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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
FOREWORD // 3
Three key issues will determine our future NATHAN GUY MINISTER FOR PRIMARY INDUSTRIES
GETTING THE BASICS right is the foundation for success in any field – whether it’s farming, politics or anything else. One of the great things about farming is that while we’re competitive among ourselves, we also want to do well as an industry. There is no shortage of knowledge and advice out there and this guide helps bring it all together. I know that dairy farmers are ambitious for their industry and so am I. As a government we’ve set a goal of doubling the value of primary exports by 2025. To do that, we’ll need to get the basics right and then go even further. My vision is that over the next decade New Zealand will be a world leader in producing premium, valueadded products in huge demand around the world. The regions will be booming, and the primary sector will be the career of choice for our best and brightest young people. Science will have helped us become a world leader in environmental sustainability, not just mitigating our footprint but actually improving things for future
generations. Of course, this won’t be easy when we have years like 2014 when dairy prices have fluctuated so much. But farming is a long-term business and we all know there are massive opportunities – and challenges – in front of us. The three key issues I see ahead of us are competitiveness, value, and people. Competitiveness is about how we compete with our rivals around the world, and trade access is an important part of this. Negotiations with Korea for a free trade agreement have been completed, which will deliver real gains to the dairy industry. There are encouraging signs from India of wanting to progress an FTA. The Trans-Pacific Partnership has potential for greater market access into countries like US and Japan. And of course, we all know what a great success trade with China has been. Adding value is one of the most important challenges. There’s no doubt we produce some of the best commodities in the world, but we need to keep turning these into the best products in the world. This is why research and development is so important. Our flagship programme
is the Primary Growth Partnership, with 16 current programmes underway. A total of just over $700 million is being co-invested by industry and government. We’ve already started seeing some fantastic results come out of these projects and there will be much more. One of the biggest challenges in growing and protecting value is our ‘social licence’ to operate. My definition of this is the ability to produce our products sustainably, bringing the community with us, and earning their respect and understanding. Environmental performance is no longer a ‘nice to have’ it’s a necessity.
My third and final theme is people, and it’s potentially the most important because without top people we won’t be competitive or increase value. There is no shortage of work underway by industry and government, but the potential is there to achieve a lot more by collaborating. If we can tackle all of these issues, the potential rewards are hugely exciting. The rise of Asia is happening right on our doorstep and their demand for the best quality products will only increase. All the best for the year ahead. ◗ Nathan Guy is the Minister for Primary Industries
Preparing calves to be top milkers.
CONTENTS 06 Pasture 10
Understand your grass
Maize silage – feed for all seasons
What’s all the fuss about?
38 Milk Quality EDITOR Sudesh Kissun email@example.com
On-farm cooling rules are changing
Be vigilant and practice good hygiene
42 Animal Health
PUBLISHER Brian Hight
BVD - easy disease to control
ADVERTISING MANAGER Ted Darley
46 Mating Management
PRODUCTION AND DESIGN Dave Ferguson Becky Williams
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Everything you do from February affects lactation Calve with confidence
64 Calf Rearing
Out to pasture for first calves
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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
6 // PASTURE
Picture: Agriseeds Pasture and Forage Manual 2014.
Understand your pasture DEAN EDWARDS LIC FARMWISE CONSULTANT
DAIRY FARMERS WHO spend time actively managing pasture will ultimately save money. The first and arguably most crucial step in effectively managing pasture is understanding pasture. There are two sayings crucial to successful pasture grazing management: kk It takes grass to grow grass kk If you look after your grass it will look after your cows, whereas if you look after your cows it doesn’t mean you are looking after your grass. Another feature of grazing management is that you can’t bury your mistakes; any wrong
decisions will certainly present themselves at a later date. A perennial ryegrass pasture is made up of a population of ryegrass tillers with dairy pastures typically containing 3000-5000 tillers/m2. A tiller has a single basal stem, a leaf sheath and leaves. It can maintain only three growing leaves at any one time. When the tiller has three leaves it doesn’t stop growing. A fourth (new) leaf is produced, and the first (oldest) leaf starts to die. Then the fifth leaf is produced, the second leaf dies, and so on. If pasture isn’t grazed, dead material (of little feed value) builds up in the pasture base. The optimal time to graze pasture is when tillers show an average of 2.5-3 leaves. The definition of quality is
maximum leaf, high digestibility (80 - 85%), high energy (+11.0 megajoules metabolisable energy = MJME) and minimum stem. A ryegrass dominant sward thrives under rotational grazing management and both rotation length and grazing residual will influence growth. Hard grazing in the spring will promote clover growth, while lax grazing in the spring will encourage non-ryegrass species. The interval between grazing through each season should match growth of the ryegrass plant’s regrowth to ensure high utilisation: In early autumn a new leaf will be formed in 10-12 days and leaves begin to die off at 30-35 days therefore the interval between grazings can be lengthened (30-45 days). In early winter a new leaf will be formed
in 20-30 days and leaves will begin to die after about 60 days therefore rotation lengths can be very long (60-90 days). In spring a new leaf will be formed in 6-8 days with the oldest leaf dying off at 18-24 days. Therefore the interval between grazing should be < 24 days at peak growth. Phases of pasture growth There are three phases of pasture growth which work in line with tiller energy reserves. kk Lag phase kk Linear phase kk Ceiling phase Good pasture management aims to maintain pasture growth in the linear phase where high net growth rates and high pasture quality are achieved. Grazing to low post-graze
GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
PASTURE // 7
residual puts pasture into the lag phase, as shown in the diagram below. In the lag phase regrowth is slow until the tillers have a new leaf to provide energy from photosynthesis and growth accelerates. Try to graze to the same height each grazing, e.g. if you set 1500kgDM/ha (or about 5cm) as your grazing height, stick to it. Grazing below this will slow regrowth. As a rule of thumb, for maximum regrowth pasture should not be grazed below 1450kgDM/ha on dairy farms, i.e. the grazed pasture should show little bare ground with leaf material present to intercept light. If pasture is left to grow too long (>3500kgDM/ha) it will enter the ceiling phase of pasture growth. In this phase tillers continue to produce new leaves, however there is no further increase in net pasture mass due to the dying off of older leaves. Dying leaves accumulate in the
base of the pasture that leads to: kk Reduced pasture ME – kk dead leaves of low feed value
accumulate. kk Increased disease –
rust and other diseases build up on dying leaves; higher likelihood of facial eczema. kk Decreased pasture utilisation kk Reduced clover content due to shading. In summary, keeping pasture cover within the optimal range of growth helps to achieve high pasture growth rates without loss of pasture quality. The correct time to graze ryegrass is when there are 2.5-3 leaves per tiller. For rapid regrowth after grazing, keep post grazing residuals above 1450kgDM/ha. As a general rule, graze pasture before they reach 3500kgDM/ha before they start losing quality in the base. ◗ kk
Optimal time to graze is when tillers show 2.5-3 leaves.
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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
8 // PASTURE
Use pasture to maximise profit, not production BRIDGET RAY LIC FARM WISE CONSULTANT
WHAT’S YOUR FARM profit
per hectare? I bet most can tell me their production per cow and often the higher it is the more proud people are, but if you want to make money it is important to think profit not production. The biggest drivers of profit are pasture utilisation and farm working expenses (FWE). Which raises another question: do you know what your farm working expenses are? If you are not utilising the pasture you grow on your farm, bringing in feed supplement may increase your production but it won’t be maximising the profit potential of your farm.
There is no correlation between the amount of supplement fed and profitability. In other words, there are people on system 1 farms (all grass, self-contained, all stock on dairy platform) making as much money as people on system 5 farms (imported feed all year for dry and lactating cows). If you are satisfied you can improve your profit by importing feed you then have to decide which feed will be the most profitable for your system. There are lots of options to choose from, a wide range of prices, and you are told they will all make you more money – which is not true. The biggest drivers of profit are pasture utilisation.
One thing that affects your feed choice is payout. To demonstrate this, I have modelled three systems (see table on page 10) at three different payouts using FarmaxPro: kk Supplement bought in only to feed dry cows kk Supplement for dry cows plus PKE at $325/tonne landed on farm kk Supplement for dry cows plus a 12.7 MFME feed at $550/t In all scenarios it is assumed the pasture utilisation is the same and no substi-
tution of supplement for pasture is happening. The same amount of supplement is fed in scenario 2 and 3. The modelling shows that the higher-cost feed moves from the least profitable option at the low payout to the most profitable option at the high payout. The message here is that the feed plan you may have decided on at the beginning of the season before payout dropped will need to be reconsidered looking at
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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
10 // PASTURE TABLE 1: summary of the three scenario farms
Comparative Stocking Rate
ng Lwt/t DM offered
Potential Pasture Growth
Feed Conversion Efficiency (offered)
kg DM offered/kg MS
Cow Numbers (1st July)
Peak Cows Milked
Days in Milk
Milk Solids per ha
Milk Solids per cow
Peak Milk Solids production
Milk Solids as % of live weight
Avg. BCS at calving Liveweight Production (to factory) Milk Solids total
cheaper feeding options. Before thinking of bringing in supplement you need to look at your stocking rate. If you are offering cows supplement when you have enough grass (i.e. residuals without supplement are 1500kgDM/ha) substitution will occur. This can be shown by the following Farmax modelling in the scenarios above stocking rate has been dropped from 3.2 cows/ ha to 2.9 this means the cows can be better fed on grass. The most profitable scenario in the low payout year is scenario 1 (supplement only for dry cows). All scenarios in the low payout year with the low stocking rate are more profitable than the higher stocking rate. Even this year at a lower payout, in Waikato there has been a lot of making silage while feeding supplement. Residuals left will be greater than 1500kgDM/ha long and pasture quality the next rounds will drop. Farmax Pro shows if you drop pasture quality by 0.4 MJME through October, November and December on the scenario 2 your farm profit before tax drops by $16,530 at a $5.30 payout. At $7 payout this increases to a loss of $20,216. But if you are feeding supplement and hitting your residuals you should be increasing profitability by feeding the right supplement. In this case feeding supplement
will be increasing the amount the cow is eating and therefore production in a good producing cow. You may not get a profitable result if she is a low BW cow putting the extra feed on her back and not in the vat. If you have decided that your system will benefit from supplement you then need to decide what you will use. Megajoules of metabolisable (MJME) energy is important. It is generally the nutrient first limiting production up to
Look at your stocking rate before thinking of bringing in supplement.
2kgMS/c/d on a pasture diet. (A reminder about what metabolisable energy actually is – the energy available in feed that a cow uses for maintenance, growth and production. Put simply it is the energy in feed that makes money for you.) The total energy in a feed is called gross energy; some of this energy is lost in dung, urine and methane so we are not really interested in this, and certainly don’t want to pay for it. If you are aiming to produce
kg/ha kg kg/ha
more than 2.4kgMS/c/d then you may have to look at energy and protein being added to a pasture diet. If you are not doing more than 2.4kgMS/c/d you don’t need additional protein. Protein is expensive to buy and it actually takes energy for the cow to excrete surplus protein which takes energy away from milk production. The exception to this is during the summer when the protein content of pasture drops and a
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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
12 // PASTURE
low protein supplement such as maize silage makes up 50% of the cow’s diet. It is still unlikely that you will be increasing profitability by feeding extra protein as a supplement though, even if the diet contains only 12% protein. Don’t forget the use of nitrogen to grow more grass. The response to nitrogen depends on growth rate. The table below shows the cost of one kgDM using Sustain at $640/t. In summary, there will be smaller margins to be gained this year than last from feeding supplement. Look at the profitability of your system this year; don’t try to increase your production above last year’s. You won’t end up making more money if you do. The best way to maximise your profit is to be a good pasture manager. There is no cost to this other than time. Dust off that platemeter and get out and use it. Planning will be important. Aim to keep a core group of good cows milking; don’t get yourself in a hole with no feed. There won’t be the same margins this year on feeding supplement to keep the cows milking. Pay the right price for your supplement. Base it on c/MJME. Take into account wastage and cost of feeding out. There isn’t a standard formula that can be used for all farms; it will depend on your system. Do the calculations though and always think profit.
TABLE 2: Milk sales, feed costs and farm profit at $4.50 payout, $8.30 payout and 3.2 cows /ha
SCENARIO 1 $
Net milk sales
Farm profit before tax Net milk sales
Feed costs Farm profit before tax
SCENARIO 3 $
Feed costs $8.30
SCENARIO 2 $
Table 3: Milk sales, feed costs and farm profit at $4.50 payout, $8.30 payout and 2.9 cows /ha
SCENARIO 1 $
Net milk sales
SCENARIO 2 $
SCENARIO 3 $
Farm profit before tax
Net milk sales Feed costs Farm profit before tax
Financial monitoring carried out in Waikato and Bay of Plenty showed average farm working expenses last year were $4.17/ kgMS but more importantly the range was $2.65 – $5.07/kgMS. Average bank debt is $1.40/kgMS but the range is 0-$2.70/kgMS. Where do you sit in this range? It needs to be near the lower end if you are to make money this year so make sure your feed costs are helping you achieve this. ◗
Table 4: Response to N and cost of feed grown
PASTURE GROWTH RATE (kgDM/ha/day)
COST PER (c/kgDM)
Pay the right price for supplements for your cows.
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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
14 // PASTURE
Home-grown fully used pasture the most costeffective feed DR ANTS ROBERTS CHIEF SCIENTIFIC OFFICER, RAVENSDOWN
DAIRY FARMERS SEARCHING
for efficiencies in their operation know that home-grown, fully utilised pasture has always been the most cost-effective feed. Even before the current downturn, many farmers were not only looking at ‘output ratios’ such as milk solids per cow, but also at ‘feed efficiency’ ratios such as the cost of producing a megajoule of metabolisable energy per kg of dry matter. High-fertility grass/legume pasture is also an excellent quality feed. As Dr John Roche, principal scientist at DairyNZ has written, “high quality pasture is high in energy, has good quality protein relative to cow requirements, adequate amounts
of fermentable and physically effective fibre along with reasonable mineral and vitamin levels”. Of course, depending on season and cow condition, there is a role to play for supplementary feed. It’s when supplementary feed becomes substitution feed i.e. replacing pasture, that waste and risk creep into the system. So pasture should be prioritised in good times or in bad and good soil fertility is a key to stimulating and maintaining that pasture growth and quality. When it comes to deciding on how much of which fertiliser to put where, it definitely pays to make an informed choice, knowing where you stand before figuring out the implications of any change. Withdrawals can potentially be made from a farm’s ‘soil nutrient bank’, but when it comes to phosphate
levels you must consider all the essential nutrients, as well as soil pH, rather than purely P. It pays to soil test strategically. For example, if living with current Olsen P levels is being contemplated, not applying a product like potassic superphosphate could lead to potassium and/ or sulphur deficiency with potentially significant effects on production. Your nutrient advisor should have the tools to evaluate what withholding an application of P might mean to Olsen P levels and pasture productivity. If and when a change in fertiliser policy is being contemplated, in order to get the most effective use of your expenditure, soil testing all your paddocks on the farm will give you a much clearer picture of what nutrients are required in which paddocks. Invariably there will be paddocks
which could have less of one or more nutrients applied this year without any loss in pasture production and quality. Conversely, there will be underperforming paddocks which will require more than maintenance fertiliser to get the best out of the pasture. Negatively impacting on next year’s production through inappropriate changes to their fertiliser programme could eventually deliver a double whammy if dairy farmers are scrambling to make up for lost ground this season. Putting every blade of pasture to optimum use means good utilisation practices, but also tracking pasture performance and reviewing residuals relentlessly. There are four ways to capture pasture performance data that can be married up with soil
Pasture should be prioritised in both good and bad times.
GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
PASTURE // 15
fertility data to give real insight on soil nutrient needs: where to invest, where to maintain and potentially where to cut back. kk 1 Direct observation
Walking the paddock with a qualified nutrient advisor is a valuable start to the fact gathering. Another pair of eyes can help scan for the evenness of pasture growth and colour, urine patch contrasts and the pasture’s recovery after grazing. kk 2 Soil testing
Howard de Klerk writing in the Southland Demonstration Farm’s October update said, “spending the money on all paddock sampling was more than adequately rewarded by efficient use of fertiliser.” Taking as many tests as possible on many, carefully selected transects will highlight in-paddock
variability which can lead to the right nutrients applied at the right rates to the paddocks that require them. A laboratory like Ravensdown’s ARL can turn soil tests around quickly and make them available on an interactive map. If you’ve already got lots of soil test data, make sure you put it to use! kk 3 Pasture quality testing
A plant with more chlorophyll will reflect more near-infrared energy than an unhealthy plant. So analysing a plant’s spectrum of absorption and reflection in visible and infrared wavelengths can provide information about its health and productivity. In its herbage analysis, ARL uses near-infrared spectroscopy to reveal the nutritional value of the pasture being grown. Pasture mineral composition also helps to fine
tune nutrient requirements advice. kk 4 Pasture quantity testing
Devices like a C-Dax pasture meter can capture real dry matter data and highlight those areas that need more attention. The laser scanning tow-behind device takes 18,500 readings per 500m compared to the 250 of a rising plate meter. Whichever method you choose, frequent checking on growth will allow for a more accurate feed budgeting forecast, and help identify poorly performing pastures which, at best, may just need soil fertility correction or, at worst, have ‘run out’ and will need renewal. We all know the dairy industry is cyclical, so putting your information to use and growing the same or more pasture will stand you in good stead when the inevitable bounce-back comes. ◗
Dr Ants Roberts recommends putting every blade of pasture to optimum use.
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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
16 // PASTURE
Nothing beats homegrown grass WITH CASHFLOWS TIGHT
on dairy farms, pasture comes out on top as the cheapest feed source, says fertiliser co-op Ballance Agri-Nutrients. Ballance science manager, Aaron Stafford, says getting the best grass for the least cost can be achieved with a hand from science. The “grow your own” approach of using nitrogen fertiliser to boost pasture growth provides the most cost-effective supplementary feed, but with cash-strapped farmers working within very tight budgets, they want to be confident of a good pasture response to money spent on nitrogen. “There is nothing more frustrating than seeing a poor or variable pasture response nitrogen fertiliser to boost feed availability, says Stafford. “We can help farmers get the best results by enabling them to tailor application rates to areas which are likely to produce the highest pasture response.” Application rates can be tailored using Ballance’s N-Guru, a software tool developed with AgResearch through Ballance Agri-Nutrients Clearview Innovations Primary Growth Partnership programme. Based
Aaron Stafford, Ballance Agri-Nutrients.
on a soil ‘total N’ test that has been calibrated with pasture nitrogen response, N-Guru can help to improve efficiency of nitrogen fertiliser use, by linking data from the farm with a nitrogen response database. This allows N-Guru to forecast which parts of the farm are likely to be more responsive to nitrogen
fertiliser. It is most valuable when soil testing shows variation in total nitrogen levels across a property, although it can also be useful to look at the seasonality of nitrogen responses. Five years’ worth of research across sites throughout New Zealand has shown good results. Stafford says the tool is best
used strategically to guide how to allocate the nitrogen budget for a season. For example, across a year a dairy farm could apply 100 kg N/ha uniformly across the entire farm. “With that amount of nitrogen applied across a season, you might expect to achieve an average 10:1 response and an extra 1000 kg of dry matter per hectare. Depending on the soil test variability, N-Guru could tell us that in low soil nitrogen areas, the typical nitrogen response will be higher (e.g. 13 kg of DM per kg of N applied), whereas in high soil nitrogen areas the nitrogen response could be down to 7 kg of DM per kg of N applied. Where we can help is to ensure the investment in fertiliser delivers the best response rate by putting the nitrogen where it will make the most difference.” Allocating more of the season’s nitrogen to the low testing areas and less to the high testing areas would make sense to improve nitrogen response efficiency and return on your fertiliser investment. N-Guru can assist with determining what the likely benefit would be from varying nitrogen inputs based on soil nitrogen status, which will differ for individual farms. ◗
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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
18 // PASTURE
Potassium is an important nutrient for summer pasture growth.
Potassium helps deliver pasture growth POTASSIUM (K) IS an essential nutrient to deliver good pasture growth, particularly during summer, says Ballance Agri Nutrients. A three-year trial by the fertiliser co-op shows one size does not fit all for application rates. New Zealand’s Central Plateau and Bay of Plenty regions may be famous with tourists, but they are also renowned for coarse pumice free-draining soils which leach K. Ballance science extension officer, Jeff Morton says farmers on these pumice soils should consider small K fertiliser applications, often, while their farming counterparts on ash or sedimentary soils could apply K in larger, less frequent applications. Morton presented the research findings at last year’s Grasslands Association
Conference in Alexandra. “The results showed that farmers on pumice soils are better off applying K through split fertiliser applications, rather than attempting to raise soil Quick Test K levels to the target range of 7-10 for near maximum pasture production. “Potassium is an important nutrient for summer pasture growth, and if farmers didn’t apply it in spring, there is still an opportunity to apply K with their summer nitrogen application.” “While a soil test is always advised, farmers can check for pasture K deficiency by taking white clover samples from three to four paddocks in late spring when they are growing really well. Potassium content should be 2.0 - 2.5% to ensure adequate K uptake,” said Morton. Dairy farms lose between 60
and 120 kg/ha/ year of K, some of this in dairy shed effluent. If this is spread back on the land, the loss is mitigated, and the need for fertiliser K is reduced. Where silage or hay is produced, the K loss can be 200-300 kg/ha/year. If the silage is fed out on the farm, some of the K will be returned to the soil in dung and urine. So, part of the equation determining your K requirements is driven by how much K you remove from the land (in milk and crops), and how much of this you return (in effluent and animal waste). Ballance undertook trials at two pumice soil sites, at Pouakani, near Whakamaru and at Mamaku, Bay of Plenty. Initial soil Quick Test K (2-4) were low at both sites. K was applied at 0, 75, 150, 300 and 600 kg/ha/year, equally split between September,
November and February for three years, with pasture growth measured throughout the trial. Results showed that at least 300kg/ha/year was needed to raise K levels to the normal target of 7-10. However, this increase was not maintained between May and September, when Quick Test levels dropped back to near their starting point. “The trial showed that during winter months, when drainage is high and plant K uptake is low, K leaches at a higher rate than other times of the year. Therefore, it’s recommended that three applications of K at 40-50 kg/ha are used.” “While this work was done on pumice soil, the results are applicable to other soils with high soil K loss such as sands and podzols,” says Morton. ◗
GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
20 // FEED
Maize silage can be grown on farm.
Maize silage – the feed for all seasons MILK PRICE VOLATILITY
and therefore allowing farmers to dilute fixed costs. The end result is a profitable farm system with plenty of milk produced at a moderate cost per kilogram of milksolids (kgMS).
seems to be the new norm and the challenge for dairy farmers is how to build environmentally sustainable systems which can make plenty of profit in the high payout years but are resilient enough to remain financially viable when the milk price falls. Maize silage is a cost-effective feed which can be home-grown. It can help build profitable dairy systems by maintaining or increasing milk production levels
Diluting fixed costs Profit is the difference between income and costs. There are essentially three ways to increase profit – increase income, decrease costs or do a combination of both. In a paper titled ‘Smarter spending for a low payout’1 presented at a recent Southland Demo Farm field day, Howard de Klerk (Dairy Nutrition and
IAN WILLIAMS PIONEER BRAND PRODUCTS FORAGE SPECIALIST
Management Solutions) shows that the biggest cost to the average NZ farmer is interest (Table 1).
Table 1: Total production costs of an average NZ dairy farmer1
Cutting costs which do not affect production (e.g. deferring the purchase of a new ute) will automatically improve profitability, however the reality is that almost all farm costs are either fixed (e.g. interest and overheads) or semi-fixed (e.g. depreciation and labour). As production rises, these costs are diluted. Variable costs such as feed and fertiliser drive production. They can be reduced, however, care must be taken to avoid production decreases, either now or in future seasons. The key, according to De Klerk, is to find the level of
GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
FEED // 21
production where operating costs are controlled but the farm is producing enough milk to dilute interest and other semi-fixed costs. At this ‘sweet spot’ profit is maximised: production below this level is not optimum and production above this level is simply buying production. How can maize silage help? A growing number of farmers have built very profitable yet simple systems which incorporate maize silage into their feeding system. Here’s how maize silage could help: Reduce your feed costs
Growing and harvesting more home grown feed (pasture and crops) will allow you to control feed costs and increase your returns. Maize is a drought tolerant crop that produces reliably high yields. Most dairy farmers can grow maize silage crops yielding 18–26 tDM/ha for 11.0–15.9 c/kgDM in the stack.
Crops grown on repeat cropping ground or in low fertility paddocks will cost about 4 c/ kgDM more. Maize silage can be used to displace concentrates and other supplements which have a higher cost per kilogram of drymatter and unit of energy. Assist with pasture renewal
Most of the costs associated with pasture-based dairying are fixed therefore the amount of feed harvested off every hectare has a big impact on farm profitability. Maize not only produces high drymatter yields but it can help you establish higher performing pastures. Fertiliser and lime can be applied and incorporated in the cultivation process and it’s a great time to address drainage issues. Cropping removes the normal feed source for pasture pests such as black beetle, Argentine stem weevil and pasture nematodes. This interrupts
Energy in maize silage helps put weight on cows.
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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
22 // FEED
Maize not only produces DM yields but can help establish higher performing pastures.
their breeding cycle and reduces insect pressure on seedling plants during the pasture renewal process. Help control your pasture
Because maize silage is a forage feed, you can vary the amount you feed to control pasture residuals keeping ryegrass in its most productive growth stage. If pasture cover levels are low, increase the maize silage feeding rate and leave more pasture behind to prevent overgrazing. If you have plenty of grass on hand then you can reduce the feeding rate and clean up paddocks better. The combination of maize silage and a stand-off pad or a wintering barn allows you to restrict access to pasture minimising pasture pugging without compromising animal welfare. Eliminate feed shortages
Supplements will deliver the greatest return when they are fed during genuine feed shortages
or used to increase days in milk. While many crops such as brassicas must be fed when they are mature, maize silage can be stacked and fed when you are short of feed.
Maximise your run-off
Many dairy farm run-offs are not farmed to their full potential. Growing maize on your run-off allows you to grow and harvest more drymatter which
“Supplements will deliver the greatest return when they are fed during genuine feed shortages or used to increase days in milk.” Well compacted and sealed maize can hold its quality for several seasons providing nutritious feed exactly when you need it. Increase cow condition score
The ideal body condition score (BCS) at calving is 5.5 for first and second calvers and 5.0 for older cows. Cows which calve at the ideal condition score will produce more milk and cycle faster than cows too thin at calving. Energy in maize silage is used 50% more efficiently to put weight on cows than energy in autumn pasture.
can be easily transported to the milking platform. Plant a short to medium maturity maize hybrid and sow annual ryegrass when it is harvested and this will ensure you have plenty of high quality pasture for the winter months. Make the most of effluent
Applying dairy shed effluent to pasture often results in a build-up of soil potassium and a higher risk of milk fever. It can also increase the risk of nitrogen leaching. Maize thrives on the nutrients contained in effluent, and the maize plant can mine excess soil nitrogen and potassium, reducing the risk of
milk fever and nitrogen loss to water. Reduce nitrogen leaching
Most of the nitrogen leached on dairy farms comes from cow urine. That’s because the volume of nitrogen in a urine patch is far greater than the ryegrass plants’ annual requirement. Ryegrassclover pasture frequently contains more nitrogen (or crude protein) than cows can utilise. The bigger the nitrogen surplus in a cow’s diet, the higher the amount of nitrogen excreted in her urine. Feeding low nitrogen maize silage with pasture dilutes dietary protein levels, and this in turn reduces the amount of urinary nitrogen. ◗ To learn how maize silage can fit into your farming system or to find out the optimal amount of maize silage for your farm call 0800 PIONEER (746 633) 1 Smarter spending for a low payout http://www.siddc.org.nz/ assets/Stlh-Demo-Farm-FocusDays/Handout-Focus-DayOct14-2.pdf.
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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
24 // FEED
Growing maize on farm to lower feed costs DARREN SUTTON LIC FARMWISE CONSULTANT, WAIKATO
OVER THE PAST 10 years there
has been a steady increase in the use of supplements used within dairy farm systems. This has been driven by increasing land values and desire to extract more production per hectare and per cow, along with a rapid increase in the availability of a wide range of imported supplements, and greater variability in weather patterns creating large feed deficits. Most farm systems in New It is possible to grow maize on farm for a relatively low cost.
Zealand fall now in the system 3-5 brackets with fewer system 1 (no imported feed) or system 2 farms (10% imported feed). This has created a reliance on supplementary feeds regardless of milk price. This means that a large portion of a farm working expenses (FWE) is now dedicated to supplying the feed to support the higher stocking rate. In the 2012-13 Dairybase figures feed is now the biggest cost to an average farm at 31% of FWE. Through seasons 2003-2007 feed was only costing 80 cents/kgMS. From 2008 to 2013 that has averaged around
$1.40/kgMS. With supplementary feed such a large part of the average farm business now, it is vital that good cost control is implemented to keep the cost of the feed to the lowest possible price. One way of doing that is to consider growing maize on farm. Benefits The main benefits from growing maize on farm are: kk Supply of a low cost feed kk Mines high fertility from effluent areas; reduce N leaching. kk Lifts total farm dry matter production per hectare
kk Gains more control of feed
supply and quality kk Creates pasture renovation
Low cost feed It is possible to grow maize onfarm for a relatively low cost when compared to other supplement prices. A big factor in the overall cost of maize is the fertiliser requirements. It is vitally important that a soil test is done at 150mm depth prior to planting maize to ensure that all nutrients are available to maximise yield. Maize requires high N and K inputs.
GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
26 // FEED
For an average farm with moderate fertility, growing maize applying a base fertiliser, starter fertiliser and side dress of N can cost about $1000 in fertiliser. The total cost of all inputs of getting the crop planted is about $2650/ha. Assuming an average yield of 22t DM/ha, this works out to be 12 cents/kgDM. Harvesting, stacking and inoculant costs are around $1500/ha (7 cents/kgDM). So it is possible to have a pit of maize covered for about 19 cents/ kgDM. It is worth considering the loss of pasture production when evaluating the value of the crop. If a poor producing paddock is selected growing only 10t DM/ ha/year and take the fact that the paddock is not producing grass for eight months, and apply a 20 cent/kgDM value on that lost pasture (replaced via either maize or nitrogen), then the cost of the maize crop becomes 27 cents/kgDM. Last year a common price for maize bought in was 34 cents before inoculant or cover, so another 2-3 cents needs to be added to that figure. Home grown maize also compared well with the price of PKE last year. The price of PKE averaged $300-$330 per wet tonne, so about 33-37 cents/ kgDM.
Nutrient management Typically effluent areas on farm end up with higher than desired potassium (K) and phosphate (P) levels than pasture needs. Growing maize on the effluent block is a good way to reduce the nutrient loading on that area and relocate those nutrients to other areas of the farm. Foundation of Arable Research (FAR) showed in trial work that on most dairy farms maize crops can be grown on effluent paddocks without the need for any fertiliser at all. This is a huge cost saving in growing the maize on farm. This can drop about $1000/ha from the growing cost of the maize, about 5 cents/ kgDM over a 22t DM/ha crop. Potentially this drops the total cost to grow, harvest and ensile to 14 cents/kgDM (before lost pasture costs of about 9 cents). As nutrient management becomes better understood and with increasing regulation, growing maize on the dairy unit can help to reduce total N leached from the farm. With the upgrading of farmsâ€™ effluent systems resulting in better methods of effluent separation and storage, paddocks that normally do not get liquid effluent can be boosted with nutrients to the point where
no additional fertiliser inputs are required. This can allow paddocks further away from the dairy shed to be considered as suitable maize paddocks. Lifting total drymatter production Growing maize on farm can work well with a programmed approach to lifting DM production over a portion of your farm. When a poor producing, weedy or run-out paddock has been selected in the summer or autumn, then that area can be direct drilled with a winter active annual ryegrass that boosts production through winter and spring before being sprayed out for the maize crop. This practice can generate an additional 4-6t DM/ha over the six months prior to the crop of maize being planted for an additional cost of about $300/ha. With the maize crop yielding 22t DM, you are getting up to 30t DM/ha off the cropped ground. This is about double what most farms grow in a calendar year from pasture alone. Research by Genetic Technologies in 2003-2005 showed in Waikato that it is possible to grow over a 12 month period using annual ryegrasses and maize as a rotation a total yield of 30-35t DM/ha. Research shows that on most dairy farms maize crops can be grown on effluent paddocks without the need for any fertiliser.
Greater control over bought-in feed In Waikato over the past five years three droughts have affected the quantity and quality of supplementary feeds available. Growing a percentage of feed on your own farm spreads the risk of crop failure or timing of supplement supply. Many maize silage growers are looking to maximise the DM% of the crop to maximise the return from plantings. Often this can lead to maize being above 37% DM at harvest. During the recent droughts DM percentages of 40-45% have been common, and have led to some very poor maize being ensiled as the ability to compact and remove air from the maize is greatly reduced at DM% above 40%. Also if a drought does start to bite early, then occasionally the more mature outside rows can be harvested early to bridge the feed deficit until the remainder of the crop is ready for harvest. Pasture renewal A maize crop fits in well with a pasture renovation programme. The goal of any pasture renovation is to identify what the main factor was for the pasture failure and rectify that through the cropping programme. If drainage or contouring is needed, then this is best done prior to the maize crop being planted. If weeds, especially grass weeds are an issue, then a spray out during the autumn prior and direct drilling a winteractive annual can ensure three glyphosate sprays are applied, ensuring a clean seedbed is created for the grass seed. It is best practice to work backwards from when you need to have the new pasture sown by when deciding what length of maize hybrid should be s own and what likely planting date can be realistically achieved. In summary: maize can help achieve the farm goals of lowering feed costs, ensuring feed supply, reducing nutrient footprint, lifting DM production on farm and allowing for better pasture renewal. â——
“ Truly know where you stand and make informed decisions about optimising your farm’s nutrient needs.” Dr. Ants Roberts Chief Scientific Officer Ravensdown
Optimise your nutrient investment Leading the way in agriculture 0800 100 123 www.ravensdown.co.nz
Where to invest, where to maintain, where to cut back – your Ravensdown Agri Manager has the tools to help you evaluate the most efficient and cost effective allocation of nutrients on farm. Talk to your Ravensdown Agri Manager today or call our Customer Centre on 0800 100 123. Scan the QR code to hear more about optimising your pasture or go to: www.ravensdown.co.nz/optimise
GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
28 // NUTRIENT MANAGEMENT
FEPs: necessary evil or need to embrace? ERIC JACOMB LIC FARM WISE CONSULTANT, CANTERBURY
A LOT OF work is being done in the dairy industry on farm environment plans (FEPs), for a number of reasons. The DairyNZ sustainable milk plan is an example of one FEP. These plans will be useful for farmers to assess how they are currently performing, what actions they can take (or may need to take in relation to compliance) and what commitments they wish to make in relation to environmental management on their property. From an industry level the summary information can be used for reporting, and demonstrating that audited selfmanagement can be successful. FEPs can be a risk management tool for farmers to plan and demonstrate improvements for environmental performance. They may also be used to monitor farmers and provide targeted support through dairy industry networks and in some regions, for regional council compliance. For most farmers this is an opportunity to demonstrate
their good environmental management, what actions they can take to improve and put a plan in place to carry out improvements over time. The data collected from these farmers can then report progress made. Canterbury Regional Council is taking an approach where farming groups can use audited self-management and FEPs to plan, report and comply with the rules and objectives of the Canterbury Regional Council. Other councils are taking different approaches. In Canterbury, it is estimated that 3000-4000 FEPs will be required by 2017 to meet Canterbury Regional Council rules. These farmers will have to demonstrate that they are adhering to their FEP by way of an on-farm audit. Farmers who comply with the rules and objectives may be audited every 2-4 years; those with lower audit results are likely to be subject to 6-12 monthly audits until they attain the required standard. Preparation of an FEP involves gathering data on the current situation onfarm, identifying environmental risks and actions which are being or practically can be done to mitigate these. Information such as nutrient budgets, fertiliser
management plans, land and soil management, stock and shed water management, irrigation design, management and efficiency, effluent system design and management, riparian management, silage pits and offal pits all need to be assessed and included in the FEP. An example of a section within an FEP describing existing good management practises and agreed actions is as follows: Land & soil management Good management practices: kk Grazing during periods of
high rainfall soils is minimised on the poor draining soils on the southern end of the farm to minimise pugging damage. Evidence: Site visit, questioning. kk Where paddocks are suitable minimum tillage practices are undertaken to reduce risk of soil loss through water or wind erosion. Evidence: Site visit, questioning. kk Laneway surfaces are maintained to minimise water ponding on or near the lane. Laneways are shaped so run-off water is directed through pasture or vegetation. Evidence: Site visit. kk Paddocks selected for winter
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forage cropping are at low risk of surface water ponding and have sufficient vegetative filter strips between any adjacent waterways. Evidence: site visit, risk map. kk kk Actions: kk Review the grazing
management of forage crops and paddock set-up (i.e. gateways and stock water), ensure grazing minimises time in the critical source areas of the paddock. Date: before next winter grazing period. Evidence: map, site visit, questioning. kk Identify and map (if required) any culturally sensitive areas (Wahi tapu sites) Date: within 12 months. Evidence: map. FEPs provide an opportunity for the dairy industry to demonstrate what good environmental management is already occurring on farm, what improvements can and are being done. For individual farmers, they allow farmers to monitor, demonstrate and improve their environmental management. Rural professionals are having to upskill in environmental management so they can assist farmers. Massey University nutrient management courses are running at full capacity. â——
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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
30 // EFFLUENT
What’s all the fuss about? JANET BROOKER MANAGING DIRECTOR SMART FARM SYSTEMS
DAIRY FARMERS TODAY
have enough worry without the added pressures that come with compliance, with various standards set down by the authorities and councils throughout New Zealand. Take the recent payout woes for instance. Change seems to be the only constant in dairying these days, but we’ll leave it to the media to speculate, and the industry to adjust. But as always the farming community will survive, especially with annual revenues of nearly $16 billion making up nearly a third of our merchandised exports. History has shown that a correction downward will not last forever. And how do dairy farmers feel about effluent? Farmers have been heard to say, “I’m compliant and that’s that! I’m doing my bit, and I’m not going to do more unless I have to.” Though 99% of dairy farmers are compliant and always do their utmost to stay that way, more and more good dairy farmers in this group are unnecessarily finding themselves in front of environment magistrates for non-compliant activity. So obviously there’s a failure to communicate, or a failure to comply. Apart from the 1% of dairy farmers who seem to ignore the rules and give the industry a bad name, the rest don’t deserve to find themselves in front of the Environment Court. Dairy farmers are asking, “What’s the answer? How do I protect myself from this potentially risky grey area?” Farmers don’t want to find themselves face to face with a judge. Effluent. What’s all the fuss about? Here is a short list of key areas: kk 1. Find a good farm consultant. kk One who understands the
risks, not only of today, but
Treat effluent as an asset.
of the future. kk 2. Design a solid nutrient
management plan to help avoid future risks. kk Bring in your fertiliser rep to
help with the nutrient budgets. Some tips here include applying N fertiliser in split dressing, a little and often.
value of effluent.
kk Plan for the ‘what if’s’. What
The pond should provide your farm business with a good irrigation window. kk Allow for future low applications, and have a ‘Plan B’ built into this design for the just-in-case scenarios, e.g. the
if the coupling comes off my irrigator or hydrant? What if my farmhand forgets to change hydrants or forgets to put the irrigator on the correct speed? What if one pod/sprinkler blows off but the flow switch at the pump shed doesn’t sense the change? kk To cover yourself, get the supplier to confirm the equipment is 100% fail-safe. kk Do your due diligence here. It may save you hundreds of thousands.
Though 99% of dairy farmers are compliant and always do their utmost to stay that way, more and more good dairy farmers in this group are unnecessarily finding themselves in front of environment magistrates for non-compliant activity. So obviously there’s a failure to communicate, or a failure to comply. kk Apply effluent at low rates and
to a large area, ideally enough to reach the grass root zone, and for most it’s about 9mm. For most soil types, I’d like to see about 50kg N/ha/year which depends on flow rates (litres per hour), lab testing effluent, etc. I know most consents will be an average of 25mm and about 150kg N/ha/ year. kk Finally, adjust fertiliser policies to account for the nutrient
kk 3. Build a large holding pond.
potential for high nutrient losses to waterways as a result of excess rainfall and low soil temperatures. This will limit pasture growth and N uptake, typically in autumn, winter and early spring. kk Weather-station and soil monitoring technologies will help. Companies like Regen have technologies that give you decisions based on data. kk 4. Remember to include a
fail-safe system in your nutrient
kk 5. Visibility and measurement.
See what’s happening on-farm. kk There are companies that
can help, and they meet the New Zealand farm data code of practice and interchange standards. kk Speak with Precision Farming, Water Metrics and Smart Farm Systems for all your cloud reporting requirements. It’s time we treated effluent as an asset rather than as a by-product, but remember, peace of mind should be your goal, and any technology should be future proofed, easy to use and reliable, delivering a short-term pay back on investment. ◗
GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
32 // MILK QUALITY
Teat spraying essential for healthy udders TO AVOID THE cost, hassle and cow discomfort of mastitis in your herd, here are some preventative measures. Teat spraying kills bugs and helps to heal cracked and dry teats. It is important to choose the right type of teat spray for the environment; chlorhexidine is a good all-round maintenance teat spray and iodine is useful in more challenging environments. Once the teat spray type is chosen it is important to ensure the dilution rates are measured accurately. (See tables below). Mixing teat spray is not complicated but if it isn’t done in the correct order and mixed well it will not be as effective.
emollient, to the water. kk Measure and add water to
bucket kk Measure teat spray in a large
jug (recommend 5L jug) and add to water kk Measure teat conditioner in large jug and add to mixture kk Stir mixture to combine Spraying correctly is possibly the most important step as missing teats means the whole process is ineffective. How to spray correctly: kk Ensure spray nozzle is under cow kk Spray in a circular motion kk Ensure coverage of all 4 teats, from the base to the tip For severely cracked and chapped teats using an additional salve or cream can help these heal quickly. By following these simple steps
How to mix: Teat spray should always be mixed by adding the product, including teat conditioner
teat condition can become supple and smooth, not allowing the introduction of harmful bacteria and therefore decreasing the
opportunity for mastitis. These pictures show the improvements made by following this process. ◗
Cow 1 Before - cow had very dry teats and udder, and one teat was cracked.
After - the crack has healed and the teats were left soft.
Cow 2 Before - cow had deep cracks on her rear teats.
DURING EARLY LACTATION – HIGH RISK Iodine
After - the cracks had healed significantly and the teats were left soft.
MID LACTATION – MILD RISK Iodine Teat Spray
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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
34 // MILK QUALITY
The most expensive dairy cattle disease worldwide NATASHA MAGUIRE AND LEON SPURRELL FARM MEDIX DIRECTORS AND NATIONAL MASTITIS COUNCIL MEMBERS
UPDATES FROM THE last two NMC meetings, held in Fort Worth Texas (February 2014) and Ghent, Belgium (July 2014) saw researchers and dairy industry stakeholders converge to share the latest updates and information on what is new in this field. Mastitis is infection of the udder, which is predominantly caused by bacteria. This results in an immune response from the cow, which sends white blood cells to fight the infection. The persistence of white blood cells, abnormal milk and an elevated
somatic cell count (SCC) can be found for some time after the infection is gone. Whilst detection and management of the disease is now well controlled in New Zealand, this is primarily from a milk quality point of view – we keep a limit to ensure the milk intended for human consumption and processing is fit for purpose. Many farmers still have cows out of the milking mob, cows which need to be fed, looked after, checked and provide no economic benefit whilst they cannot have their milk included in the vat. The sought after ‘gold standard’ bulk tank somatic cell count of 100,000 cells/ml on tanker dockets, however, still
indicates that 10% of the herd has mastitis. This means people getting comfortable with counts over 100,000 are certainly missing out as well. Mastitis costs money! Whilst herd testing, in line sensors, paddle testing (RMT/ CMT) and other gadgets can tell you which cow or which quarter has an issue, the question still remains, “What is there?” Different bacteria are sensitive to different products, and can require different therapy durations. Drug companies continue to develop drugs and improve treatments, but often the ‘top shelf’ product is pulled out for things that simply don’t require it. Sometimes cows have transient infections that are gone by the time antibiotic is administered. On the other hand many farmers are treating cows that have bacteria so bad that they will never respond to
treatment of any sort. Both situations can mean that the wrong or unnecessary antibiotic is selected for treatment. Putting all of the infections at certain times of the year together is also incorrect. For example, during spring/early lactation more than one bacteria causes mastitis. Whilst many still focus solely on the detection of mastitis, the question remains, “What is causing this mastitis?” Finding out is like pulling a mask off your enemy: then you can deal with what it is, if it is infectious or not, and also where it might be coming from. This all helps in prevention of further cases. On a case by case basis, identifying not just which cows have a problem, but also which quarter and which bacterium are important steps in treating the infection and helping to identify where the issues are arising. Big developments are coming in this area: worldwide a clampdown on the use of antibiotics indiscriminately is high on a list of priorities Kiwi farmers should be considering. The days of blanket dry cow therapy, in particular, have a very limited life, and trends elsewhere mean we all need to look at ways we can improve. But how? Culture – identify the enemy
Ohaupo farmer Tom Clearweater uses stripping quarters on a regular rotation and RMT as the foundation for finding clinical cases of mastitis.
Many farmers are already sending samples to their vet for culture and identification prior to treatment. With new technology and systems such as CHECK-UP mastitis diagnostic tool, on farm testing can also be a fast and economic way to culture. The relationship between a farmer and their vet is still critical to develop protocol on the farm with regard to
GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
MILK QUALITY // 35
treatment. Vets as well need to build relationships with farmers rather than solely prescribe and sell drugs. From a farming perspective speakers at the conferences focussed on the following things: Abnormal milk
Abnormal milk does not automatically mean the cow still has a bacterial infection. Whilst the cow should certainly be withheld from the bulk vat, more information is needed. Most likely you have picked up the abnormal milk from stripping, from a herd test or from sensor technology in your plant; this is an important part of the picture, but not all of it! Grade the cow
Grade the severity of the infection. The example used was as follows: kk Abnormal milk, no swelling, so change in behaviour – otherwise happy cow.
kk Abnormal milk, swelling of the
quarter. kk Abnormal milk, swelling of the quarter and any other symptom (such as sick, depressed, dehydrated etc). Where a 1 or 2 grade is attained, culture can be undertaken to best determine a course of action. Where a 3 grade is attained, the animal is unwell. Whilst a sample can be taken for culture pre treatment, a treatment should be administered without further delay. Culture the milk – a head start in treatment success
Milk from the affected quarter can be cultured to determine the pathogen causing the infection. This helps in determining if antibiotic treatment is necessary and what treatment and duration is best used for optimal chance of success. Sometimes treatment won’t be worth starting. Roughly 20% of the time nothing will culture and no treatment will
be required to be administered; whilst the milk may be abnormal for a few days longer, the cow has actually cleaned up the infection herself. Talk to your vet
It is increasingly concerning that gram negative bacteria such as E. coli, Serratia and Klebsiella are not responsive to antibiotic therapy. Some CNS (coagulase negative Staphylococci or non Staphyloccus aureus Staphylococci) are also highly resistant to antibiotic therapy and can be self curing. Determining what you will do in these cases is important and should be discussed with your vet. The use of anti-inflammatories, replacement fluid and electrolytes is highly recommended in many cases. In some cases the pathogen causing the infection is not worth treating, so the quarter would be dried off and herd management strategies utilised at the end of lactation.
Once a pathogen is identified, the first line and second line treatments can be established in conjunction with your vet. You should have options; don’t go for the most expensive or best advertised drug, it’s often not going to be right. Keep great records
Keep immaculate records. Use technology and software packages to save you time. Once a cow has an infection, document what quarter was affected, what the pathogen was and, if treated, what you treated her with. Keeping good records helps you determine how successful treatments are and what treatments you have used before. It also helps make herd management and culling decisions based on sound information. Teat spraying and hygiene
Teat spraying and hygiene in
GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
36 // MILK QUALITY
the shed are critical weapons at all times of the year. Keep all areas free from manure and milk residues, use screens to keep birds out of your rotary and keep birds out of your shed as a priority. Many farmers assume they have clean water but the water in your plant can be contaminated; if you are on water exclusion or have minerals such as iron and manganese they can affect your teat spray product. Make teat spray in small batches and be very clean. Keep teat spray containers clean and closed to help prevent bacteria from growing in your teat spray. Check your teat sprayers are working correctly and that your method of applying teat spray is covering the teat well. Why bother? First and foremost there is a cost advantage in doing so. Less withholding times, managing the situations that result in mastitis on your farm, more success with
Cows that don’t have mastitis are less likely to contract the disease than those that have had it before.
antibiotic therapy and saving money on antibiotic therapy are all economic and time saving benefits. Cows that don’t have mastitis are less likely to contract mastitis than those that have had it before. Often infections can become chronic and the affected cow can repeatedly turn up in the sick mob. Knowing the pathogens in your herd can help you with where problems are coming from (hygiene related, poor teat spraying, environmental problems or contagious pathogens) and help you then deal with your specific farm issues. Secondly, everyone benefits if your bulk SCC is reduced. Keeping away from penalties could be considered the minimum and yielding more milk the maximum. Cows with low SCC yield more milk. Milk quality is much improved and you won’t get frustrated looking
at a sick mob if you have fewer or no cows sick. With upcoming changes in the use of antibiotics on farm, information has you in control. After herd testing, for example, high SCC cows can be examined and cultured and where dry cow is indicated justification exists for doing so. Going forward – your toolkit for mastitis Detection
Detection is your first line of defence. New technology for larger herds such as in line detection can save time and even alert you to a change from a cow’s normal status. Herd testing gives a snapshot of the herd on that day, and can also indicate some of the subclinical cases. Stripping is a great way to detect clinical infections. CMT/RMT (Paddle testing)
Where a cow or suspect quarter is found, CMT/RMT
along with examination of the udder is a great way to identify which quarter or quarters are affected. If the cow is a grade 3 case and is very unwell take a sample for culture and administer treatment. Culture
Culture with an on farm system such as CHECK-UP mastitis diagnostic tool or sending samples to your vet can identify which pathogens are involved in the affected quarters. Please note that this can be dynamic; what you see this week can be very different next month! Remedial action and protocol
Treat cows after discussing with your vet. From the pathogens cultured and trends, steps can be taken to minimise risk for further cases. Protocol can easily be developed to make antibiotic therapy more successful when required, and reduce costs by eliminating unnecessary treatments. ◗
KEEPING THEM AT THEIR PEAK
Only Available From Your Vet Registered pursuant to the ACVM Act 1997, No. A5850; A6170; A6536; A6903. See www.foodsafety.govt.nz for registration conditions. Bayer New Zealand Ltd, 3 Argus Place, Hillcrest, Auckland 0627, New Zealand. www.bayeranimal.co.nz Customer Info Line: 0800 927 733.
GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
38 // MILK QUALITY
On-farm milk cooling rules are changing AS OF AUGUST 2016 all
new sheds or sheds with ‘any material change’ will need to comply with the new Ministry of Primary Industries milk cooling standards. There are a few drivers behind this. One is market pressure: New Zealand milk cooling standards, especially for temperature fall, are comparable to the US, but are notably more relaxed than other influential markets, namely China and Russia. While New Zealand is not moving to meet Chinese or Russian standards, MPI has pitched compliance levels at what it considers is defendable from a science-driven standpoint. Another driver is the changing structure of New Zealand farms. Farms are fewer in number than a decade ago, the acreage is greater with larger sheds, bigger herds and higher production. Even with automated technology, milking takes longer so the new standards take into account the longer duration from the beginning to end of milking. New regulations dictate that milk must be cooled to 10°C or below within four hours of the start of milking; 6°C or below within six hours of the start of milking and within two hours of finish; held at or below 6°C until collection or the next milking; and must not exceed 10°C during subsequent milkings. Farmers will need an ‘auditable system’ particularly to monitor milk quality during those ‘at risk’ times: after calving, peak production, and in the heat of summer when soaring ambient temperatures bring ground water and vat milk challenges. For farmers there is uncertainty about whether current on-farm refrigeration systems will comply, or if not what the best or most prudent course of action would be. Confidence in refrigeration systems is needed to
avoid penalties, loss of milk and loss of income but farmers should not be taken in by a one-systemfits-all approach. Every farm is different. Brian Skiffington, refrigeration systems engineer for Tru-Test’s DTS Milk Cooling & Tank Solutions suggests the first step is to get your dairy refrigeration system audited thoroughly during a challenging time of the season, i.e. when ambient temperatures are peaking. Tru-Test has recently carried out comprehensive milk cooling audits with continuous tracking of vat temperature, milk entry line temperature and plate cooler water entry temperature with data loggers to give farmers a heads up on their system performance. A regional snapshot of farmers in the Waikato during the late spring shoulder season has shown that although many farmers believe their systems are performing well and likely to comply with existing and proposed regulations, there are common issues. These include high milk delivery temperature, large temperature differences over the PHE, undersized condensing units, primary water and milk temperature increase over the milking period and plant and vat wash not achieving the recommended temperatures. Skiffington explains that accurate farm-specific data will pinpoint where cooling issues occur and focus what work needs to be completed before the regulations take effect. “The scale of upgrade work is likely to vary a lot, but often a small change in the right place can make a big difference. Good refrigeration advice with accurate data is highly recommended in order to invest wisely without overcapitalising.” Skiffington warns that farmers
Brian Skiffington, Tru-Test urges farmers to get their dairy refrigeration system audited.
relying completely on the vat and chiller for milk cooling are likely to find the new NZCP1 milk cooling standards very difficult to achieve. “Realistically farmers will need a pre-cooling system. Primary cooling using standing water is by far the most costeffective form of pre-cooling and this typically is an area of the cooling chain that performance issues can be detected and sometimes easily resolved.” Storage options for secondary cooling include plastic, insulated and concrete tanks. New sheds commonly install industrial double-banked plate coolers to meet the new standards. (Secondary cooling can be easily added later if required.) Existing upgrades need only add an additional single plate cooler. Correct water flow rates are critical for the optimal plate cooler performance (Recommended water-to-milk flow ratio for an industrial plate heat exchange is 2L water: 1L milk; older type plate heat exchange is 3L water:1L milk). Challenges arise when high peak
milk volumes coincide with warmer ground water drawn from rivers or bores or when relying on rainfall in drought conditions. Furthermore water quality can affect the efficiency of the cooling system. Some farms also have marginal power supply so power issues should be discussed with the shed electrician early to allow for subsequent refrigeration options to be best managed. In addition to effectively meeting the NZCP1 regulations, dairy refrigeration systems can be designed for efficiency. Water heating is noted as the single biggest power cost in a dairy shed accounting for approximately 30% of total shed power. Lagging pipes and insulating hot water cylinders will reduce costs but more than 50% of water heating costs can be saved by fitting a good quality hot water recovery system to the refrigeration unit. Finally, further savings of up to 25% on running the chiller unit can be as simple as fitting the vat with a reputable, quality, insulated polar wrap. ◗
GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
MILK QUALITY // 39
Warren and Gaylene Burke.
Plastic fantastic saves time, money in sheds ONE LESS JOB in the milking
shed can make a huge difference in a dairying operation’s bottom line; changing milking liners and tubing is now a once a season job, saving time and money for some farmers. Central Plateau farmer Phil Shepherd has been dairying for more than 30 years. On his 340 hectare block half way between Taupo and Tokoroa, he milks 750 dairy cows every day. Shepherd has been trialling using soft plastic milking liners instead of rubber for the last year and is impressed with the results. “The new liners are just awesome. We’re not getting split liners and they are lasting much longer than their rubber counterparts. Plus, they’re more hygienic and the cell count is considerably lower than before.” Although the initial cost to
buy the plastic liners was higher than rubber, Shepherd says the liners have cost-saving implications in the longer term. “We’re getting a whole season’s milking out of one set of liners, which is fantastic. Rubber liners only lasted for 2,500 milkings and we’re up to 5,400 now and still going. “We’ll get through the entire season without changing them - traditionally we had to change the rubber twice if not three times during a season so there are significant savings to be made using thermoplastic in labour and downtime in the shed.” Increased stock health is another positive benefit Shepherd has discovered using plastic liners. “There’s less teat damage and the plastic appears to easier on the animal,” he explains. Apart from the time and cost
savings, microbe resistance and hygiene, thermoplastic is also strong, transparent and easily cleaned. Two years ago Northland farmers Warren and Gaylene Burke made the decision to eliminate rubber from their milking operation, opting for thermoplastic liners and tubing. Two milking seasons later, and like Phil, they are enjoying the benefits the plastic approach is bringing. “They’re really good and very light, which makes a huge difference in how we work in the shed,” says Gaylene. “The rubber was really heavy to lug around. The health benefits didn’t stop at humans either - the cows like plastic as it’s lighter and easier on their teats.” Although Gaylene admits the thermoplastic liners and pipes
are “a bit more expensive”, she counters that by saying they last twice as long and have other advantages as well. “We like the transparency of the DairyFlo liners and piping - you can see the milk flowing through and we are alerted immediately to any problems an animal might be having, such as blood turning up in the milk. As soon as you put the cups on you can see everything which is helpful and time saving. You can also see what stage of milking the cows are at and when they are just about finished.” Another “big bonus” according to Gaylene is that the plastic liners stay intact and don’t perish like rubber. “We prefer the plastic to the rubber, not only for its weight and other benefits, but we milk faster and that’s got to be good for business.” ◗
GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
40 // MASTITIS
Always be vigilant and practice good hygiene PHIL FLEMING LIC FARMWISE CONSULTANT
MASTITIS IS INFLAMMATION of a cow’s mammary glands and
udder tissue. It usually occurs as an immune response to bacterial invasion of the teat canal by various bacteria present onfarm, and can also occur as a result of chemical, mechanical or thermal injury to the cow’s udder. Milk-secreting tissues and various ducts throughout the udder can be damaged by bacterial toxins, and sometimes permanent damage to the udder occurs. Severe acute cases can be fatal, but even in cows that recover there may be consequences for the rest of the lactation and subsequent lactations. The illness is, in most respects, a complex disease affected by a variety of factors: it can be present in a herd sub-clinically where few, if any, symptoms are present in most cows. Practices such as close attention to milking hygiene, the culling of chronically infected cows and effective dairy cow nutrition to promote good cow health are essential to
help control herd mastitis levels. Mastitis treatment and control is one of the largest animal health costs to the dairy industry and markedly affects cow welfare. Losses can arise from: kk Milk thrown away due to contamination by medication or being unfit to drink. kk A reduction in yields due to illness and any permanent damage to udder tissue. kk The extra labour required to tend to mastitis cows. kk The costs of veterinary care and antibiotics. kk The cost of reduced longevity due to premature culling. kk Grading due to high bulk somatic cell count (SCC) in the milk. Most mastitis problems are either calving related environmental problems, characterised by a high number of clinical cases in the spring, and/or contagious, which usually result in a rising cell count later in the season. The contagious form of bacteria is Staph aureus which is easily transmitted from cow to cow via milkers’ hands and liners, so as the season progresses the number of infected cows goes up.
Mastitis is a complex disease affected by a variety of factors.
Some good tips for keeping this form of bacteria at bay: kk Spraying every teat, every day
and every milking. kk Wear milking gloves. kk Avoid hosing down around
cows when cups are off. kk Where possible milk your high
cell-count cows last. Keeping the herd cell count low in the autumn can present challenges because as production volume drops, cells become less diluted and cell count rises. There is no benefit to treating high cell-count cows in late lactation so along with low producers they should be dried-off early and treated with
dry cow therapy. Many of the chronically infected mastitis cows cannot be fixed so I recommend culling cows which have had three or more clinical cases during the season as well as cows which have had high SCC over two consecutive seasons using dry cow therapy. Mastitis is a complex issue and every situation is slightly different on any given farm. So how you treat it can depend on a number of variables. But the key message is to remain vigilant in detecting cases and carry out good dairy hygiene practices at all times of the year. ◗
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“The thought that we may have BVD in our herd really bothered us. The potential profit loss would threaten our family’s financial security.”
At first we were pretty naïve about BVD. We knew nothing about it other than having some friends whose herd had been infected. We decided to test after seeing what they were going through with fertility losses and that sort of thing. And because our young stock were grazing with other animals, we knew there was a chance they might be compromised. “My advice is don’t be on your own with it. Go to your vet, put a plan in place and monitor that plan until you’ve completely finished with it.”
After the tests, we found out that some of our stock were positive and we were looking for a PI or persistently infected animal. It was really disappointing, but the good thing about farming in New Zealand is that everybody talks to everybody else and soon we knew we weren’t alone. There were a lot of people we could draw on to help us work it through. We put a management plan in place with our vet and made a decision to look at that year’s lowest producing heifers. That was a lucky guess backed up with some science, because we found our PI straight away
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and were able to remove her. Following on from that, we made a decision to vaccinate calves with Bovilis every year to build up the herd’s immunity. Vaccinating has given us huge peace of mind. We knew we wouldn’t completely remove BVD, but stopping young calves becoming PIs was a big step in increasing our Stopping herd’s reproductive efficiency – and also making young calves sure the calves grew up and put weight on properly.
If you find you’ve got BVD in your herd, my advice was a big step is don’t be on your own with it. Go to your vet, put a plan in place and monitor that plan until you’ve completely finished with it. As long as you don’t give up halfway though, you can definitely get on top of it. Ciarán Tully Dairy Farmer, Thames.
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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
42 // ANIMAL HEALTH
BVD – one of the easiest diseases to control BVD IS WIDELY recognised as
the most costly viral infection of cattle. It can be insidious because it has many different effects that can go unnoticed, or not blamed on BVD, while the total cost adds up.
Feed Efficiency (kg of milk/kg DMI)
ANDREW WEIR VETERINARIAN
This is partly due to BVD suppressing the immune system, like AIDS does in humans, so whatever other infections are around, there will be more cases and they will be more severe thanks to BVD’s influence. Certainly, an outbreak of BVD can be very dramatic and severe with the loss of half of the replacements with deformed calves, small weak calves, or
2 1.98 1.96 1.94 1.92 1.9 1.88 1.86 1.84 1.82
severe calf scours, or a 20-30% empty rate. However, most of the industry-wide cost of BVD is in herds where the disease remains undetected. The only way to know is to screen the herd – usually with bulk tank testing. Conveniently though, BVD is one of the easiest cattle diseases to control. If you’ve got BVD, the research strongly supports getting rid of
it, and if you don’t have BVD, the research strongly supports doing something to keep it out. Summary of BVD effects: Bulls: suppresses the immune system (more and worse disease); lower fertility (persistently infected cattle (PIs), and even just susceptible bulls exposed to infection so need to vaccinate as well as test for PIs). Calves: suppresses the immune system (more and worse disease); scouring, pneumonia; reduced growth (best estimate from overseas is 20% reduced growth if running with a PI). Cows: suppresses the immune system (often more mastitis cases and more severe and harder to treat); increased SCC; reduced production (best estimate in NZ is about 5% lower production if BVD is present in the herd); reduced fertility (conception rate, early loss, later abortions, deformed calves, small/weak calves, PI calves). There are now some good estimates of the cost of BVD in New Zealand, calculated by putting all the available knowledge together into a clever BVD economic simulation model. It runs thousands of scenarios (12,000 actually) tracking the effects of BVD in every cow in a
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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
ANIMAL HEALTH // 43
BVD suppresses the immune system in calves.
herd over 10 years. The average cost in any given season across all herds not controlling BVD comes out at about $24,000 (average 400 cow herd). That includes herds that got lucky and didn’t even see BVD so that obviously brings the average down compared to just herds that are infected. The numbers in the graph below are discounted at 9.2% per year, and averaged over the 10 years before being averaged across herds. The annual long-run cost of ignoring BVD is about $11,600 (see graph p42) when calculated that way. BVD economic model key points: kk Doing anything is better than
doing nothing. Generally, the more you do the greater the economic return. kk You don’t necessarily need both calf testing and herd vaccination (the linchpins of control), but you do need at least one to effectively control BVD. kk Clearing infection is really important, even if you are choosing to vaccinate. kk Testing all bought-in cattle is important and worthwhile. kk Securing your boundary fences is worth doing, even if that’s just with temporary hotwires as needed. kk The full biosecurity approach – testing calves, bulls, bought-in cows, actively clearing persis-
tently infected animals, vaccinating bulls, calves and heifers, and improving the boundary with neighbours – minimised the total cost of BVD (average ~$7,500 less per year than ignoring BVD). Clearing infection and vaccinating the herd was the next best option (~$6,500). BVD control is all about PIs (Persistently Infected cattle). PIs can only be made in the first 4 months of pregnancy where infection gets into the young foetus which remains infected for life and is born as a PI. PIs shed massive amounts of virus and are the main source of infection. So BVD control is about stopping PIs entering the herd and either stopping them from being made inside pregnant animals, or catching them shortly after birth before they can cause too much trouble. The options for BVD control are test and cull approaches, vaccination, and some management activities that reduce the risks. If you make sure each row (risk) is covered, you’re most of the way there. Remember that the linchpins of BVD control are annual replacement calf testing and herd vaccination. It’s a good idea to work through your situation in more detail with your vet but this is a great start and much better than ignoring BVD. ◗
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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
44 // ANIMAL HEALTH
Keep a close watch on young stock grazed off farm.
Pay greater attention to stock grazed off farm – and help boost growth GARETH GILLATT
KEEPING A CLOSE eye on young stock is essential for future production and reproduction say industry specialists. Not only do first calvers offer the herd the best chance at lifting the overall breeding worth score, first calvers who have reached the necessary weights faster also put more production into the vat. However, with most farmers grazing stock off farm and only checking up on them a few times before they return, his results in slow growth.
Research from the DairyNZ In Calf initiative shows a 420kg Friesian heifer is at least 10% behind its target weight, which results in a 5% lower chance of getting in calf in the first six weeks of mating, an extra 2% chance of being empty as a second calver and a 8kgMS drop in production at the total cost of $88 per heifer. LIC Ruawai farm solutions manager Philip Tana says farmers should try to aim for fortnightly visits at the very least, also making a point of weighing the entire herd twice before they come back to the home farm. Building up a good relationship with graziers is
essential according to Tana; farmers shouldn’t be afraid of helping out with extra feed, minerals and drenches during adverse events. Keeping track of cows is easier for anybody with scales and RFID capacity, according to Tana as he says it makes getting each weight a job that takes an hour and not a day. Northland dairy grazier and beef farmer Graham Hodgson says his electronic scale and tag reader allows him to weigh stock for clients every month and not every three-six months. “Stock might look alright but sometimes they might be losing weight which would
indicate there is a problem with them.” “If you weigh animals three months or even six months later any problems are much harder to fix.” Farm consultants say having access to digital records then means farmers can share that data with vets and farm consultants. If handled successfully it could result in more milk in vat and a much lower first calver empty rate according to Tana. A DairyNZ study has found farmers could expect to make between $1 and $1.66 for every kilogram they put on cows backs depending on the payout. ◗
GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
ANIMAL HEALTH // 45
Caring for cows pays off CHRIS LEACH DAIRYNZ ANIMAL HUSBANDRY AND WELFARE TEAM LEADER
RELAXED AND HEALTHY
animals lead to happier staff, more production and a safer work environment. It clearly demonstrates to the New Zealand public and the increasingly vigilant overseas markets that the industry cares about the welfare of the animals we are responsible for. Ensuring the welfare of animals is the responsibility of everyone who owns or cares for them. Animal welfare means providing a reasonable standard of care for your animals, avoiding cruelty and preventing unnecessary suffering. Animals need to be healthy,
comfortable and properly fed. Treatment should be received when it is needed, and when required animals should be put down humanely. The basis of these requirements is in the Dairy Cattle Code of Welfare 2014 and the Animal Welfare Act 1999. The codes set out minimum standards and best practice for the care and management of animals. In general, acceptable farming practice meets the minimum standards, however the requirements change over time and people who care for and own animals need to be aware of the requirements. DairyNZ incorporates these standards into resources, training and information developed for farmers. Knowledge and
attitude key Knowledge, skill, and attitude are critically important to the standard of care of animals. The animal welfare codes place a strong emphasis on stockmanship. Owners, managers and people in charge of animals must ensure staff receive appropriate training, have the relevant knowledge and skills required for the jobs they do and are appropriately supervised and supported to ensure the animals are adequately cared for. Management sets the standard Training in stockmanship and animal welfare is available through Primary ITO courses, industry workshops or informal learning on the job – which is common for farm roles. Farmers
shouldn’t underestimate how much junior or new farm workers learn by observing activities. The attitude and approach of other staff, especially managers and 2ICs, sets the standard for the farm, and serves to imbed good and bad habits when it comes to handling and caring for animals. Developing policies and procedures for ‘how we do things on this farm’ is a good starting point for setting the standards required for stock care and management. If staff are included in the development of the policies and procedures, there is more ownership. They are also a good tool for training new staff as they set out the ‘what and why’ (policies), as well as the ‘how and when’ (procedures). ◗
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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
46 // MATING MANAGEMENT
Three milkings in two days: the benefits BRENT BOYCE LIC FARMWISE CONSULTANT
MANY FARMERS SWITCH
from twice-a-day milking (2AD) to three milkings in two days (3in2) in the period from the end of AI till it gets hot in January. They milk from then through the second half of the lactation on 3in2 until the end of the season. The lactation curves achieved by these farmers consistently show that per cow and per hectare production are not affected when compared to previous seasons results on 2AD. Within-season comparisons with neighbouring farmers who stay on 2AD show that those farmers on 3in2 can equal or better the production of those who stay on 2AD. The five main reasons farmers switch to 3in2 as they roll into summer are the same as on any dairy farm: heat, feet, meat, teat and bleat. By milking early in the morning and in the cool of the evening, and having the cows back in the paddock before it gets too hot in the second afternoon, you reduce the heat stress on the cows during summer (heat). They also spend more time resting and eating, giving more opportunity to maintain condition (meat), and hold milk production (teat), and of course they will have reduced their walking by 25% (feet). Staff annoyed about flies at the afternoon milking, and moaning cows and staff sick of walking/ working during the heat of the day (bleat). And farm costs are reduced (bleat x 2). The practical aspects of 3in2 are as follows: kk Earliest commencement is recommended after the end of
the AI period; most farmers’ start 3in2 from early December to mid January. kk Production will stay the same as when you were on 2AD, as long as the cows are fed the same (some farmers get increased production over 2AD). kk If you start 3in2 too early in lactation you will suppress peak MS production. kk On day 1, start the morning milking at the normal time (say 5-6am) and the night milking at 7.00-7.30pm. On day 2, the single milking on this day is about noon (11am-1pm). kk When daylight saving ends in March, simply bring the night milking in earlier. By May the evening milking on day 1 should be 4-5pm. kk If you take wider milking interval spacings than these suggested times before March you will suppress summer milk production. kk Cows maintain condition better on 3in2 than if they stay
Everything you do from February affects the next lactation.
on 2AD. kk Some farmers are recording
improved in calf results (less slips). kk Use 3in2 to slow the round down, e.g. 50 paddocks on 2AD (one paddock a milking) equals a 25-day round; then go to 3in2 and keep at one paddock per milking – equals a 33-day round. And no break fences over the heat of summer. kk And of course if you slow the round down, just like on 2AD, you will need to either increase pasture cover, feed out supplements or – what many farmers do – introduce summer turnips the day you start 3in2. kk Still feed your summer turnips once a day (after the morning milking and before the noon milking works well). kk Some farmers get even more cunning, and in mid to late April they put the cows onto OAD (if SCC is OK) and milk to the very last day of pickup. This makes things easy on cows and staff, and of course
they get a simple 50-day round (one paddock a milking) with no break fences. (Note that there are farmers achieving more than 470kgMS/cow and 1500kgMS/ha on dryland using this milking regime). kk Everyone loves the sleep-in on the second day. Those who are doing the evening milking on day 1 need to finish farm work by 1pm. kk Some people can’t cope with 3in2; don’t force it onto the unwilling. If you are short of feed or cow condition is poor, then3in2 is not the solution. That is best handled by putting cows onto milking OAD. The use of 3in2 is for those farmers who want 2AD production with less work and cost, and better cow condition. Remember everything you do from February effects the next lactation, so give the cows a chance to put condition on, milk for as long as possible, and get ready for another season. ◗
GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
MATING MANAGEMENT // 47
Breeding to suit needs DANYEL HOSTO CRV AMBREED PRODUCT MANAGER GENETICS
THE NEW ZEALAND dairy industry is not one-size-fits-all. All farms are different in how the herd is fed, expected production level per cow, the distance animals walk to the shed, terrain on the farm, the number of milkings per day – to name a few. Unique farm environments mean different types of cow will perform better in different herds. Using genetics in a smart way lets you breed a herd that’s best suited to your farming conditions. Genetic improvement is a long-term investment and what you do today will affect your herd for years to come. Think
about your goals and needs for your future farm: is it greater production, more efficiency or something else? Setting goals and having a breeding plan is the first step to greater genetic improvement and better herd performance. To create an effective breeding plan: kk Identify your goals kk Use the information and data
available to you to gain insight into your herd kk Set targets to make progress kk Look for the right solutions to make improvements Once you know where you want to go, the next step is figuring out how to get there. Establish a starting point for your herd’s performance using herd test data, weights, herd walks or TOP scoring to see conformation
of the herd, and management information like somatic cell counts, empty rates – or any information that can be gleaned from your herd recording. Compare this information with your long-term goals to better understand where improvement is needed, then you can prioritise and make a plan to improve it. Say, for instance, that your long-term goal is to lift production per hectare from your current operation. Due to environmental reasons you can’t increase the stocking rate, so you need more production per cow. After taking a look at the herd and current herd performance, you notice that your cows can’t seem to eat enough due to limited capacity, which puts a ceiling on peak milk they can achieve. You’ve also lost some top producing cows after just a
few lactations – a worrying trend. This example signals a need to focus on specific traits when establishing your breeding plan. One such would be capacity to improve the herd’s ability to eat more and general heartiness, as well as selecting genetics for longevity. Long-term genetic improvement coupled with day-to-day nutrition and management should help achieve your future goals. Finally, once a plan is formulated, implement the improvements and apply the right solutions. Remember, breeding the type of cow to suit your farming goals is important for achieving long-term success with your farm. Carefully consider where you are and where you want to go, then create your breeding plan to get there. ◗
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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
48 // MATING MANAGEMENT
Get heat detection right TRACY QUIN BRAND MANAGER GEA FARM TECHNOLOGIES
NEW ZEALAND’S SEASONAL
dairy system brings a need to maximise the number of days in milk, and this season the pressure is greater than ever upon farmers to achieve that. The recent changes to rules on inductions that have the practice banned from spring 2015 means getting cows in calf sooner is crucial. Nationally the dairy industry has a target of 78% six week in calf rate, which at present is averaging 65%. Initiatives like LIC’s 6 Week Challenge have raised the profile about the importance of getting cows in calf earlier. This will deliver more days in milk and more valuable high genetic heifer calves to build the herd’s future upon. Work by DairyNZ scientist Dr Chris Burke indicates a missed heat represents a loss of $150 per cow. But a combination of careful observation skills and well suited oestrus detection aids will help ensure that loss is minimised. Heat or oestrus in dairy cows Cow behaviour when on heat brings some distinctive signs.
can be as varied as the cows themselves, differing in outward behaviour ranging from overly aggressive or restless, to being withdrawn. Influences on cycle time Sexually mature cows will cycle every 21 days, but the time on heat can also vary significantly, from 13-15 hours to only 2-3 hours, and a maximum of 30 hours. This can be influenced by the age of the cow: a young heifer will take longer than an older mature milking cow. Good cow condition will result in her cycling earlier after her last pregnancy, later if she is lighter. What to watch for Cow behaviour when on heat brings some distinct signs that indicate the stage of heat the cow is at. When observing behaviour in the paddock, restlessness, sniffing other cows’ tail areas and mounting are all signs she is either coming into heat or is on heat. Observations in the dairy such as swollen vulva, withholding milk and rubbed tail hair are also indications.
A sure sign that a cow is ready for AI is when she stands ready to be mounted by another cow. The mounting cow rubs off the standing cow’s tail paint, making the fact that she is on heat obvious to the observer when she next comes in for milking. If observed in the morning she should be drafted out and inseminated. If observed in the evening, making a note or logging her number into the drafting system will ensure she will be drafted out in the morning. If she does not stand to be mounted it is still too early. Detecting heat – some options The most widely used and most cost-effective method of heat detection chosen by NZ farmers is tail painting. Ensuring the area is clean, apply paint along the spine from tail head in a 15cm by 5cm strip. Four colour codes are recommended: kk Red – 3 weeks before calving on all cows will help identify those cows not cycling and requiring attention. kk Green – immediately before
starting AI programme to identify cows as they cycle. kk Blue – post insemination, no rubbing 3-4 weeks later indicates she has held. kk Yellow – when pregnancy is confirmed. kk Regular touch-ups are recommended for tail paint. There are different types of tail paint applications available – aerosols, brush on applicators, tins, buckets and a backpack tail painter to help assist with tail painting large herds. High-tech options also exist. Heat detection collars are one option that detect when a cow’s activity is elevated while on heat. Such technology is common in the northern hemisphere and interest is growing in New Zealand. Especially on intensively farmed properties the high-tech options free staff for other jobs, or sometimes allow a staff member to be replaced. Whatever method of heat detection is chosen, a set procedure, good observational skills and a proven method will all ensure a tighter calving pattern and more milk in the vat next season. ◗
How do I get the best efficiency for my farm?
Your herd is your source of income and your livelihood. With CRV Ambreed, you can breed specifically for efficiency to achieve the best results for your herd and your farming business. Efficiency and production are vital to a high performing herd. At CRV Ambreed, we help farmers by offering the right advice, support, services and smart solutions to achieve greater production and efficiency. ITâ€™S ALL IN THE HERD
0800 262 733 | www.crv4all.co.nz | firstname.lastname@example.org
GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
50 // MATING MANAGEMENT
No magic potion for getting cows in-calf MIKE BAILEY LIC FARMWISE CONSULTANT
MUCH HAS BEEN written about
mating over the years, with very little having changed with regard to the desired ultimate outcome. Getting cows in-calf as quickly as possible has always been the ultimate goal, because of the positive influence it will have on your business in the subsequent season. There is no single focus to achieve this, but a combination of well thought out and effective plans for: kk Calving pattern kk Heifer management kk Body condition and nutrition kk Heat detection kk Dealing with non-cyclers kk Genetics and artificial breeding practices kk Bull management kk Cow health Calving pattern The latest focus is the 6-week in calf rate, which describes the percentage of cows in the milking herd that become pregnant in the first six weeks of the mating period. The industry target is 78%, and there are farmers achieving this. Early rectal pregnancy testing provides the most accurate assessment.
Empty rates do not give a good indication of how quickly cows get in calf so should be used in conjunction with the 6-week in calf rate. Achieving an improved 6-week in calf rate can be likened to shifting the bell curve to the left. The outcome of improving this measure is more days in milk and more days to first service. The recent introduction of short gestation bulls to bring calving forward up to 10 days is a major boost in the armoury of farmers striving to tidy up the calving pattern and, in particular, negate the likely loss of those cows that might otherwise have been induced. Heifer management As with many of the specific jobs we do through the year, success will be influenced by events that have happened many months or even years before – and this is no different when it comes to the mating period, none more so than with replacement stock. Most heifers are now grazed out these days, but that doesn’t mean your responsibility for their performance ends when they leave the farm; check them regularly and keep the pressure on your grazer. Provide them with good stock and make sure they are aware of your expectations.
A great tool that is improving the targeted accuracy for individual animals is Minda Weights, which assesses heifer progress against individual liveweight BV-based targets (outlined in dairyNZ’s Incalf book page 43). As shown in the table below, there are significant gains to be made by closing the gap on actual-to-targeted liveweight for young stock. Body condition and nutrition Targets of 5.5 for heifers and second calvers and 5.0 for mature cows are well established as attainable and effective ways to maximise early production. Achieving these targets will also see cow condition not go too low prior to mating, given reasonable levels of feeding, and provide the best chance of a standard anoestrus period. The influence on your herd’s condition starts in autumn with drying off decisions. Failing to achieve these targets will see cows cycle later than desired, peak lower than anticipated and lower the herd’s 6-week in-calf rate, thereby reducing days in milk. Managing your feed resources through the first round should be geared to making sure you bottom out no lower than
1800-1900 just before take-off date and that you have access to or sufficient feed reserves on hand to manage that period. Feeding is often the focus for getting cows in-calf, pasture quality is affected by how you set up and manage your farm system in late winter and early spring. The aim should be to achieve an increasing supply of high quality pasture and supplements depending on your system, to ensure cows get fed at least as well today as they did the day before. Heat detection As simple as it sounds, the one make-or-break task in any dairy system is heat detection. Get this wrong and you will be fixing the resulting ramifications for years. As farms get bigger with more reliance on staff, this key time of the production year needs effective training and a high degree of competency. The pre-mating period is a great time to assess the staff’s requirement for additional training and gives you time to plan the whole mating programme while capturing valuable data. Spending time in the paddock and simply watching will allow inexperienced staff to pick all this activity up. The ultimate task of picking who gets drafted should be left to one or two experienced individuals. Dealing with non-cyclers The normal anoestrus period for a mature cow is 42 days, with heifers 7 days longer. Those cows that have not cycled by the start of AI and that have had sufficient time to come out of the anoestrus period should be looked at. Have a plan. In my experience there are usually many more cows dirty than you first imagine. Finding and fixing a few additional
GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
MATING MANAGEMENT // 51
unknowns will help pay for the exercise. As a rule, at least have the at-risk cows checked. This will include downer cows, retained membranes, lame, assisted calvings and those that have had twins. This requires good record keeping. If hormonal treatment is planned have this done in the first week. More days in milk effectively reduces the cost of the treatment. Genetics and artificial breeding practices Choose your bulls wisely, avoid high calving difficulty BVs especially with young cows and choose higher fertility BV sires. During the AI period, make sure cows mated return to the main herd to ensure you have sexually active groups (SAGs) expressing oestrus behaviour over as much of the day as possible; that way cows coming into heat will join the SAGs and the tell-tale signs of that new heat will be evident. Be aware of what your
submission rate is and start tracking NRR rate from day 22.
springer period is predominantly to prevent milk fever. In most cases the above minerals are administered as a matter of course or after vet recommendations. The other obvious factors in animal health and mating are as a direct result of the calving process. A check list is available from the DairyNZ in-calf booklet which will highlight whether
Bull management Ensure you have enough bulls to cover the herd requirements after the AB period. A ratio of 25:1 non-pregnant cows is generally accepted as sufficient, but make sure you allow spares for resting and rotating. Good bull power will ensure you are doing all you can to reduce the empty rate, and it will allow you to work toward less than 12 weeks of mating.
your numbers of ‘at risk’ cows are outside the accepted norm and whether a review of management is necessary. In summary, there is no magic potion for getting cows in-calf, but a combination of well thought-out and effective plans will help you get there. My best advice: stick to these basics and you will be well set up for mating success. ◗
Cow health Assuming you are feeding your cows fully there may be other issues over minerals that can have an impact on mating performance. Iodine is important for cows to produce vigorous heats, and selenium for helping with post-calving infections and preventing early abortions. Low copper can also reduce reproductive performance. Mineral supplementation through the
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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
52 // MATING MANAGEMENT
Heat mount detectors can be effective.
Key ingredients for successful mating MARK BLACKWELL DAIRYNZ DEVELOPER
GETTING COWS IN-CALF
quickly is the key to achieving a good calving pattern. With routine inductions not allowed from June 1 2015, heat detection, pre-mating heats and bull management are key ingredients for a successful mating. Getting these right will benefit the farm’s submission rate and six-week in-calf rate. Most herds in New Zealand achieve in-calf rates well short of industry targets and their 2016 calving pattern will be at risk if nothing changes. The aim is to maximise the in-calf rate – the rate at
which cows become pregnant throughout a total mating period of 10-12 weeks. This requires both a high submission rate (90%) and a high conception rate (60%). These two drivers of reproductive performance require the herd to be in a naturally fertile state, as indicated by a high proportion of cows (85%) having had one or more pre-mating heats. It also requires heat detection systems used onfarm to be efficient and accurate, so few heats are missed and few heats are ‘invented’. Farmers should ask themselves ‘will the cows resume cycling at the required rate pre-mating and will a high proportion of them conceive to
AB (artificial breeding) insemination in the first six weeks of mating?’ So, what can be done during mating? Pre-mating heats
The easiest way to spot cycling cows is to do pre-mating heat detection. The period before mating is an opportunity to practice heat detection, checking for cows not on heat and anticipating when they might next come on heat. Team training should be organised at this time, with the most experienced person helping the less experienced team members to interpret signs of heat detection, checking for cows not on heat and anticipating when they might next come on heat. Team training should be organised at
this time, with the most experienced person helping the less experienced team members to interpret signs of heat. Use tail paint to pick out cycling cows. Use one colour tail paint to start, then a second colour as cows cycle and lose their tail paint. Within two weeks about half the cycling cows will have been identified. At three weeks, cows with the original colour are the non-cyclers. Calculate the herd’s pre-mating cycling rate (use DairyNZ’s InCalf Book, pg 83) for the percentage of cows showing signs of heat before mating begins. If cycling is less than 75% by 10 days before the planned start of mating, heat detection has not been fully
GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
54 // MATING MANAGEMENT
effective and/or there are too many non-cyclers. At that stage it is time to seek advice and consider which options are available to improve heat detection during AB and treat non-cycling cows. Heat detection
The best heat detection starts with careful planning, good observation and the effective use of detection aids. Being able to interpret cow behaviour and other signs is critical, along with good record keeping and training for those doing heat detection. Start by reviewing the farm’s heat detection skills: are they
particularly effective on farms with less skilled staff checking cows on heat – and when used with paddock checks for heat. Applied to the cow’s backbone, the detectors will become brightly coloured and easily recognised. Again, heat mount detectors should be applied just before mating starts, then monitored for activation and removed at insemination. Until the end of the AB period, the detector should be replaced after insemination, when the cow is no longer being mounted. Regularly replace any heat mount detectors if damaged or coming loose.
Use tail paint to pick out cycling cows. Use one colour tail paint to start, then a second colour as cows cycle and lose their tail paint. up to scratch and does everyone know what to look for when detecting cows on heat? Then, decide which combination of aids the farm will use (tail paint, heat mount detectors, activity meters and heat synchronisation). Tail paint
Tail paint is an inexpensive and effective way to detect cows on heat. Apply tail paint to all cows just before the start of mating. Touch it up at least weekly and check for cows with rubbed or broken tail paint during milking. Re-checking tail paint for rub marks immediately before each cow’s insemination will avoid inseminating cows not on heat. To help identify cows not yet inseminated or those only showing weak signs of heat, reapply a different coloured tail paint to recently inseminated cows once other cows no longer try to mount them. Heat mount detectors
DairyNZ’s InCalf programme shows that heat detection rates are higher in herds using heat mount detectors. Heat mount detectors can be
Have the bulls organised
Good bull management ensures they are well adjusted to their environment before mating. Move bulls to the farm two-three months before they are required for work. Buy bulls from the same mob and split them into two teams to rotate them (half resting, half working) to reduce fighting. The InCalf Bull Management Practices tool at dairynz.co.nz has a thorough checklist about bull management – search ‘herd assessment pack tools’. Review your InCalf Fertility Focus Report ‘performance after week six’ (figure 1) to find out how big the performance gap is during bull mating. Also examine the shape of the new graph (figure 2) on the version two detailed Fertility Focus Report. This often shows a drop-off in the rate cows are getting in-calf during bull mating. ◗ For information, tools and resources to help with reproduction, including DairyNZ’s InCalf programme and resources, visit dairynz.co.nz/ reproduction.
Tail painting is an inexpensive and effective way to detect cows on heat. Figure 1.
GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
MATING MANAGEMENT // 55
How well is your herd really performing? “IF YOU’RE LOOKING for more profit on farm, then you need to look further than your dairy statement.” That’s CRV Ambreed’s herd testing product manager Angela Ryan’s message to dairy farmers. She believes effective herd testing and herd recording are essential for effective decisionmaking, herd improvement and, in the end, profitability. “CRV Ambreed’s herd testers will take samples during milkings to estimate each cow’s production over the current lactation. It provides key performance and management data including fat, protein and somatic cell count,” says Ryan.
“The herd test results feed into breeding values and indices and tell the farmer exactly how each cow is contributing, and where improvements could be made.” Farmers will sometimes get a few surprises when they see their herd testing results, she says. “For example, the report will highlight the high and low producing cows, and cows with high somatic cell counts in need of treatment. “We colour code the reports, which provides a snapshot of what’s working well and where the farmer might need to focus their attention. We also offer a text service to give our clients information about their high
SCC cows so they can quickly address any urgent issues.” Herd testing information is also necessary to make the right breeding decisions. It provides data for evaluating the profitability of additional feeds or preventative treatments such as dry cow therapy, Ryan says. “The benefits of herd testing are huge, but only if the herd test data is accurate and credible. To protect the integrity of data collected, our herd testing service includes a herd testing assistant to help with set-up, sample collection during milking and pack up. This has proven to help reduce inaccuracies during the herd testing process.”
Farmers can choose from a full test, SCC only or a once-a-day herd test. “Profitable dairy farming [avoids] guesswork, [instead] using every tool and piece of information available to make the right decisions and take action to make more profit from an individual herd and farming system.” ◗
MiniMising Mastitis with a robust teat care programme FiL has a wide range of teat care products to assist with healthy udders and teats, minimising the opportunity for mastitis to enter your milking herd. Teat spraying kills bugs and helps to heal cracked and dry teats. It is important to choose the right type of teat spray for the environment - chlorhexidine is a good all round maintenance teat spray and iodine is useful in more challenging environments.
To speak with your local FIL area manager please call 0508 434 569
GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
56 // MATING MANAGEMENT
Staying in control during the busy season HENK HUURNINK PRODUCT MANAGER INFORMATION PRODUCTS, CRV AMBREED
MATING AND CALVING
seasons are the busiest times of the year, when many farmers typically look for better ways to stay on top of things. CRV Ambreed offers a range of user-friendly and innovative products to support farmers in recording their animals and get a head start in the new season. Easier recording through calving season
Accurate recording of calving events and new offspring during calving season offers greater peace of mind and value to a farming business. CRV Ambreed is continuously developing its information products to make it easier to record important information about a herd. CRV Insight-Web is a
web-based herd recording programme, specifically designed for farmers to enter events quickly at busy times like calving and mating. Farmers who already use it say it’s easy to use and hassle-free. Sometimes it is hard to decipher a ‘6’ from a ‘5’ while scribbling details on paper or card. For extra help in the field, CRV Ambreed offers CRV Insight-Mobile. It’s an application designed for smartphones or tablets, allowing event entries ‘on the run’. The application can work offline too, which is great outside a coverage area when a farmer needs to enter or view information about a herd. Support during mating season
Mating season can be equally challenging with the pressure of getting cows in calf in a short time. Choosing the right bull per cow to get the best offspring is
equally important. CRV Ambreed offers a breeding advice programme called SireMatch to give the best possible bull advice per cow. It will prevent inbreeding and genetic defects in a herd, and will give the best three bulls per cow to reach optimum genetic improvement. The paper report provided through SireMatch provides the perfect guide on the right breeding choices to make during the mating season. Another way to prevent inbreeding and genetic defects and know if cows are returning from a previous insemination is through CRV Ambreed’s PortaBull application. It enables users to enter all matings on a daily basis and sends them through to their recording programme, meaning data only has to be entered once. The application will also notify if a cow has had a previous
insemination, and will also have the SireMatch breeding advice information loaded if the farmer is using SireMatch. Mate your heifers to the right bulls
When mating heifers, it’s important to select bulls with low to moderate stature and liveweight. One of the traits to select when mating sires on is called ‘calving difficulty’. A sire’s calving difficulty breeding value (BV) predicts the percentage of assisted calvings expected when he is mated to yearling heifers. The higher the BV, the higher the expected percentage of assisted calvings. A calving difficulty of 2% represents two out of 100 first calving heifers will require assistance. When selecting mating sires for heifers, be sure to select those with a calving difficulty below the breed average. ◗
CRV Insight-Web is a web-based herd recording programme.
GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
58 // MATING MANAGEMENT
Sire books and mating plans deliver breeding results, say experts GARETH GILLATT
DEVELOPING A MATING plan and using breeding companies’ sire books more effectively should improve breeding results say farm reproductive specialists. Mating might be one of the two busiest times in the year for farmers, with a quarter of the year often dedicated to either preparing for mating or ensuring cows get in calf. However some experts say a significant number of operators do not take the period as seriously as they should, resulting in variable empty rates and small, unproductive heifers. Empty cows cost farmers up to $1890 a year in foregone production losses. Gains from higher general performance indicators including breeding worth, production worth and lactation worth (LW) range between $40 and $100, CRV Ambreed northern North Island sales and marketing manager Hank Lina says. So it is worthwhile for farmers to do their research on goals and sires. Appearing at a Dairy Women’s Network series on successful herd mating and management, Lina told attendees operators often underestimated how much could be changed in the herd just through mating. Many don’t know the meaning of even some of the more common indexes like the lactation worth. A guide to how well the cow converted feed into profit in the previous season, lactation worth is calculated by estimating the amount of feed cows have eaten and then comparing that to the profit they have produced over a season.
Lina says even something like breeding worth isn’t well understood; farmers are often unsure of the factors used in calculating the figure. Somatic cell count, milk volume, milk fat, protein, liveweight, production fertility and residual survival are all worked into BW with many farmers saying it is possible to have older cows in the herd that have a low BW outperform younger animals with a high BW. While other systems like the newly developed New Zealand Merit Index (NZMI) took 11 factors from production, management and animal trait into account, Lina says it is worth searching for specific traits to get the best out of costly AI straws, especially if farmers have a particular problem to solve. While higher production is almost always on farmers’ agendas, Lina says they are usually facing other problems breeding could help solve including herd resilience, lameness, high somatic cell count and calving difficulties. A targeted focus on one or two goals often works better than trying to chase down many, he says. Before selecting sires for the year, Lina says, a decision on mid-long term herd goals should bring better results. Goals can be set by examining the farm’s inputs, outputs, staffing and animal health situations and seeing where changes need to
be made. Once goals have been set, Lina says, operators can work on achieving them by eliminating genetics contributing to the problem with cull cows and introducing heifers and sire bull genetics to add traits to resolve problems. Farmers looking to resolve mating issues including calving difficulty and high empty rate could look to calving difficulty and fertility breeding values, with Lina saying farmers also had options outside the catalogue. Farmers running a Kiwi cross or Friesian herd could reduce calving pressure on first calvers by putting them with Jersey bulls, says Lina. Short gestation bulls are a good way to tighten calving patterns. Two indicators directly denote longevity for those trying to increase the productive life of animals in the herd, he says. Residual survival measures the lifetime in the herd after genetic traits have been taken into account while total longevity is an estimation of the difference between the lifespan of the
herd and the lifespan’s sired daughters. Farmers are more likely to see the residual survival indicator, according to Lina, as it shows up in both the BW and NZMI system. Bulls that produced cows with a level rump angle, intermediate angle rear legs, strong udder support, good capacity and a wide rump would also be productive and remain healthy longer, according to Lina. Cutting the herd’s somatic cell count has become more of an issue in recent years; some cows are being culled on somatic cell count alone. Lina says farmers can also breed down somatic cell counts with bulls. Some bulls produce progeny likely to produce milk with reduced leukocytes. The SCS BV indicator directly reflects this genetic trait. And while bulls that sired cows with a more uniform teat could also help keep down somatic cell count, Lina says these traits are also desirable for people attempting to match a herd to a robotic milking system. ◗ Empty cows cost farmers up to $1890 a year in foregone production losses.
Taking stock Julie Sixtus is someone who likes to get the job done.
“Tagging animals was familiar but the whole registration business was new to us and we needed guidance.” Julie Sixtus
“That was the best thing I could have done,” says Julie. “Some people prefer going through a third party to get their database set up and the animals registered, but I prefer the handson approach and working through it myself.
have come back,” she says. “Even if we’re short one cow, you know immediately, and because our grazier does the whole NAIT thing too, he can check in very fast with me if something’s not quite right.
“The NAIT contact centre people were amazing, so helpful,” says Julie. It was perfect having a NAIT person actually take me through the process step-by-step with me while I was there in front of the screen, hands on the keyboard, actually doing it.”
“While we’ve only got a small dairy holding, I can absolutely see how useful that would be for bigger herds coming and going all over New Zealand, and how important it is for people to register with NAIT and keep track of their animals.”
There was only one problem: how to do it.
Julie regularly interacts with NAIT, either by phone or email, and appreciates the updates and notifications that are part of the service.
“Obviously, we were a bit unsure about how to get started and what we needed to do,” says Julie. “Tagging animals was familiar but the whole registration business was new to us and we needed guidance.”
“They used to be a bit overzealous with their notifications, but they’ve sorted that out now, so we just get the alerts we need,” says Julie. “I guess we’re all on a learning curve and that includes NAIT itself.”
Husband Neil is third-generation farming stock, so Julie knows the importance of longevity and sustainability in the farming industry, and spreads the NAIT word as much as possible in her role with the Dairy Women’s Network.
Based in Takaka, Julie and husband Neil decided to take the bull by the horns and tackle NAIT registration of their herd early on. “We started the NAIT process about two years ago,” says Julie. “We’ve only got a small herd, just 320 dairy cows, but once we knew we had to get them tagged and registered, we thought let’s just get on and do it.”
“It was perfect having a NAIT person actually take me through the process step-by-step with me while I was there in front of the screen, hands on the keyboard, actually doing it.” She and Neil were one of the first off the mark in their area in terms of NAIT activity, so there wasn’t a lot of guidance available from fellow farmers. So Julie did the next best thing: she picked up the phone and dialled the NAIT contact centre.
Julie’s pragmatic approach means that she’s been able to get a good routine going with her grazier who takes her cows for winter pasturing. “The NAIT database is really useful for simple things like immediately knowing how many cows have gone and how many cows
“Right now, it feels more about compliance than anything else, but it’s obvious that one day we’ll look back and be very glad this happened when it did. “It’s a bit like putting on a seatbelt when you get in the car, or arranging insurance on your house. Like anything, it’s about being aware of risk and making sure you’re ready for whatever might happen in future. “It’s just something we all have to do,” says Julie. “So we did.”
0800 624 843 www.nait.co.nz
GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
60 // CALVING Well grown heifers make more successful milking cows.
Calving with confidence SARAH TAUKARI DAIRYNZ DEVELOPER, ANIMAL WELFARE
TO SET UP a dairy cow for a long, productive life, she needs the best possible start. Extra effort from birth will pay dividends throughout her milking life. Well grown heifers make more successful milking cows, and growing them well starts from the day they are born. Spring is one of the most demanding times of the year.
Allocating time before calving to develop plans and policies with the whole team can save precious time once calving starts, reduce stress on staff and stock and eliminate costly mistakes. Preparing for calving checklist kk Develop
a plan with your team and refer to it regularly. kk â€˘Organise job roles and give every staff member an area of responsibility appropriate to their experience. kk Set up staff to succeed with
good training and pairing of junior staff with an experienced person. kk Think about how to reduce staff stress, such as providing shared breakfasts, and look out for signs of fatigue in team mates. kk Plan leave so all staff know when they will get a break next. kk Show appreciation and boost staff morale by rewarding examples of great teamwork. kk Schedule an event for when calving is finished to celebrate success.
Calving in action To help manage calving, there are some key things to keep in mind. The information below can help you develop calving policies to ensure clear and consistent messages are communicated. If staff have a document to follow and refer back to, it will give them confidence during this busy time. Prepare a portable calving kit Having the right tools on hand will help reduce calvingrelated health issues and losses.
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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
62 // CALVING
Check springer mob regularly Checks should be done at least twice every 24 hours, preferably every six hours, to provide timely assistance to cows having difficulty calving. Quietly check all areas of the paddock and record notes on any cows that have calved or are showing signs of calving. Calve cows in a welldrained paddock
promptly support her own weight. Make sure staff know the farm policy on how metabolics will be managed. Calf care Calf mortality is highest in the hours immediately following birth. Collect calves twice a day to give them the
“Well grown heifers make more successful milking cows and growing them well starts from the day they are born.” Avoid pugged or muddy paddocks to help reduce the risk of mastitis and navel infections. Consider the need for shelter or a contingency plan in adverse weather. Do not use effluent paddocks for springers where pasture can become high in potassium as cows can become predisposed to metabolic problems. Know when you will intervene at calving Use the intervention guide diagram in DairyNZ’s Spring Survival Guide (available at dairynz.co.nz) to run through various calving scenarios with the farm team. Highlight key expectations regarding time elapsed and calving progress made, along with the message to call for help if needed. Discuss the expected actions to be taken by staff for each scenario, according to their experience and ability and ensure they all understand their roles and responsibilities. Have a plan for managing down cows Provide down cows with shelter and water. Seek advice from your vet for any non-responsive downers – especially after 24 hours (or humanely euthanise them). Use hip clamps carefully for short periods (5-10 minutes) and discontinue use if there is no progress or if the cow cannot
best chance of getting fresh ‘gold’ colostrum within the first six hours of life. This includes bobby calves, which must receive the same care as replacement heifers, right up until they are checked to be fit for transport and leave the farm. Continue to feed colostrum, or a colostrum substitute, for at least the first four days of life. When collecting new calves, Calf mortality is highest in the hours immediately remember the following birth. acronym ‘Mrs T’. kk Mark or tag the calf. kk Record the date, cow number, Portable calving kit sex of calf and calf number in contents the yellow pocket herd book. Having a well-stocked calving kk Separate the calf and its kit will help reduce stress levels mother from the mob – and help staff be prepared, practice safe lifting technique reducing calving-related health by bending your knees to issues and losses. avoid injury. kk Treat navels with iodine in kk Metabolics – clearly labelled the paddock and keep the calf milk fever treatments, starter between you and its mother. drench kk Three calving ropes Make sure calves are handled kkTwo litre container of lube kk Old towel, soap with care and the trailer kk Bucket with a lid carrying any calves is clean and kk Notebook and pencil disinfected, not overloaded and kk Eartags or other calf ID driven smoothly. Once at the system calf shed, record any at-risk kk Spray paint – red (for calves and make sure the calf warning) plus another colour rearer is aware of them.
kk String/bailing kk Gloves
twine for rectal or other
exam kk Sustenance
– energy bars torch and spare
batteries spray kk Pocket size laminated intervention guides kk Iodine
Calving advice To support farmers through the busy calving season, DairyNZ has put together a video with tips and advice for the calving season, as well as information on calving, calf rearing, bobby calves, weaning and feeding systems. Visit dairynz.co.nz/calving. ◗
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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
64 // CALF REARING Jean Margerison, Massey University with the calves at the No. 4 dairy unit.
Out to pasture for first calves on Uni farm PETER BURKE
VISITORS TO THE calf rearing
trial at Massey University’s Number 4 Dairy unit have been very impressed, according to Massey researcher Dr Jean Margerison. The project is looking at possible benefits of differing milk diets and machine feeding compared with hand feeding on calf growth rates and subsequent performance of dairy cattle. It will be running for the next few years and is a long term study being completed for Bell Booth Ltd, Palmerston North, to assess the effect of early life nutrition on subsequent milk yield and cow survival. Margerison says 183 of the calves in the trial have now been weaned and are out on pasture where they are still getting a
standard 2kg of meal/day to keep them on track to achieve a growth rate of 650-750g/day for all calves. She says the challenge now is dealing with the ‘tail end’ calves. “They are a problem everybody has to face. They are born a bit later, some have had birth or sucking problems and the temptation is to finish feeding milk and wean the last ones underweight, rather than keep persisting with them. “The logistics of dealing with these calves is difficult because you have to feed milk for fewer calves and want to finish feeding milk and using vat milk or buying milk powder. “The fact is that weaning calves under weaning weight is the last thing you should do. As a matter of practicality the ‘tail enders’ need to be weaned at about 10kg higher live weight
and they then grow well directly after weaning from milk, which is great for you and especially for them. If you wean under weaning weight, at pasture their weight and pasture intake is lower so they struggle to grow and can’t catch up with the calves born sooner. And calving date is a ‘set’ time frame for all of them, so mating is sooner for the last calves born. “What we are doing is keeping them on milk. You can give them a bit more, say, 10-20% more milk than the early born to make them gain more weight early and if need be keep them on milk a little longer and wean them at about 10% more weight which would be 100 for a black and white or heavy boned cross bred. “The great thing is that early growth during the milk feeding period has been shown to result in optimal milk production due
to better early mammary development. In the end worst case you have an asset to sell, rather than a problem you can’t.” Margerison says it’s much harder for the calves to make up any weight loss on pasture post weaning and you have missed the opportunity to gain early growth and mammary development, which has been so clearly linked to higher milk production and fertility, so long as it is combined with achieving important maturity targets of 65% at mating and 85-90% at calving. As a consequence, an integral part of heifer rearing is feeding and weighting them. This research has been monitoring calf growth rates weekly prior to weaning, with animals being weighed manually or their weight collected automatically to measure the progress of each calf. As part of
GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
CALF REARING // 65 Good sheltered conditions increase growth rates.
the trial, the calves have been fed differing amounts of milk and milk diet along with the Queen of Calves programme, plus ad-libitum access to 20% CP protein meal, pasture hay and fresh clean water up until weaning and 16% CP meal postweaning. Calves that get less milk tend to eat more meal and calves offered more milk eat less meal, potentially reducing rumen development. “In the early growth phase we want to make sure they are growing quickly because that means you get more and better mammary development. Healthier calves grow more easily pre and post milk weaning, and consequently at pasture yield more milk and have the opportunity for greater live weight and greater survivability as young adults during first and second lactation. If they are managed and then fed appropriately they will get to target weaning weight earlier and they have better chance of having good forage intake growth rates during the first and subsequent grazing seasons,” says Margerison. Following weaning from milk,
one of the greatest economic opportunities in successful replacement rearing is making sure they get a supply of good quality grass, gained by giving calves an adequate supply of young grass or forages low in fibre and high in protein. The amount of time and weight of meal and CP content required depends directly on forage quality and supply level, as calves have a limited ability to ingest fibre and thus nutrients from forages. A sheltered aspect for animals, either due to housing or by the use of shelter belts and low lying vales provide important areas that reduce challenges for young animals in particular. She says this applies to both indoor and outdoor systems, and when calves are turned out to pasture. “Even during spring the weather can be pretty nasty and when it’s cold calf growth rates will be lower the colder they are, so good sheltered conditions increase growth rates or reduce the feeding rates required to achieve growth rates. It is important to be realistic and react to on-going conditions,
making sure milk supply to young calves in the first month of age is adequate for environmental temperature, and later that palatable meal and fibre is supplied to allow calves feed option that suit calf development into a ruminant and thus make them grow. “So you need to feed them an amount of milk that effects conditions, which during the first month of age is more during cold conditions to achieve adequate growth rates from birth to milk weaning of 650g/day for Jersey, 750g/day for black and whites and somewhere in-between for cross breeds depending greatly on bone structure indicating the weight of the ‘dairy type’ and appropriate weaning weight better than birth weight. This is an average, so as low as 150-200g at the start and up to 1000g/day at weaning. “When the weather is colder young calves will need more milk or else they will grow slower and take longer to wean from milk. This is because, when it’s cold they use more energy from milk to survive, by keeping themselves warm enough to live, and as such
there is less remaining available for calf growth, so in cold years don’t underestimate that need for feeding more milk to young calves. They are not old enough to take meal because they are too young to eat enough of that to add to feed intake to grow until they are more than a month old. “This is not to be confused with the important of feeding meal. They will and do eat meal early in life, but as an addition to milk and at limited amounts that pretty much double weekon-week if they are offered a palatable brand and in a way that keeps the feed palatable. “So milk feeding, at a week and first month of age, is over 10% birth weight which is about 4-6L/day,” she says. “As part of this trial a group of calves are being offered more milk on a 20% birth weight basis, which is more than the normal. We have also been feeding twice a daily up to weaning, which is additional effort and while it has been shown to make no effect in addition to one daily feeding, there is some overseas work that indicates three time daily feeding is better.
GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
66 // CALF REARING The target weaning weights of calves vary according to breed.
“The automatic feeder can feed as often as you want it to, more or less, as this has a small feeding station which the calves can go into and get their milk feed. In this case we had a group that was allocated as much as they wanted in the first week or so but then they are put into groups and get a pre-determined daily milk feed amount up to 20% birth weight. Margerison says the calves fed more milk do grow faster and wean earlier – in some cases within 8.5 weeks while calves on other feeding regimes take about 9.5 weeks and on the standard diet can take 10-15 weeks. “However, we have yet to see how well calves grow at pasture and milk during lactation following weaning from differing milk feeding levels. The target weaning weights we use vary according to breed and dairy ‘type’ with about 90kg the target for the back and whites, 85kg for the kiwi cross and 75-80kg for the Jersey type calves. The main thing is that they can double their birth weight plus about 10%
by weaning time on the system. “The general, including short term, housing environment is challenging for dairy calves in NZ, especially during the early days, but attention to the control of disease and later parasites are essential parts of heifer rearing. “We treat navels in and directly following the paddock, collect twice daily, feed fresh first milking colostrum, then use electrolytes if needed, vaccinate and feed meal ad-libitum to milk weaning of 20% CP and then at a minimum of 2kg meal for each calf daily at pasture, changing to a 16% protein meal when they are at pasture provided grass is young and leafy. “We aim to give weaned calves the best quality pastures we can and rotate them around paddocks every three days and use older animals and sheep to clean off paddocks or top them if need be. We will and do use forage crops to help with the summer shortfall in pasture growth and quality, essential to maintain heifer growth rates,
but are in no way a substitute for early life calf health and growth rates, which add directly to mammary development and efficacy of milk production. “At turn out to forage, we like to offer them the opportunity to eat some hay when we turn them out, because they are fed this prior to milk weaning, and are careful to make sure they eat up the meal outdoors. Dried forage is practical to feed indoors, and is essential for the early development and subsequent forage consumption. It also helps them find feed to eat on rainy days, and this helps transition them nicely onto pasture. So much so we have bought feeders that keep it dry when it is being offered in the paddock.” Heifer calves reared at Massey will make their way into the main herd as replacements, being mated at a minimum of 65% mature weight at 13-15 months of age and calving at 85-90% of mature weight at 22-23 months of age. Right now Margerison and her
team are making sure the calves achieve the daily weight gain of 650-700g at pasture. “If you lose growth rate during a dry season grazing period when the grass isn’t growing, provided you have feed for them following that, you can get what they call ‘compensatory growth’. But you need to provide extra feed to enable them to catch up, and if not they won’t. It’s all about the targets, so you need the feed no matter what. You must find enough feed for them to achieve on average 650g of growth rate per day. So better to look around and see what feeds are available at least cost to achieve the growth rate goal. Margerison says we have to take account of breeds and realise that weaning weights for, say, a small Jersey calf will be different from that of a Friesian or Kiwi Cross. The next phase of the trial will assess the effect of calf diet on the production and survival traits of these animals in the milking herd in 2016 onwards. ◗
GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
68 // CALF REARING
Highly nutritional fibre is vital for calves.
Earlier is better for getting quality fibre into calves FEEDING HIGH-QUALITY FIBRE to calves early in their
life contributes markedly to their rumen development and contributes to life-long health and production, says fibre nutrition maker Fibre Fresh Feeds. Now is the time for calf management plans that realise the potential of new calves, including high nutritional fibre in calves’ diets within their first few weeks. This is critical to animals’ long-term health and development, says the company’s national sales manager Bob Bell Bob
Bell. “It’s critical to have a plan in place for calf rearing, and to make sure the plan is communicated [early] to the people in the calf shed. “It doesn’t need to be complicated, but even a simple plan will ensure you have given the process some thought. Every day counts in getting calves off to a good start, and if you don’t have a good plan in place, you run the risk of compromising the farm’s performance.” Quality fibre in the early days of rumen development is part of getting this early formula right, Bell says. “Fibre in calves’ diets within their first weeks of life encourages faster and healthier rumen and digestive development, allowing calves to transition to and thrive on grass much faster. It also leads to health and production benefits.”
This saves costs and leads to better long-term results, especially in pasture-based systems; also, calves will better utilise other solid feeds. Bell says fibre also improves rumen motility and provides essential nutrition for sustained growth, but the fibre must be of good quality fibre. The likes of hay, straw and silage provide little nutritional value, instead taking up the space needed for energy- and protein-rich feeds. He says his company’s FiberStart is for consumption alongside traditional meal products “while providing essential nutritional value for animal growth, and it helps to establish the correct microflora population needed for rumen and gut development”. Fiber Fresh feeds are researchbased, resulting from 25 years of trials. ◗
tougher, stronger, better
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Designed For Superior Strength The nut teeth bite into the pipe for better grip, this combined with the nuts internal taper which secures the pipe onto the barbs results in superior holding strength.
Different Design, Better Performance
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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
70 // CALF REARING
Allow calves to grow well otherwise stunted animals are below par for the rest of their productive lives.
Kickstart for rumen, aid to gut health PAUL DREW
HALTING OR STUNTING a calf’s health or growth has a life-long, knock-on effect, and getting the animal back on target will be costly. Target weights are important milestones to reach, as stunted animals are usually below their liveweight targets for their entire productive life. In dairy calves, a good rule of thumb is that if an animal is 10% below liveweight target at calving, she will produce 10kg less milk solids and incur a 3% reduction in the 6-week in-calf rate (first calf). It is important to note the knock-on effect, as calf rate determines next year’s calf rate,
milk supply and feed demand the back foot. curves. VitaCalf is intended to help ‘Gut health’ issues affect keep a calf’s gastrointestinal the morbidity of the calf and tract healthy and to kickstart the its ability to digest and absorb colonisation and development nutrients. Scours and digestive of the rumen. The supplement upsets can stunt the animal’s contains Lallemand’s rumen and development and even cause monogastric-specific live yeasts death. Dehydration is the usual with a yeast cell wall extract high cause of death in manno-oliin calves with gosaccharides scours. (MOS) which “Target weights A sickly blocks pathoyellow faeces are important genic colonicolour indicates milestones to reach.” sation within the a gut that is not gastrointestinal functioning tract. optimally. Probiotic use helps Levucell SB is a concena calf through the stressful trated live yeast that enhances period of rearing, maintaining the nutrition and health of a gut health, gut development and monogastric, pre-ruminant integrity. It is especially useful animal. It contributes to in the first 14-21 days of develreducing pathogenic microopment and change in the calf’s organism concentration, life, putting its gut stability on reinforcing the intestinal micro-
flora equilibrium and the stimulating of the animal’s immune system. With Agrimos, an effective prebiotic MOS product, the combination helps maintain gut health and development. Levucell SC is a concentrated live yeast specifically selected for ruminants, as a rumen probiotic. This strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae has shown to be effective in driving a quicker establishment of key bacteria and protozoa in the rumen. The more developed microflora improves the production of volatile fatty acids which stimulate the growth of the rumen papillae and a thicker rumen wall. VitaCalf is fed at 10g per calf per day, added to calf milk or milk replacer. ◗ Paul Drew is an animal nutritionist for Vitec Nutrition.
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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
72 // TECHNOLOGY
The Centrus composite milking platform.
Technology saves money, lifts performance, yield IN THE LAST 50 years the size of the average New Zealand herd has quadrupled from 75 cows to 332 but the people-to-cow ratio has decreased, thanks to dairy technology. Waikato Milking Systems (WMS) provides leading-edge dairy technology which is easy to use and which future-proofs the farm because its quality and ability to be updated with latest innovations, means it remains the best in market for the entire time farmers own it. In a nutshell, dairy technology makes it easier for a few people to milk and manage a large number of cows efficiently but, in a season like 2014 with reduced payout, it can also save money while maximizing performance
and production. This article looks at the savings and production enhancements possible from a small part of the WMS range. Rotary platforms Milking on a rotary platform is the most efficient way to milk large herds. WMS has the most innovative rotary platforms for every size and type of dairy farm to suit every budget. The farmers who use our rotary platforms tell us their staff (and cows) are happier and experience proves that happy staff stay longer, reducing the costs of recruitment and staff training. The Centrus composite platform is a world first, unique
to WMS. The platform is formed in a multi-layer laminate process that includes Kevlar, a material five times the strength of concrete. The result is a superior strength deck and a platform 80% lighter than traditional concrete alternatives, meaning: kk It is cheaper to run than a conventional platform because less electricity is required to rotate it. kk Reduced wear and tear so maintenance costs are reduced. kk The drive gear will last longer. kk The surface finish will outlast anything else on the market. The Orbit 2.7m concrete rotary platform is also unique with a deck which is wider than conventional platforms,
providing: kk Complete protection for your
milking machine kk Reduced maintenance costs. kk Larger standing area for cows
reducing the risks of accidents or injury Herringbone systems Herringbone systems are an excellent, efficient and economical milking solution for commercial herds. WMS herringbone options deliver exceptional performance, results and value, catering for every budget and every milking scenario including high volume cows. The Supa4 herringbone system regularly out-performs and out-sells all others in its class.
GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
TECHNOLOGY // 73
The 320 Claw’s design is simple to use.
Mineral Deciencies Solved the Easy Way With a PETA Multi-Purpose Dispenser A PETA dispenser is the simplest way to dispense magnesium, trace elements and salts to treat grass staggers or trace element deciencies. Developed by agricultural scientists at Ruakura Research Centre, the correct amount of treatment is dispensed per-animal per-day. Available in 24 hr and 48 hr models. Simply place in the trough and the job is done.
Purchase a PETA Dispenser from your local rural supplies store or veterinarian. The design calls for a single 10mm milk-pipe which drains into a receiver at one end of the pit meaning milking is both fast and uninterrupted. kk Very easy to operate kk Able to support a large number of clusters kk Very fast milking kk Comes standard with the Hurricane wash system which is the best cleaning system of its type in the world. Milking machines WMS control of the entire design and manufacturing process means you can be confident that whatever option you choose will: kk Integrate perfectly, whether with a rotary platform or herringbone kk Be installed more quickly so you can get on with the job of milking kk Have longer life span due to control and precision of manufacturing processes. Automatic cup removers Automatic cup removers are a great way to reduce the manpower needed in your dairy and we have a range of options
which cater to every need. kk Reduce the number of staff
needed in the shed – less time and cost kk Improve cow health due to less over-milking. The SmartECR is a premier cup remover which works with our Vortex flow sensors (see below) to trigger an automated sequence of events during milking. Clever software in the SmartECR caters for an almost limitless array of milking routines so you can customise a variety of settings to suit your herd and individual preferences for milking. kk Ideal for single operator dairies kk Accurately identifies end of milking kk Ensures minimal vacuum drop. Vortex flow sensors work with SmartECR to accurately identify end of milking and maintain vacuum stability, even under the highest milk flow rates. Vortex triggers the end of milking and blocks the vacuum to the cluster before the cups are removed. The high flow sensors quickly evacuate milk using a spiraling action which minimises vacuum drop.
The efficient, economical way to healthy animals.
www.peta.co.nz Other dispensers in the range: • Zinc: 24hr & 48hr - Prevents Facial Eczema • Bloat: 12hr & 24hr - Controls Bloat Easily
GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
74 // TECHNOLOGY
SmartECR cup removers provide durability in the milking shed.
Benefits include kk Unrivalled cluster vacuum
stability at peak milk flow
kk Gives you reassurance on
the quality of milk you are producing.
kk Fast and efficient milking kk Improved udder health.
SmartD-TECT is a breakthrough in mastitis identification technology, unique to WMS. No other system automatically tests each quarter individually during milking to accurately notify the operator of potential mastitis cases. The sensitivity can be tuned to suit any individual preference and the system is able to identify the onset of mastitis up to four days before visual or clinical signs are evident, giving you the ability to make decisions about your animals before they cost you in lost productivity. Milking time and yield are not affected and the technology can be retrofitted or installed onto any conventional milking system. kk Alerts to the onset of mastitis kk Saves lost production kk Improves cow health and longevity in the herd
Electronic milk meter The WMS newly launched electronic milk meter is the most accurate meter on the market giving you the ability to measure per cow production on a daily basis. This contrasts with traditional herd testing which captures production at points of time during the season. You can look at rolling averages of milk profile details and see where individual cow production has dropped, giving you an ability to take remedial action. This type of insight pays dividends in times of reduced payment and when the environment is working against you, as in a drought, because you can identify the cows which aren’t making money, and put more emphasis on, and feed into, the ones which are.
kk Daily insights to support
decisions like supplementary feeding, animal health, drying off, etc kk Identifies the cows which are making, and those which are taking, profit kk Makes all-important herd management decisions based on accurate data. SmartSpray is an innovative automatic teat spray system designed specifically for rotary dairies. It replaces the need for manual spraying and teat dipping, while ensuring maximum coverage regardless of the cow’s position in the bail. No operator input is required except for refilling the tank when required. kk Saves time during milking kk Sprays every cow, every time kk Uses less teat spray than other systems kk Automatic – all you have to do is fill the tank. SmartPuls pulsation system opens and closes your liners consistently and dependably
every milking, providing optimum performance. It is the only pulsation system on the market where each pulsator services two clusters. The system is designed to limit congestion and oedema in teat tissues during milking, reducing discomfort for the cows and reducing the incidence of mastitis. kk Half the number of clusters, twice the efficiency kk Improved udder health kk Reduces discomfort for the cows kk Reduces incidence of mastitis. The ergonomic Waikato 320 claw is one of the most successful claws on the market. Large bore milk inlets and outlets improve milk flow and milk evacuation while promoting a stable dynamic milking environment. kk The ergonomic design is more comfortable to handle kk Easy to keep clean kk 5 year unconditional bowl warranty. ◗
A new way of life... David McConnell Lely Farmer Waikato
LELY FARM MANAGEMENT SUPPORT (FMS) SETS THE BAR FOR ROBOTIC MILKING SYSTEMS IN NZ Lely is the global pioneer of the milking robot, and have just recently installed their 20,000th robot worldwide. The Lely Astronaut A4 robotic milking system improves the quality of life for the farmer, while at the same time ensuring optimum yield for the dairy farm and welfare for animals. With each installation, Lely have developed themselves to be able to advise and support their customers in a successful transition to automated milking. Lely's Farm Management Support (FMS) is a service where Lely customers are guided through the whole process of implementing an automated milking system, including continual support after installation to assist customers with optimising farm productivity. Dairy farming is in their blood and they keep their knowledge fine-tuned at the Lely Academy and also through their worldwide networks both inside & outside of Lely. • • • •
Experts in modern dairy farming. Tailored advice and guidance. Many years' experience with automated milking. Worldwide knowledge exchange.
Lely's FMS is one of the many reasons that farmers are choosing to install Lely Astronaut A4 milking systems throughout the country, operating successfully in both a grazing environment as well as a barn environment.
Create a future for your farm & join the herd of Lely robotic milking systems being installed around NZ! Call Lely NZ on 07 850 4050 to find out more today!
innovators in agriculture
GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
76 // TECHNOLOGY
Radial arm jet mixing solids in an effluent pond.
Jacuzzi style mixer to help spread poo AN EFFLUENT POND, pump
and irrigator must work together to spread effluent uniformly. With this in mind, Wellington company, Spitfire-Revolution has unveiled new effluent pond and tank mixing and spreading technology. Spitfire managing director Stuart Reid says if the pond is poorly mixed or the pump delivers variable flows or the irrigator application is uneven, the system fails. “You’d fire your fertiliser spreader if he did an uneven spreading job, so why be tolerant of substandard effluent spreading systems?” Radial arm jet mixing involves one big submersible pump in the middle of the pond, with ten big nozzles blasting the solids. It’s always rotating just above the
bottom to mix completely. Because there are no propellers, there is no risk of liner damage. “And there are no sludge islands, no residual solids and no loss of operating volume,” Reid says. A low speed cutter slices solids to size; there is no need to move tractors or direct agitators. The jet mixer is automatic, drawing power of 8-11kW. The operator has access to all nozzles and the pump even when the pond is full. “Every drop of the pond goes out through the irrigator mixed uniformly. The pond, the pump and the irrigator work together to apply a uniformly consistent brew.” Effluent is pumped from the pond with the help of a progressive cavity pump with
programmable logic control. It’s mounted onshore and there’s no need for a pontoon in the effluent pond. The pump shuts down after detecting open hydrants, sudden hose disconnections, overpressure and under-pressure operation. It handles lumps up to 8mm. A visual displays keep farmers and workers up to date during operation. “Alarms tell you what happened and what to look for, in plain English, making fault finding easier. Equipment monitoring shuts down the pump and irrigator when things aren’t right.” The third component in such a system is the new Spitfire irrigator – “intelligent” and simple to operate, Reid says. “You choose how much liquid
you want to apply and it uses the on-board electronics to deliver liquid uniformly to the pasture. It’s like having an extra person on the farm devoted to effluent irrigation.” Reid says the new FDE standard puts pressure on the irrigator manufacturer to ensure even spreading. “But it says nothing about the thoroughness of mixing and not much about the need for consistent pump flows. Integrated designs are really necessary. “Jet mixers are here—just like a powerful Jacuzzi. No propellers, but always a homogeneous mixture at the irrigator. Cheaper than separator systems and all the solids and liquids leave the pond together. No solids spreading tasks remain.” ◗ www.spitfire.net.nz
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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
78 // TECHNOLOGY
Lely has installed 20,000 Astronauts around the world.
Most reliable employee you can imagine AUTOMATIC MILKING EXPERT Lely has installed its
20,000th Astronaut milking robot. The company celebrated the installation at German farmer Josef Härle’s farm in Ochsenhausen two months ago. The company says the 20.000 landmark clearly proves that many of today’s dairy farmers have fully embraced farm automation. “Twenty-two years after the first installation of the Astronaut milking robot by Lely, the global pioneer, the milking robot has claimed an ever-growing presence in the barn. The Lely Astronaut improves farm managers’ quality of life while at the same time ensuring optimum
welfare for animals and yield for the dairy farm. Every day, more than a million cows all over the world find their way unassisted to the Astronaut milking robot,” it says. Lely says it has also been a learning process for the company. With each installed Lely Astronaut, Lely has learned more about automatic milking and farm automation. The more experience Lely acquired the more they developed themselves and the more they have been able to advice and support their customers in a successful transition to automated milking. Lely believes modern farm management, automatic milking and farm automation are key to running a smart, successful and
sustainable dairy business. It says investing in a Lely Astronaut robotic milking system offers farmers the “most reliable employee you can imagine”. “This robot employee is there to milk for you 24/7 for years to come. It is flexible and fully trained to prepare the cow for milking, to attach the teat cups, to reattach in the event that this is required, to detach after milking and to carry out post‑treatment,” it says. Apart from milking cows, the robots monitor cows on behalf of farmers. “Many factors can be monitored on an individual cow basis; factors that cannot be provided in a conventionally milked herd.
“Successful robotic milking is a new style of farm management whereby the decisions are transferred from the farmer to the cow. It is all about early signals. “You can treat your cows individually again… and that results in improved cow health, shorter calving intervals and reduction of feed costs, just to mention a few.” Lely believes that cows should have free access to milking; for cows to be able to visit the robot and feed fence regularly, it is important that they can rest sufficiently and relieve the pressure on their feet and legs. “So, if we restrict one or more of these basic needs, this will affect cow behaviour and subsequently milk production.” ◗
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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
80 // TECHNOLOGY
1500 cows are milked around the clock by robots.
World’s largest robotic farm under one roof swings into action FOUR MONTHS AGO the
world’s largest robotic dairy farm under one roof swung into operation in South Canterbury. Owned by the South Island’s largest dairy operation - the Van Leeuwen Dairy Group - the farm at Makikihi houses 1500 cows, milked day and night by 24 DeLaval robots. The barn is 193m long, 67m wide and 12m high. On September 25, owners Aad and Wilma van Leeuwen began milking 750 cows with 12 DeLaval robots, using one half of the shed; contactors installed the remaining 12 robots during the past two months. The van Leeuwens have invested close to $22 million: $8.5m for the land, $4.2m for the robots and $5m for the barn. On the property they have also built three new houses, two effluent
tanks, one for undiluted effluent and one for diluted effluent as well as concrete feed bunkers that can store 4.5m kgDM. They have also installed a grain feeding system to the robots and will concrete the surrounds of the barn. A 46 cubic metre diet feeder mixer wagon and tractor have also been purchased. A lot of development work is being carried out on the farm including fencing off all streams and planting them out as well as installing some wetlands. The van Leeuwens were particularly attracted to the DeLaval VMS due to the Herd Navigator technology, saying the information made available would help them make crucial decisions. The aim is to have 12 robots operating with Herd Navigator
by the end of next year. “The drive to robotic barns was we were winter milking. Nasty weather would come through and knock the cows around. We wanted to look after the cows better and staff skills were not keeping up with industry growth in New Zealand. We decided we were going to build a barn and put robots in it, that was the motivation. “We wanted to prove to people you can have a large herd under one roof, if you set it up properly and manage it properly. It became a bit of a challenge. We set out to prove to people in New Zealand that the past is not always the future. We’ve got to get more efficient, it can be done, just as profitably.” Cows become very calm in the barn and VMS environment and
as staff are constantly wandering among the cows, they are able to quickly identify any problems. Specially designed beds and rubber floors eliminate any slipping and lameness issues. “We feed them well, make sure they are comfortable and kept out of the elements and they are happy. A happy cow produces lots of milk, which is exactly what we’re looking for,” Wilma van Leeuwen says. Aad Van Leeuwen agrees it’s a massive investment but points out that they recently sold a farm in the area for close to 80% of what has been invested in the new property. That farm produced 450,000kgMS annually. On the new farm milk production is expected to top 800kgMS/cow within five years or 1,200,000 kgms.
GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
TECHNOLOGY // 81
“In this farm production will be up three times when fully up and running,” he says. “I may be spending a bit extra here but it gives you an idea of what you can achieve inside compared to outdoors.” The barn will be set up in two halves – an early lactation side and a late lactation side. Cows coming in will spend 100-140 milking days in the early lactation side; the length of stay will depend on when they calve and milk yield. “Then they go to the other side – the late lactation side – and from there eventually get dried off again and go outside in the paddock for two months where they calve and come back.” The van Leeuwens are no strangers to robotic milking; their home farm runs two free-stall barns, both 500-cow facilities built in 2009. They run 12,000 cows on 13 operations and own a contracting company as well as being self contained with
regards to dairy support land. Van Leeuwen is confident of reaching his target milk production of 800kgMS/cow in five years. “The cows on the home farm are doing 750kgMS/ cow; we are expecting this to rise to 800kgMS plus so there’s no
reason why we can’t do it here.” To achieve that the cows will need to grow in size; the van Leeuwens plan to mate the herd with Holstein Friesians and calve year-round. However, there is no rush to “push the limits”. “The aim is not
to push it to the limits you see in Europe and America, where they are pushing to 12,000L/cow/ day…. That puts a lot of pressure on your herd. Our goal is to focus on milk solids and do it in a sustainable way.” This will also help the cows
Wilma and Aad van Leeuwen.
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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
82 // TECHNOLOGY
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live longer. Van Leeuwen says it depends on how hard you push the cows and how much you focus on litres. “Our strategy is to focus on milk solids and the average age of herd should come up.” Sustainable farming is a feature of the barn; the farm uses no fertiliser. Instead, effluent is recycled onto paddocks. “What comes out gets recycled… the nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are there,” says van Leeuwen. “You know what’s in a tonne of effluent so you can work out effluent irrigation accordingly; this is nothing new and has been done in Europe, Canada and North America. But it’s new to this part of the world.” Effluent from the barn’s
laneways will be continually cleared by automatic chainpulled scrapers, draining down into the 7m deep, 23.5m radius tank. The aim is to use the effluent as base fertiliser for the feed crops surrounding the shed, a 28,000L slurry tanker applying it by dribble-bar or injector. “With injection we’re burying it in the soil so there’s no loss of nutrient to the air or smell to annoy the neighbours. It’s very effective. We’ve been doing it for three years.” The dribble-bar is used on existing grassland and lucerne. The cows are fed mostly maize, lucerne and grass silage. A few kilos of canola meal are thrown in every day depending on the need and pellet rations are
offered in the robotic milkers. The correct feed mix will give 2.5 times the production of conventional grass systems. “It’s all worked out; you know what’s in your stack because the stacks are tested. You also know what the cows are requiring; we work on the basis of 17-18% protein, 240MJ ME/cow.” Nearly all the feed will be home-grown, cut and carried off the surrounding 600ha. The van Leeuwens grow 200ha of maize, 60 ha of grass and 370 ha of lucerne for this barn. Another benefit of the barn and keeping animals inside is animal health. Lameness is non-existent as cows don’t have to walk to and from paddocks for milking.
The barn has rubber mats for cows to walk on, so there’s no moving them in and out of the barn to get them used to standing on concrete. And the cows do not slip over. “The cows are happy inside; they don’t have to face the weather outside. A happy cow produces lots of milk.” Van Leeuwen notes it is beneficial always to have staff among the cows. “The workers are always closely associated with the cows; with the help of the robots, we can always check if any of the cows are sick.” Since the farm is a 24/7 operation, a herd manager is on shift all the time. A full production of 12 fulltime staff work in and outside the barn. ◗
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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
84 // FINANCE
Budgeting building blocks ANGIE FISHER DAIRYNZ ECONOMIST
BUDGETING IS A foundation for a successful business and allows you to gain control over all spending decisions. Having accurate information is key to getting your farm budget right. Use actual historical data or have accurate estimates to avoid under or over estimation of the final line. To help ensure you have an accurate picture of the season or business opportunity you are budgeting for, use the building blocks for budgeting – your farm management calendar, your farm input plan and stock reconciliation. Figure 1: Farm management calendar
Farm management calendar A farm management plan or calendar is a yearly planner that sets out farming operations for the year, month by month. An accurate farm management plan will include the production, grazing and pasture management, maintenance, labour, capital purchases and development, financial information, animal health and livestock improvement. All activities in the farm management plan involve costs or income relevant to budgets. Putting these into a yearly plan helps you to understand when income and expenses occur and to plan accordingly throughout the year (see figure 1).
Production parameters Production parameters are variables of production – they affect income. It is important to know or estimate production parameters for your budget. Estimates can be made by using: kk average of previous three
years’ milksolids production on the farm kk district averages kk performance of farms with similar characteristics. Are there any plans to make big improvements in systems? System or farm policy changes may improve results but consider when the results may be seen in milksolids production. If management and stock policies are the same as previous
years, you can use your average production figures. There will always be seasonal variations, but for budgeting purposes you would normally use ’average year’ figures. If management or stock policies have changed, you will need to use target production figures for the new management system. Management factors are a large part of performance, so the level you use must be related to previous performance. (For areas to consider see figure 2 on page 86.) Farm management plan What happens when, on-farm
Note – when putting together your cashflow ask yourself when you are paying for each item. E.g. cows sold in August may not be paid for until September.
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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
86 // FINANCE Figure2: Production parameters
Farm input plan A farm input plan describes the operating policies of the business and is another useful tool you can use to help prepare and complete a financial plan or budget. Your plan could include: kk Grazing: young stock and wintering, number of animals, timing and costs. kk Reproduction: calving start date and midpoint, 6-week in-calf rate, empties and culls. kk Fertiliser: types, prices and spreading costs. kk Pasture renovation: hectares and costs. kk Crops: summer and winter crops, costs, harvesting and amount of nitrogen required. kk Supplements: bought in, made on farm and associated costs. kk Labour: permanent and casual (including relief and extra labour needed over busy periods). All relevant stakeholders should be involved in the development of the input plan, especially where costs are shared (e.g. owner/sharemilker). Stock reconciliation A stock reconciliation is a description of the farm livestock
changes during a specific period (normally the financial year) and can be used to prepare budgets. To calculate annual farm income and expenditure, it is necessary to clearly indicate all expected changes in stock numbers during the forecast period. Information from the stock reconciliation kk Stock on hand at the start of the financial year – number/ class of stock on farm at start of year (June 1). kk Stock coming into the system – births (natural increase) and stock purchased. kk Stock lost from the system – deaths, culls and stock sales. kk Stock on hand at the end of the financial year (May 31). Key considerations for a stock reconciliation kk Are you considering increasing the size of your herd, staying the same or scaling down the operation? kk Do you have a good understanding of stock policies and different classes of stock on the farm? e.g. Are replacement stock bought in or reared? Are heifers mated as two year
olds, or as three year olds? Are bull calves reared or sold as bobbies? Getting the age classes correct is important. Stock ‘age’ during the year changes – stock will begin the year on the left side of the reconciliation as R1 (rising one) heifers (coming up to one year old) and will end the year on the right hand side as R2 (rising two) heifers (coming up to two years old). To calculate natural increase, assume that 52% of births will be male and 48% female. Dairy farms tend to base calving percentage on the number of calves born. Don’t forget to calculate these through for all cows that calve – include R2s. To calculate losses/deaths for the year, use previous records to give an estimate. Actual deaths may vary due to unforeseen factors arising. Include the number of stock you intend to purchase in the reconciliation and calculate likely sales for the year. Other sources of information When starting out or changing farms it may be difficult to gather all the information you need to
compile a budget. Talk to experienced farmers, fertiliser representatives, local farm consultants, bank managers and your local DairyNZ consulting officer. Resources available on the DairyNZ website include the New Zealand Dairy Statistics (available by district) and the Economic Survey which contains a financial overview for owneroperators and 50:50 sharemilkers for a given season and summarised for the past decade. Ready to budget In consultation with your farm management calendar, farm input plan and stock reconciliation, you can develop a budget and be confident in the robust figures you have brought together. Budgeting allows you to take financial control of your business and assess new proposals and opportunities. It is an ongoing process that allows you to take stock of likely cashflows and a critical link to farm decisions and goals. Bring the building blocks together and prepare for the coming seasons. DairyNZ budget templates are available online at dairynz.co.nz/
GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
FINANCE // 87
Train to tackle woes FARMERS ARE FEELING
the brunt of lower global dairy prices; forecast milk payout for the season has dropped dramatically. With the bottom line under squeeze, there’s an urgent need for farmers to review and revise budgets and to monitor cashflow going forward, to ensure debt levels do not climb unnecessarily. Agribusiness management training is one way that farmers can address these issues and apply better management practices to their businesses. As farm budgets come under scrutiny, farmers may need to cut back on spending or look at increasing their milk production and improve on-farm performance, to offset the lower payout. Primary ITO says its diploma in agribusiness management
supports farmers to hone their business management skills so they can manage risks like a volatile payout and take control of their business. Key learning areas such as business and finance, where students learn how to develop and monitor financial plans, monitor on-farm performance against objectives, and develop a budget to share with their bank manager or accountant, are all directly applicable to the farmer’s own business. Cath Blake, manager of dairy training limited, says “Good cashflow budget development and implementation are core parts of successful and profitable business performance. “The skills farmers gain by completing the diploma in agribusiness really assists in
managing financial risk such as the drop in payout this season. This financial capability helps farmers to look to the future goals of the business and gives long term confidence that the dairy industry is a great business to be in.” The cost of human resources can also be a point of contention when budgets are tightened. Staff are often let go of or professional development and training costs are slashed at times of reining in expenses. Mark Paine, DairyNZ strategy and investment leader (people and business) says “recruiting the right staff and keeping staff motivated can mean staff turnover is reduced. The cost of staff turnover to the dairy industry is around $300 million per year. If we can hold onto our
good staff, this in turn can lead to better business performance.” The diploma in agribusiness management includes human resource management as a key learning area, and supports farmers to build productive farm teams. Farmers are given the tools to recruit, select and induct staff, and are taught how to build good working relationships and assess performance. The agribusiness diploma is a collaborative project between Primary ITO and DairyNZ, which was developed in response to improving agribusiness skills, and identifying that management capability is a key factor in the success of agribusinesses. The diploma is open to farmers and agribusiness operators. Visit www.primaryito.ac.nz/diploma for more information. ◗
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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
88 // FINANCE
Financial budgeting 101 Review your budget when major changes occur.
NEIL SMITH LIC FARMWISE CONSULTANT, NORTHLAND
EVERY FARMING BUSINESS
should have a financial budget and cashflow purposefully aligned to its goals, objectives and stock policies. The budgeting process is a great way to see how the farm is functioning, and can be a powerful tool in putting together all the aspects of the business. It provides a system for planning future expenditure, aligning expenditure with income streams, maintaining better cost control and to improve spending efficiencies. A good financial budget can also help you make savings and identify ways of improving returns. Get started The best source of information is from the business itself. Annual income and expenditure can be obtained from previous financial accounts, so they make a good starting point for a farm’s financial budget. These will have historical figures, but they can give the basis for the compiling of the budget. Detail on milk production and numbers of stock sold and purchased can also be obtained from annual accounts. To itemise the expenditure you will have to go to invoices and bank statements, unless this information has been recorded via a farm accounting program such as Cash Manager or Figured. This will take time but is the key to understanding the business. The information can then be used for the compiling of a forecast budget. Break the expenditure down into KPIs based on milk production, hectares and cows. This will be useful when compiling the budget if stock numbers or land area is changing. Information provided
in the DairyNZ economic surveys and DairyBase can provide a useful comparison and benchmark. Use electronic budget programs
These are easy to use and can be quickly changed or updated. Templates are available from DairyNZ, accountants, banks and consultants. Reconciliations and worksheet
Compile each item of income and expenditure using reconciliations or expenditure worksheets. These provide the detail which is the building blocks and the key to producing a comprehensive and detailed budget. Many budgets are inaccurate because the information they are based on is poor.
of revenue and cashflow. Make sure the milk production is realistic for the year. Use the current milk production as the basis for the budget. Break the milk production down into 10-day periods. Calculate the production on cow numbers in milk and average per-cow production in the period. This will then build a more comprehensive picture of milk production. This 10-day data can then be used as the basis for the forecast budget. For milk payments use the dairy company milk payment estimator. Revenue from livestock can be important. Use a stock reconciliation to calculate the number of stock to be sold and bought. Expenditure
Make a first draft and then review
This first draft should be based on the current policies, objectives and performance of the business. Then you can take some time to look it over and see how adjustments in different areas would influence other areas of the business. Income
Milk production is a big driver
Go through each item of expenditure; review the amounts and what has been spent historically on the various items. Look for trends or any one-off distortion. Base the expenditure in the budget on quantities to be used and current prices. Contact suppliers for prices. Look at the relationship between expenditure and return; for each item ask yourself: How is this expenditure
impacting the performance and profit of the business? Is this item of expenditure essential for the running of the business in the short and long term? If this item of expenditure was reduced would this reduce performance and profit? Can I get a better return from the amount of money being spent? Is there a better product or service? ‘What if’ scenarios
Using the first draft budget, consider all possible scenarios for the coming season. Keep in mind the relationship of expenditure and revenue. Low milk payouts may require a cut in expenditure, trimming or deferral whereas in high payouts, there may be opportunity to increase revenue and profit by increasing expenditure. Review
Review the budget monthly or when major changes occur. Changes in milk production payout and interest rates, for example, can make a big difference to the budget. Changes in policy and management may be required to allow for these changes. ◗
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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
90 // FINANCE
Make budgeting a key part of business plan ANGIE FISHER DAIRYNZ ECONOMIST
IMPROVING BUSINESS PERFORMANCE starts with
having a plan â€“ and budgeting is a key part of that plan. Profitability provides choices, whether you want to expand your business, reduce debt or reach other goals. The challenge of running a business is being able to make good decisions, as these ultimately shape where you will end up. Budgeting is part of the planning and decision making process and should be firmly linked to farm policies and form part of a monitoring cycle to ensure your business delivers what you need it to. A profitable business will lead to growth.
Annual cash budgets An annual cash budget indicates if the business is sustainable and viable by telling you if you can expect a cash surplus or deficit (loss) at the end of the season. A forecasted annual budget estimates cash income and expenses to occur over the financial year. Consider your objectives for the season when planning the budget. For example, cash generation for debt repayment may be the main priority for the year, or it may be that capital development is required to build up the productive assets of the business. Process to prepare a budget Develop an inventory of resources available including
land, buildings, labour, machinery, management, capital. kk Estimate production using milksolids per cow. kk Prepare a farm management calendar to show the timing of farm operations such as calving to help determine seasonal feed supply. kk Prepare a farm input plan (operating policies and inputs to the business). kk Prepare a stock reconciliation (stock numbers and expected changes throughout the season). kk Estimate income ($ per kg milksolids) kk Estimate expenses based on stock reconciliation, inputs and management plan. kk Calculate debt repayments. kk Estimate, with help of an accountant if needed, tax implications of your budget.
kk Is there a cash surplus or
deficit? Cash surplus If your budget indicates a cash surplus for the season, you need to decide how you will use this surplus. For example, you may wish to explore options for investing back in your farm business, pay off debt or seek off-farm opportunities. These decisions should be made in line with your personal and business goals. Remember your budget is estimating a surplus and changes during the season will occur â€“ so consider this carefully. Often a trade-off between personal and business spending follows. When the business equity levels are more secure, personal expenditure is more of an opportunity. Cash deficit (loss) If you have a deficit, ask yourself some hard questions: 1. What is the major issue causing the deficit? Is it lack of production and therefore income? Are farm working expenses too high? Or is the financial structure and funding of the business not working? 2. Do you need to make minor or major changes to make the budget work? Focus on profitability, not production. Sensitivity analysis Budgets are based on estimates, once you have completed a budget it is useful to look at how sensitive your forecast is to changes. A sensitivity analysis asks questions about what would happen if certain scenarios occur. For example: kk What if payout increases or decreases? kk What if production is 10% greater or less?
GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
FINANCE // 91 kk What if farm working expenses
increase or decrease? Sensitivity analysis also highlights risk factors and helps identify break-even points. It may be worthwhile to look back over your budgeting process. Were your targets and forecasts for the season realistic? Were you conservative enough? Were you too conservative? Talk to people such as your accountant and banker and make sure the numbers look realistic. Analysing budgets – what next? Completing a budget and then filing it away is where the process breaks down for many farm businesses. Budgeting is an on-going process, used to help make decisions during the year. The whole planning process will provide a focus to keep the business driving forward and a means of turning your objectives into action plans to help achieve long-term goals.
The next step may be to put together a monthly cashflow budget, setting out what is happening month-by-month to farm income, expenses and cashflow. Monthly budgets help you assess what seasonal finance may be required, when to purchase items and if deferring or negotiating payments with suppliers will be necessary. During the season keep the budget alive by reviewing and updating it at least every two
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months and when changes occur. Milk price announcements, dry (or favourable) weather conditions, expense hikes or drops can be reviewed in the budget and let you minimise risks or take advantage of opportunities. The final step with budgeting is making it work for your business. Getting started is the hardest part, whether on paper, in Excel or using budgeting software. Once you have a process in place, monitoring and
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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
92 // FINANCE
Short-term pain for long-term gain PETER MOFFITT LIC FARMWISE CONSULTANT
ONE SUBJECT PRESSING
most dairy farmers this season is the milk price – or at least the lack of it. Most dairy companies have said clearly that the milk price will be well down for this current season, and many commentators predict it will drop further. Although the fundamentals on the medium-long future for dairying look bright, clearly we are facing short-term pain. Farm cashflows may be sorely tested next autumn and winter, but if your business is fundamentally efficient you can weather the storm with confidence. Many dairy farmers’ costs are fixed and we have don’t have a lot of control over them. Rates are fixed, most of us pay ACC, we can’t alter administration and electricity much and it’s not a good idea to stop insurance premiums. Most of us have debt to service, but interest only payments should be discussed with your banker. Drawings often can be trimmed: overseas holidays – or
Get good tax advice, talk to your accountant about different options such as income equalisation account and valuation schemes. any holidays – might need to be reviewed. Maybe a trip to your local beach with the kids should be targeted rather than a tropical beach. It is still important to take time off from the farm locally. Three big costs we can’t avoid are feed, fertiliser and wages. Feed has fast become the biggest cost on farm. Ten years ago net feed made, purchased or cropped was the third-largest cost onfarm, accounting for 15% of working expenses. It is now the single-biggest expense at 21%. A casual observer may look at this increase and target a saving, but one should carefully consider the implications of reduced feed. Feed used efficiently and effectively with the right timing can have an appreciable effect on milksolids production.
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Milksolids are the denominator in the dollar cost/kgMS equation. Make sure you source the best value for your dollar. Cost feed on a cents/kgDM basis. Be aware of the energy content (MJME per kgDM). Feed cost, quality and requirement varies dramatically and also the return for it with respect to when and how you feed it out. Fertiliser applications need to be carefully considered, but what are your farm’s fertility levels like? Many farms I visit will still grow without any P,K or S applications. Often we have spent thousands on our farm nutrient ‘bank’, and some of this fertility can be drawn upon provided we don’t fall below economic optimum. Do you know your farm soils’ features and what the economic optimums are? Could independent advice possibly get better results for the dollar spent. Be wary of reducing your nitrogen application. Nitrogen is our cheapest feed and less feed means less production. Recent studies have shown the farms with the highest profit per ha are those with the highest pasture harvested per hectare. To harvest maximum drymatter one needs to first produce the maximum
pasture. Over my career as a rural banker and now a dairy consultant I am often intrigued by the variation in approach to taxation. Get good tax advice, talk to your accountant about different options such as income equalisation account and valuation schemes. Tax planning can have a large impact on your cashflow. Capital spending is also an obvious area for review. It may be time to delay a few hopes and dreams for developing the farm. It is often difficult to ascertain just how much more pasture will be gained by draining a paddock, or how much more milksolids will new farm technology immediately produce – and knowing the return on investment is vital this season. If we are to look for positives to take out of the current situation we should take time to carefully consider our financial situation. Use this drop in milk price and income to review financial management. Compare it to an enforced fitness programme to keep your farm business fit not fat. It is simply a self-correction most of us have weathered many times before. ◗
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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
STAFF // 93
Unlocking staff talent KERRY RYAN AGRIBUSINESS CONSULTANT, TAURANGA
AS I WRITE this I’ve just completed a most enjoyable speaking tour in Western Australia. One of the topics my workshops explored in depth was how farmers and team leaders can gain a deeper understanding of how their people are wired. This challenges them to better understanding the combination of experience, qualifications, ethnicity, beliefs and personality they and their staff bring to a working relationship. These insights are what help teams really synergise as they acknowledge where their respective talents and potential limitations lie. Fundamental to this is an awareness of what is loosely termed “personality style” – perhaps better described as an individuals’ disposition or temperament. This topic is frequently touched on people management courses and conferences. However I usually find farm teams and their leaders have only a superficial understanding of how to capitalise on it. My experience has been that a practical application of
personality profiling can bring real advantage through more effective people management. Establishing individual personality styles through recognised and credible profiling tools is the place to start. Comparing an individual’s response with one’s experience of interacting with them (either at interview or through working with them as an existing team member) provides some validation of the sniping profile result. I look for a strong alignment between a person’s behaviour and their response to a personality profile to confirm a meaningful assessment has been achieved. The primary indicators of an individual’s personality style include whether they are more introvert than extrovert, fast paced and driven by autonomy or slower to make decisions. The latter group generally more open to following procedures and systems while the autonomy seekers are more intuitive and don’t like being constrained by rules and policies. The more dominant or accuracy driven styles tend to be task and results focused while the influencing (sales) personality and steady (empathetic) types focus more on achieving outcomes through relationship and collaboration. The greatest value in the
personality profiling process comes from business owners or team leaders first being aware of how they personally are wired. This helps them understand how they are likely to be perceived by their team and how they can modify their behaviour to achieve the synergy that will maximise team performance. In addition to understanding their talents and strengths, selfaware people acknowledge the limitations that can result from their natural style. For example the dominant, driving individual will need to learn to slow down, listen more and give the structured, systems focused people around them time to engage with what is being asked of them. Similarly, the reserved and more cautious person will need to stretch themselves to be more open to change, creativity and consequent risk. Knowing the makeup of all team members has important implications for delegation and promotion. This is fundamental to avoiding the risk of “promoting people to their level of incompetence”. Every role in a business whether functional or leadership focused - will require a specific mix of personality, talents, skills and training for the incumbent to succeed. Deciding which personality
style is best for the role will result in a more comprehensive description of the most suitable candidate. Including this in the selection criteria will ensure complimentary rather than competitive appointments and promotions are made. Selection and promotion strategies that “build the team around the team” ensure new appointments increase the likelihood that new staff and leaders will fit in with existing team dynamics. Finally, team relationships can be enhanced considerably when all staff understand the personalities and operating styles of their colleagues. I have seen this add considerable value where there are conflicts and tensions between staff. Awareness of the motivations and drives behind what can on the surface seem challenging or frustrating behaviour offers a productive framework to talk and understand. Much of the material covered for the Western Dairy workshops is available on the page I set up for the tour on my website. There are also plenty of tools and commentary in my online resource centre. I encourage those who want to take a step up to take advantage of these best practice techniques and give them a go. ◗ www.kerryryan.co.nz
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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
94 // STAFF
Finding good quality staff JAMES THOMAS LIC FARMWISE CONSULTANT, WAIKATO
NO DAIRY FARM can run efficiently without good quality staff, and cutting corners in staff numbers or remuneration can lead to issues on farm that can potentially cost the farm business many thousands of dollars. Farm businesses are also becoming more complex with a trend away from the traditional owner/operator type system to farms with absentee owners or corporate type structures that require a very high level of operator who is involved in all areas of the farm system including budgets and strategic decision making. It’s a far cry from ‘cows and grass’, therefore it is important to look at each farm business individually to ensure that the requirements are tailored for each situation. Firstly, what is the structure that you wish to have? Is it a farm manager you require or a herd manager? Does the farm require a farm assistant or just a milk harvester? Once the structure has
been decided then the rate of remuneration needs to be set and the hours of work determined. Without having the criteria clear, it is very difficult to recruit the right people for the position. A clear description in the advertisement will help applicants to decide whether to apply for the job or not and once a shortlist has been established it is important to reference check each CV using a clear and consistent approach. I have a list of questions that I always ask each referee and this will enable an interviewing list to be established. Some recruiters will bring on all the applicants to the farm at the same time but I prefer to make sure they are on farm one at a time so that no one person can dominate the interview day and the applicants are more at ease. Once a selection has been made and agreed on, then an employment agreement must be negotiated and signed before the start of the employment period. This will include the remuneration package, including the house, and will also specify the time off that will be given. The contract should also
include a job description and tenancy agreement. A point to consider on larger properties is the compatibility of the employees. Some people work well by themselves and some prefer working in a team environment. The dynamics of your team is very important. Farming is unique in that most accommodation is on site. Therefore reference checking also needs to include details of the family unit and how the house will be looked after. Your expectations may not be the same as others and it is important to establish firm groundrules well before any contract is signed. Once the team is in place and ready to go it will be important to ensure that there are good communication plans in place so that everyone knows their job and has some accountability for their actions. Feedback, both positive and negative needs to occur regularly. An unhappy workplace will be an unproductive one. Many farms have budgets they are working to and any drop in performance will put pressure on the bottom line. This is especially so in a season like
this one with a low milk price expected. Animal welfare is also a critical component of the farm system and there must be no shortcuts in this area. Training therefore needs to be offered to staff. This may include anything from calving a cow, treating lameness in the herd or even identifying cows in heat. Don’t assume people know everything that you do. Other aspects of employment that are topical include health and safety, i.e. making sure that protective clothing is worn and machinery is serviced and fit for purpose and also the keeping of timesheets so that at least the minimum hourly wage is achieved each week. As most farmers know, some weeks can be long and difficult and in some cases compensation may be payable in these circumstances. In summary, without good staff the farm business is unlikely to be profitable or indeed be a healthy environment. Therefore the right people being paid a fair remuneration are a vital part of making a farm business successful. This is not an area for taking shortcuts and saving money. ◗
No dairy farm can run without good quality staff.
GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
96 // STAFF
Making life easier by getting workplace compliance right JANE MUIR DAIRYNZ PEOPLE TEAM LEADER
COMPLIANCE REGULATIONS ARE designed with everyone’s
best interests at heart. They improve the quality of work environments and minimise risks to employers and employees. Increasingly, people are choosing to work on farms that meet legal requirements and have an established culture of ‘doing things right’. Getting it right will help attract people to your farm and knowing you are meeting your legal obligations should provide a sense of satisfaction and reduce stress levels. Recently there has been a lot
of attention on employment compliance so we’ve put together the facts on what you need to know about time recording, minimum wage and accommodation. Time recording It is a legal requirement to keep time, wage and holiday records for all employees, regardless of how much they earn. Time and wage records must include the following: Hours worked each day, including start time, finish time and any non-paid breaks taken, and days of employment in each pay period. kk Wages (by the hour or via a salary) paid each pay day and the method of calculation. kk Employee’s name.
kk Employee’s age, if under 20
years. kk Employee’s postal address. kk Type of work the employee undertakes. Type of employment agreement – individual or collective (almost all farms use individual agreements). If a collective agreement is in place, include the title, expiry date and employee classification. Timesheets The best and simplest way of recording hours worked each day is to keep a timesheet for each employee. Timesheets benefit the employer and employee as they are an accurate record of the actual hours being worked on-farm. Both parties
can monitor that hours are fair and reasonable, as per the employment agreement. Timesheets can also alert you when the number of hours being worked is too high or creeping up, allowing managers to deal with the risk of fatigue and health and safety onfarm. Try to make keeping timesheets an everyday part of the way things are done onfarm so employees respect the process and understand it is part of good people management. Minimum wage All employees must be paid at least the minimum wage for every hour they work in a fortnight. This applies to all employees whether they are paid by the hour or receive an annual salary. An employee’s salary cannot be averaged over a season as averaging is capped at a fortnight. Minimum wage in practice
Wages Pay the agreed rate (at least minimum wage) for each hour worked.
Getting compliance regulations right will attract the right staff to your farm.
Salary Determine how many hours each employee can work each fortnight before their hourly pay would drop below the minimum wage. To calculate this, take gross salary, divide by 26 (fortnights in a year) and then divide by $14.25 (current minimum wage). Monitor timesheets, and if the employee works more than the maximum number of hours in a fortnight, make a top-up payment to the employee in the relevant pay period.
GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
STAFF // 97
Remember that anyone receiving a top-up payment has worked hard and deserves the extra money. Minimum wage is not a luxury wage, it is a basic right under New Zealand law. Accommodation It is common for employers to provide their employees with accommodation on New Zealand dairy farms. Because the property is provided for the employee to live in during the period of their employment only, it’s called a service tenancy. This means the tenancy usually ends when the employment ends and two weeks notice has been given to leave the house.
for the accommodation and record this in the tenancy agreement. Ensure you are charging market rate for the property. kk Get the employee’s written and signed consent for the rent to be deducted from their salary after PAYE tax has been removed. If PAYE is not paid on the ‘accommodation allowance or rent’ then you
will need to pay fringe benefit tax. Remember only true cash benefits can be included in gross salary for the purpose of calculating minimum wage. In practice this means the employee must be free to make the choice to seek alternative accommodation or opt out of the rent deduction agreement without their employment being affected
or the employment agreement having to be amended. If an employee doesn’t have this choice then the accommodation offered is a non-cash benefit and cannot be included for the purpose of calculating minimum wage. ◗ For more information on meeting New Zealand legislation and practical ideas for applying this on dairy farms, visit dairynz.co.nz/
Legal obligations when providing accommodation kk Have a tenancy agreement
in place. Legally this can sit within the employment agreement, however it is best practice for the two documents to be separated. This protects the landlord and employee (as the tenant) if things go wrong. kk Agree with the applicant/ employee the rent to be paid
All employees must be paid at least the minimum wage.
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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2015
98 // STAFF
Success in goal setting JANE MUIR DAIRYNZ PEOPLE TEAM LEADER
WITH SOME HARD work and a bit of luck, you may be on your way to stepping up the management ladder. Perhaps not as soon as your mate, but does that really matter? Maybe next season you will accept a new role and a bit more responsibility, then who knows what will come next? But is there more to planning that next step? Let’s start by considering what great leaders in the dairy industry have in common? kk Skills and abilities kk Foresight kk Drive
something it clears up a lot of hazy areas and highlights aspects that we have probably overlooked. Writing down your goal has a number of other positive outcomes too. It ensures you focus on exactly what your goal is, not just a general feeling of what it is. Having a documented goal is a permanent record, against which you can measure your progress. Eight steps to goal setting
achieve them. Too long and you may divert your attention elsewhere, after all there is plenty of time to worry about this particular goal. kk Step 6 - Share
Share your ideas and goals: the more you share your goals the more support you will have to achieve them. kk Step 7 - Celebrate success
Celebrate your achievements along the way, but don’t lose
kk Step 1 - Identify goals
The first step to get you started is easy: find some time, pick up a pen and paper and start writing what you want to achieve. You might be writing goals for more than one area of your life such as work, relationships and money, and that’s fine. Getting ideas out is the first step, refinement will come later.
kk Goal setting
Goal setting will play a key part in helping you get from where you are now to your next job. It may be that you set a goal to get promoted or find a job you really want; either way, it’s still a goal (or target) to achieve. In your mind, you might already be goal setting – planning for the future or setting out a clear plan for what you are going to do next year. Or maybe your next role is secure and you have a pretty good idea what is expected from you. What more is needed? It could be that your goals are a little more established, but only for the longer term vision. When we talk about goals we are not referring to a mental picture in our mind. To be honest, that’s not goal setting. Goal setting is not a ‘vague idea’ of where you would like to head. Goal setting is a real plan, put down on a piece of paper in black and white, there for you to reflect on and review. Do not underestimate the importance of writing down a plan; when we write down
kk Step 2 - Group goals together
Start grouping all your goals together: this is the second stage and helps you categorise your goals so you can focus on one key area at a time. kk Step 3 - Prioritise
Once you have your goals on paper, you should think about your priorities. You may not have time to achieve them all, or the energy at this stage, so think about what you really want to achieve and what is most important. kk Step 4 - Add detail
Add in detail: the more you set out how you will achieve your goal, the easier it will be. It helps you understand the steps needed to achieve the goal. kk Step 5 - Make a timeframe
When do you want to achieve your goals? Committing to a timeframe helps give your goals focus. Make your timescales realistic: too soon and you may lose interest as you realise you won’t
Goal setting will help people enhance their careers in the dairy industry.
focus on the end goal. kk 8 - Don’t give up
Not achieving your goal is not a reason to abandon the plan. Think about revising your goal and what you could do differently to get to the same place? Those who succeed in life are those who see failure not as a reason for quitting, but as an opportunity for learning. For information, tools and resources to help visit dairynz. co.nz/people. ◗
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Getting the Basics Right 2015