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Dairy Focus

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September 2013

Counting the cost Page 2


2 Dairy Focus September 2013

Dairy Focus Dairy Focus An advertising publication of the Ashburton An advertising publication of the Ashburton Guardian Guardian Opinions expressed in this publication are not Opinions expressed in thisnecessarily publication are not those of the Ashburton Guardian necessarily those of the Ashburton Guardian Publication date: September 24th, 2013 Publication date: September 2013 Next24th, issue: October 22nd, 2013 Next issue: October 22nd, 2013 We welcome any correspondence to either: We welcome any correspondence to either: Linda Clarke, phone (03) 307-7971 Linda Clarke, phone (03)email: 307-7971 linda.c@theguardian.co.nz email: linda.c@theguardian.co.nz Desme Daniels, phone (03) 307-7974 Desme Daniels, phone (03) 307-7974 email: desme.d@theguardian.co.nz email: desme.d@theguardian.co.nz Designed by Simon Fox, Ally Lamb, Eden Designed by Ally Lamb, Simon Fox, Kirk Williams Eden Kirk Williams and Cate Hogan and Cate Hogan

All around the region farmers are counting the cost of this month’s big blow – farm sheds were flattened, irrigators mangled, thousands of trees felled and electricity lost for up to a week.

Repercussions from windstorm linger Story by: Linda Clarke

R

Storm photography by: Tetsuro Mitomo

ebecca and Brent Miller’s first calving at their new Hinds conversion proved one for the record books thanks to the savage windstorm that ripped up the country at the start of the month. They had no power for six days, needed to truck in water for stock to drink and milked most of their 930 cows at a neighbour’s dairy

shed until electricity was restored. Rebecca said they also lost a barn and camped in their house with three children, gratefully accepting offers of help to do washing and provide baking. “The kids were petrified (the night it blew). Their bedrooms faced the barn and I was worried the roof would come toward us. They all slept on the other side of the

house, where there is less glass.� The couple heeded Metservice warnings of the severe gale and moved the five centre pivots on the new conversion to minimise wind damage. “We moved the irrigators just in time, but I know there are so many whose irrigators did not survive.� Around Canterbury, IrrigationNZ says about 800 irrigators have

been damaged and some won’t be repaired for three months. “Without irrigation Canterbury can be a dust bowl and it is a pivotal time to get water on the grass,� she said. Offers of help following the big blow have been welcomed by the Millers. Their farming partners did the family washing off-farm and they struck a deal with dairy

farming neighbours Nigel and Jane Reith to use their cowshed. “Our cows were basically running to their shed. We took them across to the Reiths after they had milked and milked ours there.� She said the neighbours, helpers and their staff had been legends. The windstorm struck in the middle of calving season and

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Dairy Focus September 2013 3

Power poles and lines lean precariously over roads after the windstorm.

Rebecca Miller

Rebecca said the young animals had fared well, despite having their feed cut to once a day. “But then because we had no water to wash the calfateria they then got a bug. Our vet has been out and the calves outside are good, but the bug is ripping through the 80 that are still inside.” While it had been stressful for the farming operation and her family,

good support had helped their through. “We have some pretty awesome staff and partners, and great neighbours.” Rebecca is an active member of Dairy Women’s Network and said the network and other organisations had plenty of advice to get farmers through the storm and back to routine milking. The Mid Canterbury Rural Support Trust and DairyNZ are helping farmers. “People need to realise they are not alone and put their hand up if they need help.” Mid Canterbury Federated Farmers president Chris Allen said there were some key messages the organisation would be pushing as a result of the storm, including the need for generators in farming operations that relied on electricity and for farmers to take Metservice warnings seriously.

He said EA Networks had done a fantastic job restoring power to its network and the last properties to be reconnected had issues with trees on lines. “The storm has just shown up how important electricity is and if it is important to your farm then you need a backup if there is an outage.” He said Federated Farmers would be holding a debrief with farmers and first responders soon to see what could be learned. A strong message to emerge will be the need for generators or for farmers to have access to generators. Electricity was as essential as dirt or stock and farmers who relied on it to run water pumps, cow sheds and milk coolers needed generators, he said. “Not all farmers have been caught without a generators, some have been proactive and protected their business. They are the ones who were a lot less stressed than

the ones with no power. “Farmers have to be proactive about what they do when there is a wind warning and protect their assets.” He said some farmers might have underestimated the strength of the winds, even though the Metservice predicted gale force winds likely to bring down powerlines and trees. A recordbreaking gust of 259.1 kilometres per hour was noted on Mt Hutt skifield. “Some were just unlucky and their irrigators were caught. Others braved the winds and tied vulnerable parts of their irrigators to heavy rollers.” On his own farm, three rotorainer irrigators backed into trees were not damaged. He said farmers needed eded to take heed of warnings ngs from the Metserivce, which also got it right in regards to previous snowstorms.

Federated Farmers will also keep the pressure on Chorus, to make sure roadside batteries that power landlines are recharged sooner than they were.

Continues page 4

Chris Allen


4 Dairy Focus September 2013

Debris and destruction

Fallen trees in plantations hitting power lines caused problems for farmers as electricity outages proved widespread.

The force of the windstorm moved a well-buried wooden power pole about six centimetres.

Shelter belts and hedgerows around the region copped the full force of the big blow.

From page 3 The same issue affected farmers in the 2006 snowstorm. Mr Allen said human welfare and animal welfare were the top priority in any adverse event and Federated Farmers support officer Angela Hogg was on the ground connecting farmers with the support services they

needed. Environment Canterbury is also allowing farmers emergency access to waterways to keep their stock watered. The regional council is asking farmers to take steps to prevent damage to stream beds and banks but allowing stock to drink from waterways – farmers

who do so must advise ECan, to ensure no enforcement action follows. Mr Allen said now the clean-up was over, farmers would still have plenty of paperwork to do around insurance claims. “There will be some managing needed to get back to normal, with

broken infrastructure, but farmers will just get on with it. We are a resilient lot. “It is not every irrigator in Canterbury that has been damaged. There are large numbers still fit for service and ready for business. For some farmers there will be a hit in food production,

be it process peas, or potatoes, or dairy, but for the rest it is business as usual.� • The recovery will take time and farmers who need help should phone the Mid Canterbury Rural Support Trust on 0800 787 254.

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Dairy Focus September 2013 5

George Paisley’s calf shed was demolished by the wind. Fifty bobby calves were inside when the shed began breaking up and all survived the big blow.

Donald Love’s tractor sits trapped in the wreckage of his new shed flattened in the windstorm.

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Making hay while the sun shines takes on a whole new meaning when you have the power to turn sunlight into money, and now you have an affordable and real alternative to buying your dairy farm’s power from the grid. When the rising cost of power becomes one of the largest costs to your business, it makes sense to look at your options. A decade ago, solar power was expensive to install, and the likelihood of financial gain was slim. But thanks to significant advances in the manufacturing of solar technology, it won’t just be the planet benefiting from your investment.

But as with any investment, it pays to do your homework. The single biggest mistake that could be made in an investment into solar is to assume that all panels are created equal. Unfortunately there is a large disparity in terms of quality available in New Zealand, which is why there are large differences in system prices.

Canterbury installers of this high-quality and reliable solar power system. The family-owned and operated team can provide a free, no-obligation personalised quote, to demonstrate how their solar power systems will pay for their own installation within seven years. After that, the plentiful savings will be additional cash-flow for you and your business.

Installing solar panels at your home or business is an investment toward your financial freedom. While solar power won’t completely remove your reliance from needing power from the national grid it replaces a large proportion of what you will need to buy from an electricity retailer, and in some cases, you can even receive credits for the power you enter back into the grid from your generated power.

Once those solar panels are on your roof you’re going to want them to perform year after year after year, which is why Direct Electrical source industry leading technology from Redpaths. Without getting too technical, Tier one panels are the best and most efficient available in New Zealand. Redpaths supply reliable quality solutions to renewable energy by supplying Phono solar panels, teamed with Power One Aurora invertors. Direct Electrical are your local Mid

Your solar panels come complete with a 25 year product warranty, but in reality the performance of the panels is expected to last more than triple that time-frame, ensuring your investment keeps on paying out year after year after year. Direct Electrical pride themselves in their after-sales service and electrical expertise, so you can have peace of mind in knowing that should a problem occur, it will be rectified in the shortest timeframe possible.

How long will this all take? Once you have decided that solar is the way to go for your home or business, Direct Electrical will organise an installation date at your earliest convenience, and within 24 hours you can already reap the rewards from your savings. That’s right, a domestic install will only take one day to fully set up your solar power system, and commercial installs can be completed within 48 hours. So what are you waiting for? Time is money, so the sooner you convert your main power source to solar, the sooner you can enjoy the cost-saving benefits it will provide your home or business.

While the reduced utility charges are one attraction to installing solar power, there are other associated benefits, such as increased property values. An environmentally friendly home or business looks particularly attractive to potential buyers looking to reduce their carbon footprint, so not only will you benefit from years of diminishing power costs, but your property will fetch a prettier penny when it goes under the hammer. Solar power is also environmentally friendly as it is renewable energy, so you are benefiting the living space of your community for generations to come. Solar energy creates more power than what was consumed in its creation, you can’t ‘use up’ sunlight as you can with mediums such as coal and solar power is as efficient as nuclear but with no nasty residual waste product.

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Quick, Cheap, Easy and Effective Milk production in New Zealand dairy farming systems relies heavily upon the year-round availability of high-quality forages. There is a huge range of different feeds and products being used on dairy farms across the country. Price is a major determinant on feed type preference among farmers, however we must look deeper into the composition of feeds to ensure our cows are at their most efficient and most profitable. Proximate analysis is a quantitative method to determine the different macronutrients contained in a sample. It is the partition of feed compounds into different categories by means of common chemical properties. These categories are moisture, ash, protein, fats, fibre and soluble carbohydrates. It allows us to more accurately predict exactly what our cows are consuming and therefore helps us to balance their diet to meet their requirements. A lengthy and expensive process is required to determine the chemical composition of feeds by wet chemistry. Another faster, cheaper and accurate method to produce the same results is NIRS (Near-infrared spectroscopy) analysis. More in-depth analysis can also be measured by NIRS such as nitrate concentrations and amino acid profiles. NIRS analysis is based on molecular vibrations of the sample. The machine records the spectra of a sample which are calibrated against known quantities or wet chemistry for a particular feed type. Separate calibrations are required for different feed types as their chemical compositions are different. NIRS is widely applied in agriculture for determining the quality of forages, grains,

grain products, oilseeds, vegetables, and other agricultural products. It is widely used to quantify the composition of agricultural products because it meets the criteria of being accurate, reliable, rapid, non-destructive and inexpensive. Why Test Feed Characteristics? Over the years New Zealand’s milk production has maintained steady growth which sees us being accepted as a world leader within the international dairy industry. It is generally recognised that this achievement has been built on the success of New Zealand’s grass-based feeding systems. However, even though grass can be seen as the perfect diet, there are seasonal periods when grass quality changes, nutrient levels drop and milk production consequently decreases, ie feeding first-round grass when grass quality is low coming out of winter or when pastures are going through reproductive stages in November/December. These cycles cannot be prevented and have a major effect on milk production as protein levels in the grass decline. Another common area of concern for farmers is the ongoing increase in farm-working costs. Now more than ever, farmers need to realise the importance of improving and maintaining revenue streams through the efficient use of all available resources. Testing feed material characteristics allows farmers to effectively balance livestock diets based on the quantity and quality of the feed available, in combination with the use of appropriate complementary feed supplements. This allows for more effective financial planning and budget control.

The environmental impact of agriculture in New Zealand has also come to the forefront in recent years and continues to attract attention from researchers and consumers alike. Research continues in an effort to help us to mitigate these issues. Improving nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) in our cows is one way of reducing nitrate leaching and should also increase profitability as there is less waste being excreted in the form of urea. Measuring NUE is only possible if we can measure the protein concentration of the feeds we are using. Accumulation of nitrates in plants can occur during periods of drought when plants uptake nitrates but cannot convert them into plant proteins as rapidly as during normal growing conditions. Nitrate toxicity can be a major issue for grazing ruminants because of the high level of pasture intake. Dietary nitrates contribute to the production of microbial protein in the rumen but if the concentration is too high the ability of haemoglobin to carry oxygen to and carbon dioxide from living tissues may be affected. The ability of NIRS analysis to measure pasture nitrate concentrations can help us to avoid health issues in our herds and to ensure milk production is not compromised. Pasture quality continues to be top of the agenda on most dairy farms although the continuous fluctuation of pasture composition throughout the season is still poorly

understood. Dairy Business Centre (NZ) Limited has started NIRS monitoring of pastures from four separate farms in Canterbury and Southland in an effort to increase our knowledge of these fluctuations. We are confident this data will give us a better understanding of how we can supplement our cows more efficiently at different stages of lactation in order to maximise profitability. Dairy Business Centre (NZ) Ltd is now providing nationwide NIRS analysis services to farmers and other members involved in the livestock sector. The use of new technology and testing methods, together with a better understanding of the feed data being made available, will help your business become more efficient and more profitable. If you have any questions or would like more information on the benefits of NIRS testing, either talk to your nutrition consultant or contact Dairy Business Centre (NZ) Limited on 03 308 0094, email lab@ dairybusiness.co.nz .

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10 Dairy Focus September 2013

Contributed by Fonterra

Fonterra secures second China hub has been around two per cent over the past three years but demand is growing at around six to eight per cent. “So there are significant opportunities for Fonterra to help bridge this supply gap by growing our own domestic milk supply in China and continuing to import our high quality finished dairy products.” When fully operational, Fonterra’s two hubs will together produce up to 300 million litres of milk per year. “The new Ying County farm hub is a significant step forward in our strategic plans in China. We have received strong support from many levels of government in China and we are looking forward to continuing to build strong partnerships with our local communities in both Shanxi Province and Hebei Province over the coming years,” Mr Wickham said. Fonterra has extended its farmer training programme to Shanxi to support the new hub development and to build the strength and capability of the local industry.

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onterra has announced its second farming hub in China will be located at Ying County, Shanxi Province and that it is looking to secure strategic partners in the development. The Ying County hub will comprise five 3000-cow farms. It is expected to be in production in the second half of 2014 and is the next step in the company’s strategy to produce one billion litres of milk in China by 2020. Fonterra president of Fonterra Greater China and India, Kelvin Wickham, said: “This is a key part of our strategy to become a more integrated dairy business in China and to contribute to the growth and development of the local Chinese dairy industry. Having secured the right location in the Shanxi province we are now able to approach potential strategic Fonterra is increasing its presence in China with the aim of producing one billion litres of milk in China by 2020. partners. “Ying County provides an ideal environment for us to high quality supply of animal feed which around three-quarters will Province and will help us to meet available in surrounding areas.” be local employees. customer and consumer demand expand our farming operations Fonterra will employ more than “The second hub builds on our for high quality fresh milk in China. due to its new agricultural zone, 500 people in Ying County, of existing investment in Hebei “Raw milk supply growth in China proximity to customers and the


RURAL BUILDING SOLUTIONS Rural Building Solutions held an Open Day at the end of June at the 54 bail rotary platform dairy shed, owned by the Mulholland family near Darfield. Over one hundred people attended, and enjoyed the complimentary coffee and steak rolls while talking to the Rural Building Solutions team, sub-contractors, and others at the afternoon event. Mark Mulholland commented that “the day was enjoyable – there was a lot of local interest.” Rural Building Solutions have had a busy year, building eight dairy sheds throughout the greater Canterbury region – from Carew in Mid Canterbury, through to Rotherham in North Canterbury. They ranged from 50 bail to 80 bail rotary platforms. Currently they are building a 60 bail ro-

tary platform at Oxford, complete with a 100m x 40m feed pad and large effluent system. “If you are considering converting to dairying, give me a call to discuss sooner rather than later, as our bookings for the coming year are filling up” says Nigel Hodges, director of Rural Building Solutions. Last year they had to turn a number of potential clients away as the demand was so high for a well designed and quality built dairy shed. Nigel said that previous projects they have built can be viewed on their website www.ruralbuilding.co.nz.

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12 Dairy Focus September 2013

Carnage and the unseen cost By: Tony Davoren, HydroServices Ltd

P

hew, I missed the storm last week but I have seen the carnage. Time is of the essence now, something we don’t have with spring marching onward. The unforeseen cost will be in potential lost production waiting for irrigator to be repaired and in many cases, parts to arrive from United States. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I was at a funeral in Eastern Washington State (US) last week when the windstorm devastated Canterbury. I did see evidence of its force when I flew back in on Saturday,

September 14, especially the trees and plantations lying on their sides. You have all seen carnage like this centre pivot – not a nice sight and not likely to be repaired in the near future, so I do not intend harping on about the damage. I have seen varying reports of the number of pivots and other irrigators that are down – “More than 800 irrigators across Canterbury could be out of action after Tuesday’s big wind,” according to Irrigation NZ estimates. No one company carries sufficient

mid-plains pasture soil moisture levels as of September 16. Ideally for this centre pivot irrigating pasture we would like to operate within the light blue shaded area. Current daily water use (ET) shows the soil moisture ill reach the lower limit of this shaded area about September 20 or 21. Of more concern is the pasture will be under moisture stress about September 27 with current ET and no rainfall, but more likely sooner than this as days lengthen and temperatures rise. At the latest this centre pivot would need to be

parts for complete or even partial rebuild of centre pivots and/or linear irrigators. The parts will need to come from Nebraska – the home of centre pivot manufacture. First by rail to San Francisco, then by ship to New Zealand, then by road to repair sites. How long? Normally delivery of an irrigator is of the order of nine weeks from order to delivery on site (or there abouts). What are the consequences and how soon will the pinch be felt? The answer lies in the soil and it is not great news. The soil moisture record shown is pretty typical of

running (in the absence of rainfall) by about September 25. What if it is not a centre pivot but a roto-rainer on say a 10day round. To be finished by September 25 (the day when all paddocks will reach the stress point) irrigation needs to have started at this property. Not likely if the roto-rainers or the like are on the ground. What are the implications if you are not running by the time soil moisture reaches the stress point? Yield loss will occur, ie, pasture production will decline.

Frustrating and costly repairs are needed for many irrigators after the windstorm earlier this month.

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Dairy Focus September 2013 13

No rain scenario

100 90

80 70

100mm rainfall

60 50 Soil Moisture 0-200mm (mm) Full Pt

40

Stress Pt

30 14/Aug

19/Aug

24/Aug

The loss of pasture production is about 0.25-0.3 percent/mm of potential water use below the stress point. Sounds complex huh? The pasture will not continue using water at the same rate as it does before reaching the stress point and

29/Aug

3/Sep

8/Sep

13/Sep

yield loss is calculated using the potential water use. Currently the water use (the potential water use) is around 1.6mm/day, but increasing day by day. So how long till irrigators are repaired? If delivery is nine weeks from the US, there is a week to

18/Sep

23/Sep

28/Sep

pack out, a week at this end to unpack and another week to repair it will be 12 weeks before the pivot is up and running – 84 days or second week of December. Doesn’t bear thinking about really, but let’s consider the potential loss of pasture production.

First, if there is no rain before the second week of December the potential yield losses are very high because the potential deficit will simply keep increasing day on day. For example, the average water use between now and second week of December will likely be 2.5-3mm/day. Since the pasture is about nine days before stress is reached there will be 75 days (84 less nine days) before irrigation could start following repairs. That is if you were growing an average of 50kg DM/ha/day over the next 80 odd days, the potential

loss would likely be 2345-3375kg DM/ha on these shallower soil types. But it will rain – right? Assume we get about average rainfall for the next two months – about 100mm. The implications are much less, but nonetheless significant. Once again, if you were growing an average of 50kg DM/ha/day over the next 80 odd days, the potential loss would likely be 10951875kg DM/ha on these shallower soil types at anticipated potential water use of 2.5-3mm/day.

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14 Dairy Focus September 2013

Generators come to the rescue I

f your rural business Laser Electrical’s Brent Christie (left) and Phil Moore with a generator installed relies on electricity, buy in James Murdoch’s cowshed. It was put to good use after the windstorm. a generator or at least have access to one, says Laser Electrical owner Brent Christie. Brent and his Ashburton crew pulled some long hours, alongside farmers and others working in rural areas, earlier this month when galeforce winds knocked out electricity to large chunks of Mid Canterbury. Trees fell on lines, whole barns blew away and many cowsheds could not operate. Dairy farmers stressed about not being able to milk cows, or run water pumps for stock, cleaning or irrigation. Brent said many farmers underestimated the force of the winds and the length of time it would take for power to be restored. “They thought it would be on a lot quicker, but the extent of the damage was unknown. Once people realised, there was a rush for keep milk chilled and pump water. Most of the calls fielded by Laser generators.� “A lot of our work was on farms, in the days after the big blow were At one count across the district, running generators or shifting from dairy farmers, saying they there were requests for 60 generators. Lots of dairy farmers needed electricity to milk cows, generators to hire.

were sharing generators, and milking at different stages in the night. You would get to a place at 1am, stay there while they milked

then go to the next one.� Brent said while ideally every dairy farm should have a generator, or access to one, the reality was

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Dairy Focus September 2013 15 farmers prioritised spending, especially for new conversions. “There is huge expense for anyone setting up a dairy farm and a lot put off buying a generator.� Generators can be tractor mounted or diesel powered, and range from $8000-20,000. Sheds must be wired with a generator change-over switch to take the alternative power source. Brent deals with generators made in Europe and China and says the eastern-sourced generators are good value for money. “For the number of hours they do, farmers have to make a judgment call on the level of quality.� And once they had a generator, they needed to test it regularly. He said farmers and those in the service industries worked together in the days after the wind to make sure cows were milked. At Laser, a crew of seven worked through Tuesday night, catching 40 winks in their vans between jobs, while office-based staff were on logistics duty matching vans to emergencies in particular areas. “And we had guys covering the work they were supposed to be doing before the wind. They all pitched in and it was a challenge to get everyone milking and working again. But we are in the service industry and that is what we do.�

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16 Dairy Focus September 2013

Choosing the right one

A crucial step in choosing a generator is ensuring that you get a model that will supply enough power for your home, business or cowshed. Generators are intended to temporarily provide for your basic needs during an emergency situation, not run every appliance.Different generators provide different wattage and include circuit breakers designed to shut off power before maximum load is reached, a move designed to protect the wiring. Most generators can sustain only 80 per cent of their

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maximum power for the long haul. If you constantly push your generator to over 80 per cent of its maximum power, you will shorten the life of your generator. It also risks damaging the generator and the appliances connected to it. Â Therefore, when choosing between a smaller or larger generator, bigger is always better. The best way to know what type and size generator is best for your farm is to ask an expert electrician. A good one will come to your farm and assess what best fits the job.

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Dairy Focus September 2013 17

Cows barns will increase production With new more strict effluent application requirements together with reduced allowable nitrate leachate levels, dairy farmers on lighter free-draining Canterbury soil types will either have to reduce stocking rates or find solutions to allow them to continue at their current stocking rate. Any

farmers are also in a situation where they need to increase production for increased profitability without increasing stocking rates, so how do they both look after the environment while increasing production? The answer is simple, they run their cows in a cow barn and watch production rise

while capturing all effluent. Cows in barns produce a lot more milk while keeping cooler in summer and warmer in winter. Very little energy is used up keeping warm or walking, so cows are able to convert more feed into milk. Cows in a typical pasture-based farm are

only in the yards for 10 to 15 per cent of the day and therefore that is the only portion of the total effluent that can be captured. Dairy shed effluent is well watered down, it is probably the least harmful to the land while the real problems are the concentrated patches of urine and faeces done naturally during the other 85 per cent of the day. A cow barn will allow you to capture all effluent and to be able to dispose of it at the correct application rate over a wide area thereby mitigating the effects of those previously concentrated patches that were causing the problems. The optimum temperature range for a cow is 10 to 16 degrees C. Cows were never designed to be out in our hot Canterbury sun as they cannot sweat. Cooler cows are not stressed and convert more feed into milk. So how much additional production can be achieved by using barns? The answer is anywhere from 20 to 100 per cent, most Kiwis are astounded when they learn the truth about barns, many will realise they should have had them years ago especially during times of snow, flooding and prolonged wet weather which causes so much havoc trying to keep cows fed and warm, meanwhile milk production plummets. Learn what a cow barn can do for you and your farm now.

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18 Dairy Focus September 2013

Phantom cows haunt herd fertility W

Cows and healthy calves are the outcomes wanted, not cows with phantom pregnancies.

ork by a leading veterinary researcher is helping farmers shed light on the vexed problem of “phantom cows” and the impact they have on a herd’s reproductive performance. Dr Scott McDougall has been summarising recent research on the problem to vets around the country this spring, through the Zoetis spring road show. A phantom cow is a cow that is not detected in oestrus (heat) by 25 days after insemination, therefore thought to be in calf, but is then determined to not be pregnant at pregnancy testing. “You are left with this concern, what is it about these cows that causes them to be this way, and how can we better avoid them?” Typically a vet may find at pregnancy testing time five to 15 per cent more empty cows than the farmer may have expected, as a result of the phantom cows not being discovered earlier. Dr McDougall described a complex mix of physiological, pathological and managerial factors that make detecting and reducing phantom cow incidence a challenging one. “Short returns” that is cows that ovulate (and show heat) 10 to 14 days after a first mating occur in perhaps 75 per cent of cows that are bred at the first ovulation after calving. Such cows have a very low chance of getting pregnant. However, from the

farmer’s point of view they have no way of knowing whether the heat they observe is in a cow having a first ovulation and heat after calving or not. Add in risks of embryonic mortality and poor heat detection, and it was understandable farmers were getting higher than expected incidences of phantom cows. “United Kingdom research shows us around a third of cows didn’t follow the text book when it came to having normal ovulation cycles,” Dr McDougall said. Using techniques like fixed time AI introduced an even higher risk of phantom cows occurring, with about 43 per cent of treated non-cyclers that did not conceive to the first breeding not returning to heat at 18-24 days after mating in one New Zealand study, he said. “But for farmers using that technique, in their eyes those cows have been bred, and haven’t returned to heat and are assumed to be in-calf, but in reality they have not conceived.” Dr McDougall’s advice to vets and farmers was to look hard at a herd’s non return rate at week five of mating. If the nonreturn rate was more than 70 per cent, particularly where that group included treated for non cycling “alarm bells should be ringing”. “Realistically the first service conception after a non-cycler treatment rate is about

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Dairy Focus September 2013 19 40 per cent and only about 50 per cent in cycling cows, so if you get 70 per cent not returning in week five, it can’t be correct, there must be cows in trouble there.” Minimising the risk of phantom cows occurring involved the familiar InCalf messages of feeding before calving, having a 5 to 5.5 body condition score (BCS) at calving, and adequate feed levels post calving. The use of re-synchrony programmes without pregnancy testing was an option, but Dr McDougall cautioned that using progesterone alone had a negative effect on first pregnancies. Confirming pregnancies using early pregnancy detection before initiating treatment was an option. But as these treatments may affect existing pregnancies, accurate early pregnancy testing is critical. A South Island trial with 1800 cows conducted by Oamaru veterinarian Mat O’Sullivan found resynchronising had the best effect in low body condition score phantom cows (BCS 4.5 or less) whether or not they had been treated as non-cyclers earlier in the breeding season. When re-synchronised the thinner phantom cows experienced a significant increase in their 10 week in calf rate, which lifted from 25 per cent on average without treatment, to 60 per cent following re-synchronising.

Re-synchronising cows is a promising option for farmers with the problem of phantom pregnancies.

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20 Dairy Focus September 2013

Westland’s farmers recover from storm Contributed by Westland Milk Products

All except one of Westland Milk Products’ 34 Canterbury suppliers were powered by generator for a Ɵme during the emergency.

T

he resilience and community spirit of farmers was highlighted in their response to the severe windstorm that hit the South Island this month, with lightning strikes, power outages and winds of up to 150 kilometres per hour toppling thousands of trees and bowling over large pivot irrigators as if they were matchsticks. With power out, roads blocked by fallen trees and stock-water reticulation unable to function, farmers had more than their share of challenges, but still found time to help each other out, and even get out on the road to use their chainsaws to clear trees. Local authorities praised farmers who were out in the dark clearing trees so emergency vehicles could get through to thousands of impacted homes. Westland Milk Products chief executive Rod Quin says suppliers on both sides of the Southern Alps were affected by the storm, with the most severe impacts in Canterbury. All except one of Westland Milk

Rod Quin Products’ 34 Canterbury suppliers were powered by generator for a time during the emergency, some for several days while waiting for power to be restored because of the regional scale of the storm damage. Most electricity was restored within five days – a few, largely more isolated farms, or farms with line damage on the property, had to

wait longer. While most farms had generators, not all of these were of a size to drive-stock water pumps in addition to powering dairy sheds, so supply of drinking water to cows became a challenge. This was resolved by the organisation of tanker deliveries of water to the impacted Westland suppliers. “In spite of access issues and power supply problems,” Mr Quin says, “no-one had to dispose of milk. All milk was collected thanks to

an incredible effort by Westland’s transport team and farm liaison teams, with some of our staff working around the clock to support farmers.” While only two Westland suppliers were impacted, across the Canterbury region hundreds of centre pivot irrigators were toppled, causing a regional

damage bill estimated to be in the millions of dollars, and likely to take two to three months to fix right at the beginning of the irrigation season. Fortunately there was no major damage to buildings on farms. “In a strong expression of neighbourly spirit,” Mr Quin says, ”farmers shared resources to help

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Westland dairy farmers coped well during the power outages, with no farmers having to dump milk despite the disruptions caused by the storm.

each other through, with three Westland herds being milked in other dairies, and Westland suppliers also taking in cows from other farms. “People also drove generators between farms so everyone could get their milking done, with

some generators going almost 24-hours per day to ensure cows were milked at least once a day.” On the West Coast, strong winds and lightning strikes also caused communications problems, milking delays and saw some farmers hooking up to generators

to get through. Communication was the biggest challenge with internet down, telephones taken out by lightening strikes and cell phones intermittent. Contact with suppliers in North Westport and Karamea was completely

lost for about 24 hours, with staff using vehicles to catch up with suppliers and ensure no help was needed. Farther south, power was out in the central Grey Valley from Stillwater to Ikamatua, but came back on in time to allow everyone to milk at least once a

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22 Dairy Focus September 2013

Getting possums under control G

round-control work is being undertaken in the rural outskirts of Dunedin to reduce the risk of bovine tuberculosis (TB) infected possums spreading the disease to cattle and deer herds. Either hand-laid toxins or traps will be used to control the possum population, depending on which method is preferred by affected land occupiers in the area. Local contractors are consulting with land occupiers on the most appropriate control method for their property. The operational area includes several lifestyle properties, commercial forestry and the Invermay AgResearch facility. The planned operation covers about 1800 hectares of the Wingatui, Abbots Hills, Halfway Bush and Silver Stream areas near Mosgiel. Work began earlier this month and is due to finish in late December. Ground-control work last took place in the area about four years ago and was extremely successful in lowering possum densities. However, surveys have shown that possum numbers have increased to a level where they pose a risk of spreading the disease to nearby cattle and deer herds.

Possums are being targeted in a ground-control programme run by TBfree New Zealand near Dunedin.

Scientific evidence indicates that possums are responsible for about 70 per cent of new herd infections in TB risk areas. TBfree New Zealand Southern South Island programme manager

Brent Rohloff said ground-based control methods are suited for use within this semi-developed rural community. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Due to the number of land occupiers in the operational area,

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Warning signs will be erected in the operational area, stating that hand-laid toxins or traps are being used to control bovine TB in the surrounding possum population. Â

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this is one area where C-Dax Pasture Meters can help reduce the workload. Each Pasture Meter from CDax has advanced sensor technology, which enables measuring speeds of up to 20 kilometres per hour while taking readings at 200 measurements a second. So not only can you cover more ground, you can measure that ground more accurately and will get the same result no matter who is operating the unit, or what the weather conditions are. All C-Dax Pasture Meters are fully integrated with C-Dax SmartMaps. Through SmartMaps, farmers are able to access imagery of their farm and then draw in their paddocks, view feed wedges, and review application history. Historically this was a costly exercise that often had to be done by a contractor. Farmers have enjoyed greatly increased pasture use using a C-Dax Pasture Meter, and that trend is set to continue as the new pasture meter and high-tech console can also be

used on C-Dax spreaders and sprayers. If an area of the farm has been spread or sprayed in a given operation, the machine will automatically shut off when it enters that area; likewise, when it leaves that area it will start up again. Not only does it make spraying and spreading easier, but the new technology will

help dairy farmers comply with new environmental rules by recording proof of placement, what was spread (or sprayed), and how much was applied. The Pasture Meter + complete with console is selling for $12,425 + GST but C-Dax has other, less expensive, pasture meters starting at $5,255 + GST.

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24 Dairy Focus September 2013

Software training coming to you D

airy farmers across New Zealand have the opportunity to attend free software training which could open the door to improved cow conception rates during the upcoming mating season and better pasture management. The training is just one of a programme of 31 workshops being held by dairy farmer cooperative LIC from one end of the country to the other this month and next. The majority of New Zealand dairy farmers use LICâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s herd recording programme, MINDA, to manage individual and herd information and the upcoming set of workshops will help farmers get even more value from MINDA. LIC general manager farm systems Rob Ford said technology is more a part of modern dairying than itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ever been.  â&#x20AC;&#x153;Todayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s farmers need information at their fingertips about various aspects of the herd or farm so they can make decisions at the right time.  They also need to be able to tailor this information so itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s unique to their farming goals and system. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Our job, as their co-operative, is to provide the training they  need

Todayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s farmers need informaĆ&#x;on at their fingerĆ&#x;ps about various aspects of the herd or farm so they can make decisions at the right Ć&#x;me. at the right time, in the right place and in the right format so theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re able to attend and immediately have new tools they can put into place on their farms.â&#x20AC;? Two workshops are on offer to farmers â&#x20AC;&#x201C; one in the morning, and the second in the afternoon. The morning session is designed to help farmers get to grips with MINDA Land & Feed Basics so they are more able to offset weather extremes, be compliant with environmental requirements and, overall, achieve more efficient use of pasture. The afternoon session is designed to help farmers improve their

South Island sessions September  24: Karoro Learning, Greymouth

October 4: Ashburton Trust Events Centre

September  25: Eatery on the Rock, Takaka

October 8:Â Heartland Hotel, Gore

September 26:Â Murchison Sports Centre September 27: Amuri St Johns, Culverden

October 10: Ascot Park Hotel, Invercargill October 11: Rosebank Lounge, Balclutha

September 30: Kingsgate Hotel, Oamaru October 1: Darfield Rugby Club October 2: Ashburton Trust Events Centre October 3: Stonebridge Function House, Geraldine

ability to manage and analyse cow and herd mating performance during the upcoming dairy  mating season. Mating with MINDA will show farmers how to analyse their calving pattern, identify, record

October 9:Â Ascot Park Hotel, Invercargill

Farmers wanting to register are invited to contact Wendy Anso, LIC learning and development co-ordinator on 07 859 4142 or via LIC reception 0800 651-156 or via email (name, which workshop, number attending and contact details) to training@lic.co.nz

and manage at-risk and noncycling cows. Â They will learn how to create mating groups, identify short returns and, overall, improve their recording of matings. Mr Ford said each of the workshops is 1.5 hours in duration

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Dairy Focus September 2013 25

Fertility focus T

For example in a 600 cow herd that allows for 10 per cent empty we have 60 cows we can afford to be empty leaving 540 cows we need to get in calf during the breeding season. If we aim for a 78 per cent sixweek in calf rate this means we need to achieve 421 pregnancies in 42 days. This means we must achieve a three-week submission percentage of at least 95 per cent and a first service conception rate of 55 per cent. If we achieve this over two three-week periods we will have 416 pregnancies in 42 days. This leaves the bulls to mate 124 cows. If we elect to have no cows to induce next year and mate for 10 weeks only, the bulls have four weeks to achieve this. 124 cows mated in 28 days equates to just over four pregnancies a day. One bull should be able to achieve at least two matings a day. In theory four to five bulls are required for 124 cows (one bull per 30 cows) so rotating two bulls a day should work. If only life were that simple. In reality we have short heats, long heats, lost pregnancies, phantom cows, non cyclers, bull attrition, poor weather, inaccurate heat detection, low cow body condition

here is no doubt the In Calf Programme has advanced our knowledge of, and techniques used in, improving dairy herd fertility: if you are not familiar with In Calf now is a good time to source the In Calf Book and inwardly digest it. In Calf emphasises the facts that: â&#x20AC;˘ Dairy cattle reproduction improves incrementally over several seasons. â&#x20AC;˘ Dairy cattle reproduction is like a cake and is made up of several ingredients. Some of the important slices of the cake are dealing with non-cyclers and bull management. The importance of incremental improvements cannot be overstated; significant improvements in dairy cattle reproduction cannot be made in one season so if you are on catch up be prepared for several seasons of intense reproduction management. If you wish to achieve a profitable six-week in calf rate of 78 per cent and an acceptable empty percentage of 10 per cent or less you have to achieve a three-week submission percentage of 95 per cent or greater and a first service conception percentage of 55 per cent or greater.

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26 Dairy Focus September 2013

Proactive practices prevent problems

T

he season is well on the way now and the weather has been great so far, and because of that we certainly have not had the lameness issues we experienced at this time last year. However, improving the hoof health of a cow is a constant goal. Even with weather like this we know that lame cows will come. A lot of the severity of the lameness depends on management style, herd size, milk production level and diet. There are several things you can do to minimise lameness and the cost of lameness. Foot baths can be used but are only helpful for infectious diseases. Fortunately, we donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have many of these diseases in New Zealand, even though it appears that digital dermatitis may be on the increase and we need to be on the lookout for this disease. However, apart from this and foot rot, we are close to being infectious disease-free here. Foot baths should not be used for hardening the hooves as that will not minimise lameness. Another option is preventative hoof trimming. Hooves that are not functioning well are more likely to induce lameness. But what does that mean? The principle of a wellfunctioning hoof is that the weight is spread as evenly as possible over the medial and lateral claws. That means that the pressure on every square centimetre of both claws on the sole is basically the same. This can be achieved by making the dorsal wall as short as possible (7.5cm) so that the weight goes more towards the toes. Then the claws need to be at an equal height, at least as close as possible. This way the excess weight of the bigger claw (usually the lateral claw) is transferred ransferred to the smaller claw (usually sually the medial

Y ER E V I D EL WI E D ION E FR NAT

claw). By doing this the effect of laminitis will be less severe and therefore the cow will be more mobile. Obviously preventative trimming is best done before the cows go lame. Overseas, farmers usually trim their cows feet twice a year. They need to because their cows spend many hours on concrete in their barns. As New Zealand farming is usually pasture based, our cows spend a lot more time on soft ground which means that the claw height difference has a less diverse effect because the softer ground will shape more around the hooves. Nevertheless, our cows are spending a substantial amount of time on hard surfaces when they walk to and from the cow shed and stand in the holding yard, and this is when the overloading of the lateral claw is most likely to occur. Because of this, preventative trimming also has an effective role to play (as was shown to be the case in a trial we conducted a couple of years ago) and should be included as part of our best farming practices in New Zealand as well. Instead of trimming all the cows twice a year like our overseas counterparts do, we can get away with trimming a smaller portion of the herd. It is not necessary to trim the whole herd, just the ones with long toes and uneven claws. But in saying that, we do have a number of clients who do trim all their cows every year with very good results. A healthy herd starts with preventative action. It adds to pride and enjoyment in your herd and your achievements.

Keeping an eye on your herdâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hooves and being proactive with hoof management will lessen the problems lameness causes.

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Dairy Focus September 2013

27

Check irrigators for lightning strikes By: Irrigation NZ

I

rrigation NZ says farmers should exercise caution when starting irrigation systems – even if storm damage isn’t obvious – as lightning strike has emerged as a secondary cause of problems following last week’s storm. “Just because your centre pivot didn’t blow over in the wind doesn’t mean your system is okay. We are now hearing reports of irrigation control systems fried by lightning strike, especially along the Canterbury foothills. Farmers need to check their infrastructure carefully before the season begins. Don’t start your irrigator before you’ve undertaken appropriate the safety checks,” says Irrigation NZ chief executive Andrew Curtis. “Irrigation system pre-season checks will be even more important this year as parts and labour will be in short supply due to the storm. Irrigators can not afford for their irrigator to break down due to negligence as it will result in downtime. Basic checks like ensuring the pivot tracks are free from obstructions, tyre pressures are correct and so forth are a no-brainer,” says Mr Curtis. A pre-season irrigation check list is available free on Irrigation NZ’s website www.irrigationnz.co.nz and printed, laminated copies for continual use in your pump shed can be ordered for $10. Two weeks on from the big wind, Irrigation NZ says insurance companies and the Government deserve credit for fast-tracking crucial repairs. “The Government has been extremely helpful and potentially this will make it easier to bring in the irrigation specialists we need. Parts are on their way from Dubai, China and America and we now just need the manpower to get our machines up and running.

Lightning strikes are emerging as a secondary problem for irrigators as farmers start the clean-up following last week’s storm in Canterbury.

“The important thing is to accelerate this so the irrigation season isn’t delayed any longer. Irrigation NZ will monitor the situation and provide information and key contacts that the industry can access,” says Mr Curtis. The insurance industry has also risen to the challenge with a commitment to fast-track claims and get clients up and running as soon as possible, says Mr Curtis. “Specialists from FMG Rural Insurance, which has the largest market share of irrigators, joined Irrigation NZ today on a tour of damaged machinery in Mid and South Canterbury.  “They’ve proposed some solutions to help settle claims efficiently and

are moving quickly to assess what needs to be done,” says Mr Curtis. FMG Rural Insurance has received more than 200 claims already for irrigator damage totalling $6.5 million, says FMG Rural Insurance’s Manager Risk Advice Matt Harvey, “and this number is expected to rise as more reports of damage come in”. More than 1200 claims with an estimated cost of $11 million have been made to the company for damage to farm buildings, machinery and vehicles following last week’s storm.   An emerging issue is around wind damage to irrigation systems installed on properties but yet to be commissioned (made operative).

Irrigation NZ has been made aware of a handful of farmers whose systems suffered significant damage but were uninsured because the system wasn’t up and running. “There’s only a few irrigators in this situation but it’s an insurance issue that needs to be highlighted for the future,” says Mr Curtis. Irrigation NZ and FMG Rural Insurance’s advice for irrigators affected by last week’s storm: • Begin your check with the machine turned off. • Walk the length of your irrigator or pivot and check for physical damage. • Check for signs of electrical damage at the pump shed and along the length of the irrigator.

Walk the length of your irrigator track and check for irrigator parts, trees or other debris in the paddock. Take precautions when driving around. • If you have experienced damage contact your insurance company and lodge a claim. • If you have concerns or require an assessment get in touch with your local supplier to let them know. For further information, please check Irrigation NZ’s advice in relation to this storm at www. irrigationnz.co.nz as well as the standard pre season checklist for irrigators developed by Irrigation NZ in conjunction with FMG Rural Insurance.

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28 Dairy Focus September 2013

Lauriston School pet day

Xanthe Butterick, 8, with Boris.

Oskar Trafford, 8, with rare triplets called Pullnick, Heavenick and Pushnick.

Isla Miers, 8, keeps Bubs happy.

Oliver Maw, 9, with Peppermint.

Dairy Focus, September 2013  

Ashburton Guardian

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