improvement’s (LIC) calendar because it celebrated a unique Robust-ET S3F. Hans and Margaret group of farmers whose expertise, as breeders, deserves Schouten (Edendale). Bulls, Hazael SH commendation. “Breeders Day 2012 recognises those breeders Matrix-ET S3F and Hazael VA Razzlerwho have bred bulls used throughout the country in both ET S2F. Mark and Louise Jellyman Daughter Proven and DNA Proven Premier Sires teams. (Oamaru). Bull, Hoofing-It FM Houdini “Premier Sires accounts for more than 70 per cent of all the S3F. Russell and Kathy Hurst (Oamaru). New Zealand dairy industry artificial inseminations carried out, Bull, Invernia TGF Ignition S3F. Robert and thus produces the next generation of high genetic merit, and Ann Marie Bruin (Otautau). Bull, high performing dairy animals. Meander MW Emphatic S2F.

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Dairy Focus May 2012

I was hoping for a mild start to May to ensure this month’s production was in the bag. However I was greeted with the first, real frost of the autumn. Real, quantified by white ground and ice. Not the air frosts we have had to date.


than we do now, let alone the whole agricultural industry. We have been told Mid Canterbury to expect volatility, and we do expect it. Federated Farmers’ We do also need to remember that this is dairy section head just a glitch in the matrix. The world is still short of food. I will be able to report in the next couple of months on my trip to China to be part of the FAME course. Hamish Davidson

This was after our first real lashing of NW wind for the year. It coincided with the same time last year. I remember it well as does my insurance company with another claim to go through on a pivot overhang firmly attached to the ground.

Herd scene with Hamish

The Food and Agribusiness Market Experience aims to teach through total emersion in the culture. We (the participants) are visiting everything from the Fonterra dairy operations to the peasant rice fields, from Despite the media trying to create debate, I refuse to supermarkets to fabric traders and fish markets to north be drawn into commenting directly on winter feed and Chinese sheep producers. We will get a feel for our soon feed supply. Only to say that I am sure the cows will not to be biggest trading partner and the super power of our go hungry this winter. An abundance of dry land feed generation. This is a country and area (when including and silage from the best growing season in memory, will India) of endless opportunities. So I think I can handle hopefully outweigh the lack of later green feed planted a $5 something payout when there are over 2 billion post harvest and lack of straw. There are a lot of cows people wanting food security. coming to Canterbury whether they are conversion cows or en route to Southland cows. This I am sure has all Finally, the board of Fonterra listened. been planned for. A second vote on June 25 on the TAF (Trading Amongst Milk production nationally is 10 per cent ahead. Farmers) proposal is all about the senior management Globally 4-5 per cent. This is a huge number, when and board of Fonterra “front footing” the issue due to we usually talk lower, single digit numbers. This is discontent from within its share-holder base. immediately going to hit all Dairy Producers in the I applaud their decision to take the final decision back pocket. Payout has already been revised for the current to its shareholders and hope that they ask for a 75 per season, and predictions are $5 something. Budgets cent majority. If I was a governor of this business, I should reflect this. Costs of production will also have to would want a 75 per cent majority to rubber stamp the reflect this. This is worth in excess of $1 billion dollars proposal. less to flow into our economy next year. Our regional AGM was held last month with no change Mr English’s zero budget for the 2012 year will probably in the Dairy Section. If you would like to become need to be regurgitated in 2013 especially since the involved in our organisation it is relatively easy, ring me, government is siting lower tax takes as one of the pay your membership and come along to our meetings, reasons for not being able to balance the books. Don’t which are generally talking about our industry, the hold your breath on the dairy sector providing any more challenges, opportunities and threats it faces.

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Dairy Focus May 2012

Maintenance minimises lameness Fred Hoekstra Veehof Dairy Services

As the season is coming to an end, and with the new season is approaching, there are some important things that we need to be taking into consideration in order to maximise our cows’ hoof health through this transitional time.

best ways to manage these issues. The end of the season is also a good time to do some maintenance hoof trimming. Hoof trimming does not stop laminitis but it does help to minimise the effects of laminitis. Trimming the cows at this time of the year means that they will have well-shaped feet by the time they calf, and therefore suffer less from calving-induced laminitis.

A number of farmers will have cows on winter crops. It is important to introduce cows onto, and wean off, these crops gradually with an ideal transition period of at least two weeks. The time when the cows are coming off the crop is particularly important because they are close to calving and calving induces laminitis, as does a quick change of diet, so there is a bigger risk factor at that time of year. Lameness is a multi-factorial disease.

Remember that if the weight is distributed evenly over the claw then it is less likely for the outer claw to pack up due to the combination of overload and being sick. It is a bit like having a trailer with two really old tyres. When you load this trailer, but put the entire load on one side The more factors that are below the mark, of the trailer then the tyre on the loaded side is much the more likely you are to have lameness more likely to burst than problems. I appreciate that in some cases the tyre on the other side. it is very difficult to wean cows onto a different diet especially when the cows are If you spread the load away grazing. evenly over both tyres then you are less likely to end up However, it is important to keep these with a flat tyre. It may still things in mind - it may be beneficial to use happen but it is less likely. silage as the main part of the diet to help you with this transition. It would be a good In the same way, if you spread the weight idea to consult your nutritionist about the of the cow over the two claws rather than

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letting the outer So if you trim the outer claw back to the claw do most of the same height as the inner claw then you are spreading the weight evenly over the two work you are less likely to end up with claws. a lame cow. It sounds like a very simple and easy process, but it actually takes a skilled hoof The reason why trimmer to get the balance right. the outer claw usually does most of the work is because it Veehof is in the ideal position to help tends to grow bigger than the inner claw. you with learning how to get the “right This is why cows usually go lame on the balance”– contact us now on 0800 833463 outer claw. to find out more!

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Dairy Focus May 2012


Lead feeding can help reduce milk fever Rensinus Schipper

Ruminant Nutrition Consultant, at Dairy Business Centre

As New Zealand dairy farmers are aware, the main metabolic issue experienced during calving is milk fever, with the others being grass tetany (magnesium staggers) and Ketosis. Milk fever (Hypocalcaemia) is a result of low blood calcium levels not meeting the cow’s requirements once she has calved. This can bring about unwanted issues such as down cows, nervous trembling and suppressed appetite, all of which affect milk production. The high-risk period for such disorders is the transition phase between late pregnancy and lactation. Rensinus Schipper, Ruminant Nutrition Consultant for Dairy Business Centre (NZ) Limited, calculates that “a 500kg cow producing 30 Litres of milk per day will typically require 46g of calcium per day. However, that same cow is likely to only have 12.5 grams calcium available in her bloodstream or ‘available calcium pool’, therefore each cow’s requirements are four times higher than the amount of calcium in the readily available calcium pool. Furthermore, the colostrum milk contains double the amount of calcium of normal milk (2.4 grams/litre), placing even more demand on the cow’s calcium requirements during this critical time.” Remedies of the past have been to basically “starve” cows to keep them skinny, limiting potassium, keeping them on a low calcium diet and dusting the pasture with magnesium oxide. Current thinking centres around Dietary Cation Anion Difference (DCAD) which causes a mild Metabolic Acidosis, lowering of the blood pH, resulting in the cow having to respond quickly to buffer and turn on hormonal aspects of calcium absorption. Lead feeding involves the use of anionic salts which decreases blood pH, leading to an increase in the parathyroid hormone which in turn leads to an increase in calcium mobilisation from bones and an increase in calcium absorption from the intestine. Mr Schipper recommends introducing a lead feed supplement during the high-risk period (14 days prior to calving) enabling farmers to prepare their herd for the change from dry state to lactation, leading to increased milk production, reduced weight loss and improved productivity. “Lead feed also contains calcium to assist

in replacing / building the cow’s reserves in what she has lost over the calving period, keeping in mind that although the lead feeding will wipe out milk fever issues, there is still a fundamental issue of the cow’s calcium reserves being mined down”. The concept of lead feeding also involves feeding the cow a “high octane” high energy feed, thereby lifting cow’s energy levels and assisting them in reaching peak production earlier. Furthermore, it will assist in training the rumen bugs to be able to effectively breakdown starch based feeds which is important if the cows are going to be on a grain based ration during lactation. Research shows that cows on lead feed will reach peak production earlier, therefore increasing overall milk solids and providing a favourable margin over the cost invested in the lead feed. Mr Schipper suggests farmers take the time to sit down with their nutritional advisor and discuss the benefits of lead feeding in order to plan for the coming calving season.


Dairy Focus May 2012

An Ashburton Guardian Advertising feature

Fertigation – innovation with no down sides Fertigation is a relatively new concept, which involves “piggy backing” the application of fertiliser within your irrigation system. It means the timing, amount and concentration of fertiliser applied are all easily controlled.

delivered, leading to greater fertiliser efficiency. As a tool, it gives farmers more influence over crop behaviour, as specific nutrients can be applied accurately – with regard to both amount and timing – during particular stages of a crop’s development. And, by applying small amounts of fertiliser more often, there is potential to reduce fertiliser losses from leaching or immobilisation within the root zone.

Fertigation Systems owner, Graeme Pile says the technique is now widely recognised for its ability to increase yield, while also maximising fertiliser efficiency. “It increases the return on capital associated with your irrigation infrastructure and allows you to apply fertiliser very evenly Mr Pile says the incorporation of fertilisers and very accurately.” into an irrigation system does require some Mr Pile says one of the main advantages specialised equipment. “You will need a of supplying nutrients to crop roots using filter to stop any solid lumps of fertiliser fertigation is reduced delivery costs. blocking the irrigator’s sprinklers and a “There is no need to broadcast fertilisers valve to prevent back flow. In pressurised onto the soil. As a result, you have less soil irrigation systems, the injected fertiliser compaction in the inter-row areas, less fuel solution needs to merge with the water usage and lower labour requirements.” flow at a greater pressure than the water itself, or it won’t physically be able to join Fertigation also provides greater control over where and when nutrients are the stream of water.”

Equipment required

The most common type of pump used in fertigation in New Zealand involves proportional dosing. “This is when a constant pre-determined ratio of irrigation water and fertiliser solution is maintained, resulting in a constant nutrient concentration in the irrigation water. These pumps are compatible with variable-speed drives and water meters, which automatically alter the pump’s performance, as the water volume or flow changes.”

main factors to consider when selecting fertiliser for use within fertigation: plant type and stage of growth; soil conditions; water quality; and fertiliser availability and price. Mr Pile says a fertiliser needs to be soluble, or it will not work. “And, if you are applying more than one type of fertiliser at a time, it is a good idea to check that there are not any potentially detrimental interactions between those fertilisers.”

He says the considerable overseas In addition to equipment requirements, farmers should also be aware that a specific research on fertigation provides New resource consent might be required for Zealand with a good head start. “We are fertigation in their region. lucky, because we can learn from this research and avoid the same mistakes that our counterparts in Australia and America have made over the years. A large range of solid and liquid fertilisers “Fertigation enables farmers to be better is suitable for fertigation, depending on the environmental stewards, while – at the chemical properties of the fertiliser solution. same time – increasing profits. It’s an

Which fertilisers are compatible?

Scientist Uzi Kafkafi has identified four

innovation with no down side.”


www.fertigation.co.nz If you want to know more about how fertigation can benefit your crops or have any questions about the above articles talk to Graeme now. Graeme Pile

Ph M: 027 624 6750

Dairy Focus May 2012

An Ashburton Guardian Advertising feature


What is fertigation? Fertigation is using your irrigator to fertilise the plants and soils as you water. It does this by injecting fertiliser solution into the main water line. As you irrigate, you also fertilise. It is easy to set up and an efficient use of time and money. Best of all it gets results on all types of farms.

How long has fertigation been used in New Zealand? For over 10 years... and it has proven itself time and again. Experience and research over those years makes it clear that fertigation is an efficient and effective crop management tool. As you look at the potential benefits of using fertigation in your operation, you can find the information you need from the leader in fluid application technology – Fertigation Systems.

Northland to Hawke’s Bay and Marlborough to Central Otago. As the use of centre pivot irrigation systems increases around New Zealand, we are seeing considerable interest in fertigation in all farms types.

Is fertigation cost effective when compared to traditional application methods? Absolutely! Fertigation can be a very profitable alternative to aerial or truck application depending upon the type and amount of use. Studies have indicated that the annual cost of fertigation ranges from 34% to 60% of aerial or ground application - and decreases significantly as the number of applications increases during the year.

Does fertigation save on fertiliser costs?

What kinds of products can be applied using fertigation?

What is the economic payback on a fertigation system? While the payback period on a fertigation system will vary according to your application methods, the fact is that the more applications you make, the quicker your system pays for itself. With other forms of application, you simply keep spending money. Here's a sample of the economic impact of fertigation compared to conventional application – at a conventional application cost of $8 per ha, a fertigation system (estimated at $4500) pays for itself in less than six applications – while the investment in conventional application continues to climb.

What makes fertigation safer than

Based on university tests and field trials, the amount of conventional methods? fertilisers can be dramatically reduced when fertigation is used. On some crops, fertiliser use has been reduced by the The highest risk of fertiliser exposure to the operator or the environment occurs during tank mixing. Fertigation Virtually all common agricultural products can be following amounts without reducing yields: eliminates much of the tank mixing that is necessary for applied using the fertigation method – fertilisers and soil Nitrogen 40% to 50% crop management. With fertigation, fertilisers need only be conditioners. Phosphates 20% to 30% handled once per field. Tests indicate increased eff ectiveness of the fertilisers Do I need a certain kind of irrigation system Does fertigation use less chemical product? applied through fertigation over standard application to fertigate? procedures - even when smaller amounts of fertiliser are Yes. Numerous fertigation trials have proven that We recommend sprinkler type irrigation systems for applied. This makes good economic and ecological sense. fungicides rates can be reduced without reducing the fertigation. These can include centre pivot, linear, K- line or effectiveness. Fertigation reduces human and wildlife Does fertigation reduce my carbon other sprinkler systems. Sprinkler systems accommodate toxicity as well, because the fertilisers are diluted to a both soil and foliar applied fertiliser and provide good emissions in any way? much greater extent. Aerial application concentrates the uniformity of application. chemical in 10 to 15 ltrs/ha, where fertigation is applying Yes it does. Because you are not driving a truck around the paddocks you are emitting less carbon, PLUS, by using the same amount of chemical in up to 10,000 ltrs of How common is fertigation? water per ha. Any drift to non-target areas has less toxic Liquid Nitrogen which is in the form of UAN, it burns up Fertigation is one of the fastest growing crop potential, and the fertiliser is more safely introduced into less soil carbon than Urea. management practices in the world. the environment.

Isn't fertigation useful only for a few crops? Our fertigation systems have been used with great success for many different crops pastures, lucerne, potatoes, maize, brassica’s, wheat & barley. Fertigation systems are also being used for turf grass applications on golf courses, turf farms and in residential settings.

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Are there other cost savings with fertigation?

In addition to savings in application and fertilisers costs, there are other significant savings with fertigation. You make fewer trips through the field - reducing energy consumption, equipment wear and operator hours. You also reduce soil compaction. Additionally, incorporation is often achieved "free of charge". Some fertilisers and fungicides can be incorporated as part of the fertigation process by applying the correct rate of water.

Does government or local authorities have special requirements for farmers who fertigate? Since fertigation is becoming a more accepted management practice, most councils have no major issues with the use of fertigation systems. The major point is all irrigations units that draw directly from ground water supply should have a backflow preventer installed behind the place where the fertiliser is being injected. Even with this extra investment, a fertigation system will pay for itself in one season.

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Dairy Focus May 2012

Genetics night promotes better understanding A greater understanding of the National Breeding Objectives, the impact of breeding decisions and herd management was promoted at a recent meeting in Ashburton hosted by ATS.

the six week pregnancy rate. He suggested and may create phantom cows later in the farmers focus on the actual numbers as well breeding season. as how quickly the results are achieved. Farmers want to provide genetic gain at the best possible value, said Dr Chase also raised the question “are Dr David Hayman of Liberty Genetics. we breeding too early”? He said synch “Understanding the genetic gain within The presentation and discussion programmes may present cows to be the bull team you select from is important provided Mid Canterbury farmers with the inseminated before the uterus is ready. as it drives a farmer’s productivity for the opportunity to learn and understand more Inseminating cows less than 45 days after next five years,” said Dr Hayman. Within its about the national review along with issues calving results in lower conception rates such as selecting a bull team and herd reproduction. The evening was hosted by ATS and CEO Neal Shaw said the company was keen for farmers to have the most up to date information to make the best investment in their breeding decisions. Three key speakers provided expert information. Dr Charles Chase of VetEnt Riverside shared his insights into herd reproduction and said monitoring and analysing a herd’s reproductive performance would increase returns to the farmer.

Dr Jeremy Bryant of the Dairy NZ subsidiary NZAEL, spoke about the National Breeding Objective review conducted by the industry over the past year. “The result of consultation with farmers showed that 77 per cent agreed with the existing national breeding objective, with 55 per cent suggesting that it require no or minor modification and 45 per cent seeking a major or complete redesign. The most important traits identified by farmers were fertility, feed conversion efficiency, mastitis, longevity, milksolid production, udder conformation, lameness and body condition score.”

“By tightening up a calving pattern and having a cow calve two weeks early will add an extra 14 days of milk to her lactation, increasing her individual profit up to $140 for the year.” In addition to added milk, earlier calving cows were more likely to get back in-calf, and be ready for the next lactation, he said.

sire selection programmes, Liberty strives to maintain diversity of genetic strains to increase hybrid vigour and minimise progeny inbreeding, he said.

Photo Johnny Houston Experts in their field of dairy genetics (from left) Dr Charles Chase, Dr Jeremy Bryant and Dr David Hayman.

Key areas where gains could be made were B a submission l a n c e drates, M iheat n eintervals r a l Fand ertiliser


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Dairy Focus May 2012


Making good use of soil moisture sensors By Dr Tony Davoren, HydroServices Ltd

The first myth to dispel regarding soil moisture is the claim regarding “accuracy”. Accuracy is determined by comparison with an absolute, a value or measure we know to be true. When a soil moisture sensor is installed in the soil there is no absolute to compare the measurement. What soil moisture sensor “accuracy” really means is precision. If you took a number of readings over a short time period they would all be There are many reasons to irrigate. The primary reason is to maintain and/or optimise within ±1% or ±3% or whatever the claim of accuracy might be. production; aka dry matter production. Whenever I pass an irrigator operating when All of the sensors that measure the soil I have conflicting information I can’t help dielectric constant or dielectric permivitty but think – why was the decision made to are sensitive to soil temperature and salinity irrigate, just like the photo above taken on (conductivity). The best instruments filter 7th May 2012 at about 3pm. I know that not and/or correct the signal to minimise far away from this property soil moisture and the effect of salinity, temperature and temperature is monitored, and on that day texture on the measured soil moisture (e.g. soil moisture was more than sufficient to meet Aquaflex and some Decagon sensors). Both the pasture demand for water and to maintain temperature and conductivity are simple to potential production of dry matter. So was measure (easier than soil moisture), but the the decision to irrigate based upon: relationship is not simple. The traces below are an example of data that has not been Soil moisture sensor data showing the corrected for temperature. pasture was close to the stress level; or Encouragingly there is a more serious uptake of measurement and monitoring to make objective irrigation management decisions. With the expansion of irrigated pasture for dairy production and the decreasing availability of water for irrigation, better irrigation decisions needed to be made. But are we getting the best from the plethora of sensors and salespeople?

• 10-12 days of sunny weather; or • The availability of water for irrigation; or • Because neighbours had also started to irrigate; • Some other “gut” feeling. I will never know and maybe the decision was an objective one based on some measurements to show irrigation would provide an economic return. What we do know is more and more crop irrigation and effluent irrigation systems are using soil moisture sensors to assist making the decision. There is a plethora of companies making soil moisture sensors, especially those The soil moisture V% is shown in blue (-) and that determine volumetric water content (V%) soil temperature in red (-). The interpretation by measuring the dielectric constant of the of both traces show a number of interesting soil using capacitance or frequency domain relationships (or not): technology. • A diurnal variation in both soil temperature There are a number of claims made about and soil moisture; the various instruments by manufacturers: • BUT disconcertingly the soil moisture exhibits a similar diurnal variation as • Easy to install; the temperature; • Robust; • Quite clearly, there is not a simple • Easily pushed directly into undisturbed relationship between the temperature soil to ensure good contact and therefore and moisture; accuracy; and • The peak in the soil moisture occurs before • Plug and read technology.

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the peak in the soil temperature (shown as the vertical red dashed lines(--); • The diurnal peak of soil moisture is clearly incorrect – soil moisture cannot increase every day without an input of rainfall or irrigation (and there was no irrigation or rainfall every day); • The peak of soil moisture occurs around 5pm each day – not at all likely given transpiration predominantly occurs during daylight hours; • The diurnal minimum of the diurnal soil moisture (indicated by the ? ?) may indicate the actual soil moisture and its trend – that is soil moisture content is decreasing each day, but one can’t be sure; and • There is no simple correction factor (a constant multiplier) or an equation (it is not linear). What to do if you have soil moisture traces being returned to you that have this diurnal temperature fluctuation? Well: • You know it is sort of correct because it is doing what it should (fluctuating with temperature); and

• It has not been corrected (internally) for temperature; and • Has almost certainly been poorly installed; and • You cannot be sure of the soil moisture measurement; and • Most important, it is not the right sensor for your soil type. Ideally the sensor should be calibrated to measure the “true” volumetric (V%) soil moisture. Given this discussion of sensor behaviour and actual field measurements, is having the “true” soil moisture important? Of course. Would you accept the rain gauge you install measure 10-30% less or more than what actually fell; or That irrigator you bought applies 10-30% less or more than what it should; or That fuel gauge in your ute is 10-30% less or more than what it holds. Is that OK? I think not.


Dairy Focus May 2012

Dr Harding recommends transporting pregnant cows with care.

Transport pregnant cows with care Dairy farmers should take particular care if they are being transported to another when planning to transport cows in their location. Journeys should be as short as third trimester of pregnancy, says DairyNZ’s possible.” Dr Nita Harding. She says that careful planning is required Dr Harding is DairyNZ’s development team before pregnant cows are transported. leader for animal husbandry and says at this “Other than the duration of the journey, time of year, many farmers are transporting farmers should also consider their feed cows with well advanced pregnancies. transition plan and ensure the cows receive “There are several things farmers should an adequate supplement of magnesium be aware of to make sure their pregnant before and after the journey.” cows arrive at their destination in the best Twelve to 20 grams per day of magnesium possible condition.” supplement should also be provided to The key issue is to always make sure pregnant cows for at least three days before any cows to be transported have a body and three days following the journey. condition score of three or higher before All cows switching from one feed type to transport. another require a feed transition plan to “In late pregnancy even cows that are give their digestive system time to adjust in good condition are considerably more to the new feed, maintain their condition, susceptible to the stress of transport and and minimise any nutritional problems. need to be treated with patience and care Remember to consider a transition plan for

Thousands of dairy cattle will be on the move in Mid Canterbury during Gypsy Day.

than on concrete. “It is recommended that cows should not be stood off on concrete for any more than four hours at a time,” Dr New feed should be introduced into Harding said. “Any longer is likely to lead to the diet over seven to 10 days before the journey, by gradually increasing the amount sore feet and legs, and potentially problems with lameness.” of the new feed or supplement made available. If this cannot be done before Remember to take as much care with transport, ensure there is pasture at the unloading the animals at their destination. other end to transition cows from. Food and water should be provided on coming home from winter grazing, as well as a plan for going to winter grazing.

Dr Harding says that cows in late arrival and the animals checked, especially pregnancy should be treated with patience for signs of bloat, around two hours after and care when being brought in and loaded arrival. for transport. Dr Harding said it is always useful to have Before transport, cows should be someone who is skilled in transporting moved off green feed for four to 12 hours animals to supervise the process on the day (maximum) and be provided with hay and of transport. Pregnant cows are a valuable water to reduce the amount of effluent asset and are worth looking after properly. produced during the journey and minimise any nutritional stress. This is best done on a More information is available at www. grazed out paddock or stand-off pad rather dairynz.co.nz/transportingstock.

Dairy Focus May 2012


Dairy cattle on the move Thousands of dairy cattle will be on the move in Mid Canterbury as sharemilkers move to new farms with their stock on June 1. Federated Farmers is asking for drivers to be aware of these stock movements on rural roads. Sharemilkers will be hoping for good weather, making moving day less of an ordeal.

Federated Farmers also advises sharemilkers to cover off the terms of their contract, such as leaving the house available for inspection and ensuring that adequate feed is left on-farm. This includes ensuring that all stock are fit for travel, like being able to bear weight on all four limbs and in good condition to withstand the rigours of transport.

Some dairy cattle stock will be travelling by truck while others will be walking to their new farms. It’s If cows are to be walked to their new farm, not called gypsy day for nothing, as it also involves sharemilkers should check with their council to see if a permit is needed. It is also a good time to see moving the whole household too. if there are any other events being held along your “We’re asking people driving in rural areas to route, like a cycle race. It is better to plan around these sorts of things in advance rather than have be aware that there may be a larger than usual number of stock on the road or in stock trucks. If your herd confronting a wall of cyclists, getting jammed in the gateway and breaking fences. you encounter stock on the road then please be patient and please do not honk your horn as that Make sure you have the requisite signs and will startle stock,” Federated Farmers says. people for along the route. If your neighbours are “To reduce effluent spillage, we’ve recommended also moving, it is a good idea to ask them about their plans rather than two herds heading out the that stock are kept off green feed for a minimum gate at the same time and getting confused. of 4-8 hours before they are moved. Meanwhile, trucking companies have their own set of rules. Sharemilkers also need to ensure that if they They are required to have effluent holding tanks are going onto a Fonterra shareholder’s farm, which are emptied regularly at designated they have discussed the milk price/dividend payment structure with the shareholder. dumping areas to prevent spillage onto roads.”


Dairy Focus May 2012

New trustee for the Dairy Women’s Network Ashburton Trading Society’s CEO Neal Shaw is one of two new trustees on the board of the Dairy Women’s Network. He is the first male board member since the network was established in 1988. The other new trustee is Leonie Ward from Wellington. Mr Shaw has been with ATS since 1993, as retail general manager and general manager of operations, before becoming CEO. He is also the chairman of WaterMetrics NZ Ltd and is a director of ATS Fuel. Ms Ward is currently the Manager of Animal Welfare Sector Support with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI, previously MAF) in Wellington. Ms Ward is an associate chartered accountant and her experience includes role as the programme manager Border Sector at MAF, and Business Development Manager roles at Standards New Zealand and American Express. The chair of the Dairy Women’s Network, Michelle Wilson, said the two new trustees took the registered Charitable Trust from a board of eight to 10 people, an increase that has been made to provide additional strength to the board and to better serve the needs of its 3000-plus members nationwide. “The Dairy Women’s Network has become the premier forum for women in the New Zealand dairy industry and it is increasingly seen as an influential group within the industry and across New Zealand agribusiness. “Our membership includes a diverse range of women from varying backgrounds and different farm operations. It’s critical that our board represents all parts of New Zealand and all sizes of farms, and that it brings a range of business, commercial and agribusiness experience to the network’s operation,” she said. Mr Shaw said through his role at ATS, he recognised the value of women in the dairy industry partnership. “I believe I can add value to the network by building on the foundations that have already been laid, contributing to the ongoing development of a strong governance model, and progressing the existing strategic plan for this essential part of the industry. “It is no secret that men and women think differently, but I believe this is a strength in business and in life. My personal view is that the ability to be an effective director is not about gender and in fact many maledominated boards could probably learn from this. Ms Ward said she had had the opportunity to interact with the Dairy Women’s Network through her current role at MPI and she had been impressed by the passion, commitment and vibrancy of this important group of business women. “I am excited to have been appointed to the Board, as the dairy sector is of such vital importance to NZ Inc.”

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Dairy Focus May 2012


A balanced diet makes for healthier cows Prevention by regular Nitrate poisoning can Ian Hodge, cause sudden death in cattle nitrate testing is the best BVSc. MACVSc. grazing kale crops that approach. Testing should be Riverside Veterinary are very high in nitrates. strategic anticipating times Services Ltd Nitrates accumulate in of increased nitrate levels in brassicas under appropriate plants. Cloudy days and warm soils are high conditions such as cloudy skies and warm risk. Frost stresses plants and increases the soils. Nitrate levels can vary widely in risk. Sunny days are low risk as the plants different areas of the paddock so when are able to metabolize almost all nitrate in It is remarkable that cows can become testing take a representative number of to plant protein. adjusted to a very wide range of crops and samples from different areas. Stressed Kale and certain other brassicas can cause can tolerate high levels of things we might brassica plants may accumulate more severe changes to normal red blood cell consider toxic. It seems as long as we give nitrate than rapidly growing plants, for structure through products in the plants the rumen the chance to adapt to changes example dry soils and frosts, plant diseases which contain high levels of sulphur. in diets and make the changes slowly over and wilting may cause the accumulation These products come under the name a sensible period of time, cows can become of nitrate to dangerous levels. Nitrates SMCO. Once ingested by cows SMCO is can accumulate in plants from leaching adapted to almost anything. metabolized into dimethyl disulphide and of nitrogen from effluent ponds or from However each year we deal with cases of soils that have been heavily fertilized with it is this product which causes red blood cells to change. Eventually the cows that are sudden death and rumen ill health when nitrogen. affected become very anaemic and die. cows are grazing crops. In many cases this In cows, high nitrate levels can cause crop is kale, and kale is the most common SMCO is higher in the leaf parts of the kale death, chronic ill thrift and abortion. plants and its concentration increases as the winter crop used in this area. Once again we are heading for winter. Soon the herd will be off farm grazing alternative crops, and in most cases in Mid Canterbury this will involve brassica feeding. Other crops sometimes used include potatoes, carrots, palm kernel expeller and oats. Occasionally we hear of very radical crops being fed like onions, apples etc.

Photo Kirsty Graham 140512-KG-004 Fergus Butterick and Simon Bonnifant cut greenfeed crops for analysis.

plants mature. Levels are highest in flower heads and seed. Thus a high risk situation exists when vulnerable cows (heavily pregnant and recently calved) are forced to graze more mature kale crops that make up the majority of their daily diet. Treatment of cows with SMCO poisoning is almost always futile. Blood transfusions on a large scale are required, so it is best to prevent this happening in the first place by sensibly feeding kale as part of a balanced winter ration that includes grass or grass silage and straw, and avoiding feeding mature kale to very heavily pregnant and recently calved cows. If your cows are not “firing� on kale it may be wise to consider higher than expected levels of nitrates and or SMCO as a cause of possible anaemia. In all cases your vet will be more than happy to help reach the correct diagnosis.


Dairy Focus May 2012 DTOTY Nathan Christian.

Sarah and Enda Hawe.

Dairy Industry Awards Winners

Mick O'Connor and Kirsten Wyatt.