Page 1

2013

Innovation for Future Profit

PUBLISHED BY RURAL NEWS GROUP

ISSN: 1176-2012 

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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

FOREWORD // 3

All key information in one place for you and your staff DR TIM MACKLE CHIEF EXECUTIVE, DAIRYNZ THERE IS A LOT of help, research and advice around these days to ensure that dairy farmers – investors, owners, managers and workers – get the basics right. All of us working in the industry also need to have a clear understanding of what that means so we can work

“Skilled, intelligent staff with a passion for doing things right is what our industry needs right now. “ with farmers effectively and with credibility. And the future of our industry depends on us getting things right – economically, environmentally and in terms of our impact on people and communities. Regulators have to get it right too, I might add. But that’s another story! All we need to do is search or ask for any information we might need – and it’s pretty

likely we’ll find it. That is the beauty of the information-rich and connected world that we live in today. The internet is usually at your fingertips. Your letterbox and email inbox, like mine, is no doubt bulging with publications and messages. The challenge can be sorting out what’s useful and what’s not, and finding what you want quickly and in one place. This Getting The Basics Right publication is one way the Rural News Group is trying to assist with putting all the key information in one place for you and your staff. DairyNZ does that too – with its website, www. dairynz.co.nz and the range of tools, resources and publications that we produce. Keeping up-to-date with good practice is certainly a challenge.  There’s always new information and emerging science that gives us more knowledge, another

innovation or a new insight. DairyNZ’s own research and development programme for the next year includes $6.5 million on feed production and $7.7 million on human capability. We wouldn’t be doing our job properly if we didn’t pass the results of our work onto where it can make the difference – on the farm. Like any professional, the challenge and opportunity for farmers, is to keep striving to develop knowledge and understanding. We never stop learning in our lives or our careers - and the dynamic nature of our industry, with a focus on constant self-improvement, keeps us all on our toes. Skilled, intelligent staff with a passion for doing things right is what our industry needs now and in the future.  One mistake in operating an effluent system can be costly – both in industry reputation, the environment and in fines for the farm.

We need everyone to be at the top of their game in our industry and that includes DairyNZ. Our job is to deliver the right information, research and tools to improve the productivity, sustainability and profitability of your farm.  Ultimately though it’s up to the farmer to make it happen – and I hope this publication helps you in the daily challenge to get it right on your farm.

ABOUT DAIRYNZ DairyNZ is the industry-good organisation representing New Zealand’s dairy farmers. We are funded by a levy on milksolids and our purpose is to secure and enhance the profitability, sustainability and competitiveness of New Zealand dairy farming. We deliver value to farmers through leadership, influencing, investing, partnering with other organisations and through our own strategic capability. Our work includes R&D to create practical on-farm tools, leading on-farm adoption of best practice farming, promoting careers in dairying and advocating for farmers with central and regional government. www.dairynz.co.nz


Rewarding your staff.

72

CONTENTS 06 Pasture 7

Get new pastures off to a flying start

18

Maize

Growing maize delivers environmental benefits

22

Feed

Farmer mindset on feed inputs shifting

24 Sustainability

EDITOR Sudesh Kissun sudeshk@ruralnews.co.nz

30

27

Effluent

Practical tips to make your irrigators work

36 Fertiliser Most bang for your buck

38 Milk Quality

ADVERTISING MANAGER Ted Darley PRODUCTION AND DESIGN Dave Ferguson Becky Williams

PUBLISHED BY Rural News Group

Do you know how nutrients enter, work and exit?

PUBLISHER Brian Hight

PRINTED BY PMP

Correct cupping techniques

47

Mating Management

Key driver of 6-week in-calf rate

56 Animal Health 38

Drenches and parasite control

64 Mastitis

Top Floor, 29 Northcroft Street, Takapuna, Auckland 0622

Treat clots, watch snot

70 Staff & Employment

PO Box 3855, Shortland Street, Auckland 1140

Seven tips to retain good people

82 Agribusiness

Phone 09.307.0399 Fax 09.307.0122

64

Buying stock? Then proceed with caution

88 Finance

Planning is essential for dairy business


GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

6 // PASTURE

Getting new pastures off to a flying start ATTENTION TO DETAIL during

pasture establishment is vital to get new pastures off to a good start. When it comes to buying grass seed, correct endophyte selection is more important than cultivar selection, especially in the northern North Island where pastures are frequently attacked by insects. The most appropriate endophyte for your situation depends on the type of insect challenge you face. Pasture seed is named by its cultivar, followed by the endophyte it contains, e.g. Commando AR37, Advance MaxP. Three endophytes associated with ryegrass provide protection from black beetle attack. They

are AR37, NEA2 and Endo 5. Max P is an endophyte providing similar protection for tall fescue. If black beetle is not a problem (such as in the lower North Island and South Island) then AR1 can also be selected, as it provides protection from other more widespread insect pests such as Argentine stem weevil. Ryegrass seed infected with a particular endophyte should have had a test to measure endophyte viability. A minimum of 70% of the seed line you buy must be infected by the nominated endophyte. Ask for the seed analysis certificate which contains this information. The benefits of having the correct endophyte were evident

Figure 1A

The benefits of having the correct endophyte were evident in the Waikato during 2008. These photos, taken in April, show recovery of pasture with nil endophyte (above) and AR37 (below), after prolonged drought.

Figure 1B

in the Waikato during 2008. The photos (below), taken in April, show recovery of pasture with AR37 (figure 1b) and nil endophyte (figure 1a), after prolonged drought. Buy treated seed

Seed treatments normally include an insecticide and fungicide to protect establishing plants for the first six weeks of life. The endophyte protection (described earlier) is only expressed in established ryegrass plants. Establishing seedlings have no endophyte protection against insects. Therefore, it is essential that only treated seed is sown in insect-prone areas. The

CHRIS GLASSEY DAIRYNZ FARM SYSTEMS SPECIALIST

impact of not using treated seed in part of a paddock in Northland is shown in figure 2. During sowing, a change was made from treated (on the right) to untreated seed (on the left). Consolidated seed bed

Excessive moisture loss from the seed bed can reduce germination and establishment. A consolidated seedbed reduces moisture loss and keeps seed closer to available soil moisture. Excessive cultivation and lack of rolling are the main causes of unconsolidated seedbeds. In addition to speeding up moisture loss, unconsolidated soil can also cause seed placement in the soil profile too deep for normal germination. Excess cultivation is the main cause of loose, unconsolidated seedbeds. After cultivation, rolling before and during sowing, is usually required. In figure 3, it is easy to see the consolidated row in a new pasture, caused by the tractor wheels, compared with the unconsolidated rows. Cultivation after forage crops can be avoided by attention to weed control, contouring and levelling before and during crop establishment. Retaining soil moisture and consolidation through direct drilling then becomes an alternative. Sowing date

Plan for all pasture renewal to be completed by March 31 at the latest. The rate of seed germination is reduced by soil temperatures (at 10cm) less than 15째C and is seriously reduced at less than 10째C. Research has found that for every day delay, from March 1, dry matter yield is expected to


GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

PASTURE // 7

decline by 50kgDM/ha e.g. if new pasture is sown on April 30 dry matter yield is expected to be 3000kgDM/ha lower than if sown on March 1. Slow germination will delay the date of first grazing, which ideally should be before May 31 and allow weeds to establish. Where lack of soil moisture delays sowing until after March 31, it is recommended you proceed with sowing, as low soil temperature is likely to be a greater risk to establishment during April than lack of moisture (provided good moisture retention practice is followed as described above).

Figure 2: The impact of not using treated seed in part of a paddock in Northland. During sowing, a change was made from treated (on the right) to untreated seed (on the left).

Working with a contractor

Good planning and paddock preparation before the arrival of a rural contractor will provide a better chance that all will run smoothly when it comes to establishing pastures and crops. Farmers can prepare for a contractor by ensuring: kk Paddocks are sprayed out when grass is at optimum length for a good kill (10cm) and not straight after hard grazing. kk Insecticide is added to the spray to control springtails and other insects likely to threaten emerging plants. kk Planting time is adjusted after application of some herbicides to meet label requirements for withholding times. kk Check for slugs and apply slug bait if necessary. kk No seed is carried over from previous years. www.dairynzfvi.co.nz.

Figure 3: Here, it is easy to see the consolidated row in a new pasture, caused by the tractor wheels, compared with the unconsolidated rows.

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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

8 // PASTURE

Giant buttercup looms large on farmer’s incomes CAREFUL MANAGEMENT IS

the key to protect dairy farmer incomes from the effects of the

giant buttercup weed. Dairy farmers can lose $1040 per hectare per annum in bottom

line profit with farm average peak cover of giant buttercup (in November) of just 12%. The

DR GRAEME BOURDOT AGRESEARCH SCIENTIST

loss is caused by cows avoiding the buttercup and the pasture surrounding the weed. The loss in useable pasture is equivalent to the area occupied by the buttercup plus 25%. While the toxic and inedible weed currently infests pastures in only six out of the country’s 17 dairy regions, AgResearch estimates the giant buttercup costs dairy farmers $155 million a year in lost milk solids revenue. Genetic resistance

To make matters worse AgResearch now has good evidence to show the giant buttercup has become genetically resistant to herbicide control. Some dairy farmers have been telling us that currently available herbicide products containing the active ingredient flumetsulam are no longer effective on their giant buttercup. Flumetsulam is an ALS-inhibitor, a group of herbicides that has proven to be particularly susceptible to failure due to resistance development in target weed species. One of AgResearch’s post graduate students studied an infested farm in Golden Bay which had been treated for a number of seasons with one of the ALS-inhibitor herbicides. She found that giant buttercup on the farm needed five times more herbicide to control it than did giant buttercup plants on the roadside which had not

Map of giant buttercup infestation throughout New Zealand. Acknowledgement: Lamoureaux, S., and G. W. Bourdot. 2007. A review of the ecology and management of Ranunculus acris L. in pasture. Weed Res. 47: 461-471.


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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

10 // PASTURE

PESTWEBNZ – WWW. PESTWEB.CO.NZ. HOME to identification and control information for over 40 weeds and pests, including giant buttercup and yellow bristle grass, the PestwebNZ website pulls all the information farmers and farm advisors will need in one place. Farmers can stay on guard to potential insect and weed issues in their region by signing up to the free email and text alerts. Register at www.pestweb.co.nz/pestalert. php

been previously exposed to the herbicide. This is the second time in 20 years that giant buttercup has been found to have developed resistance to a previously effective herbicide. In the early 1990s, resistance to MCPA and MCPB, herbicides in the phenoxy group, was discovered to be common throughout dairy pastures in the North and South Islands. Since then farmers have been using products containing flumetsulam to control the weed. These herbicides are more expensive that the phenoxys and are likely to become increasing less effective due to resistance. The plant spreads by both seed and rhizomes which further complicates matters. Even when they are effective, herbicides can only ever be one of many tools required in the management of giant buttercup. That is why farmers in all dairy areas in the country need to be

Giant buttercup (ranunculus acris) is established in Tasman/Golden Bay, West Coast, Horowhenua, Hawke’s Bay, Taranaki and South Auckland. It has been in New Zealand for well over 100 years and all dairy areas in the country are climatically suitable for the weed.

careful about their own biosecurity measures to make sure they don’t introduce the giant

ABOUT GIANT BUTTERCUP kk Perennial, reaching up to 1m tall kk Small, yellow glossy flowers (15 - 25mm) kk Flowers between November and April kk Has fibrous roots and creeping underground stems (i.e. rhizomes) kk Leaves on long stems, are large and hairy, divided into 3-7 lobes kk Avoided by dairy cattle due to bitter taste kk Common in swamp and wasteland areas, river flats and pastures

within high-rainfall areas. kk Giant buttercup seeds are spread by grazing cattle and other animals;

seeds can be carried long distances when stuck to their hooves or coats kk Other dispersal mechanisms may include hay containing the seeds,

farming equipment, footwear and/or clothing

buttercup inadvertently. For instance it would be good practice not to bring in cows, hay or other materials that have come from a farm infested with giant buttercup. For those farms with an infestation, management options include avoiding pasture pugging, a good pasture renewal or cropping strategy and avoidance of further resistance building in the weed. Resistance may be avoided by deploying a herbicide rotation in which a different mode of action group is used at each application. This rotation will be most effective when it includes a cropping phase where herbicides other than the ALS and phenoxy mode-of-action

groups can be used. Investigation into giant buttercup has been funded by New Zealand dairy farmers through the DairyNZ levy and by central government (MBIE, MSI, FRST and MAF). Proposed future research will identify how geographically widespread is the plant’s resistance to ALS-inhibitor herbicides and compare alternative control methods. In the meantime we want to make sure that farmers have access to up-to-date information on the best current control methods. You will find it all on the Pestweb website: www.pestweb. co.nz


You can’t play with Cooperia control

The development of Cooperia resistance to endectocides means that your current drench might just be just toying with them. Cooperia are near their seasonal peak and if not treated with an effective combination drench they can cause lost production, scouring and even death. Saturn Pour-on will deliver a full dose of abamectin and levamisole to deliver broad spectrum worm control, including Cooperia resistant to endectocides, and sucking lice control. Saturn Pour-on is ideal for young cattle and is also an excellent choice of drench for cows at dry-off.

Seasonal Prevalence of Cooperia in untreated N.Z. Cattle (schematic) Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug

Saturn is only available at

For more information please contact us on 0800 92 77 33 or visit our website www.bayeranimal.co.nz. SaturnÂŽ is a registered trademark of Bayer New Zealand Limited. Registered pursuant to the ACVM Act 1997, No.10206. See www.foodsafety.govt.nz for registration conditions.


GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

12 // PASTURE

Yellow bristle grass is rapidly infesting clean dairy pasture, says Trevor James, AgResearch.

Yellow bristle grass – an emerging problem for dairy farmers Dr Trevor James

AGRESEARCH SCIENTIST

THE AGGRESSIVE SPREAD

of the weed yellow bristle grass is a significant threat to dairy pastures. While it has been present in New Zealand for over 100 years, it is only over the last 10 years that the grass has started to rapidly infest clean dairy pasture. This is still an emerging problem. There is a real danger that if it is not controlled it could become one of the major issues for dairy farmers within the next 20 years. Yellow bristle grass (setaria pumilia) was identified as a significant problem on farms in the wet, warm climate around Mt Pirongia in the Waikato some 10 years ago. It spread quickly from there and is now found across the Waikato and South Auckland

and is rapidly invading the dairy farms of Taranaki. The reason for the recent aggressive spread of the weed is unknown but droughts and the resulting overgrazing of pastures may have contributed. The problems with yellow bristle grass are its low nutritional quality when it is in seed during summer and autumn and its aggressive spread. Cows learn to avoid it when it’s in seed in summer and autumn; this results in a massive seed set. Seeds are spread by water and soil movement, stock, summer crops including chopped maize for silage, and contractors mowing around roadside marker posts. Germination normally starts in mid-October and peaks from mid-November to


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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

14 // PASTURE

Yellow bristle grass starts seeding in December and continues until the first frost in late autumn.

mid-December depending on conditions. Seeds can number up to 20,000 per square metre but more typically are 5-10,000 per square metre under light infestations. Due to the size and number of the seeds produced, yellow bristle grass is more competitive than many other weed species. Yellow bristle grass can invest up to 10-12% of pasture which means a potential loss of 20% of pasture yield when the zone around the plant, which cows will not eat, is included. The plant starts seeding in late December and it continues to seed through until the first frost in late autumn. AgResearch weed scientists, funded by the Sustainable Farming Fund, DairyNZ and other investors, have been working with the Yellow Bristle Grass Action Group since its

formation seven years ago and published the first edition of Yellow Bristle Grass – the Ute Guide in June 2007 to help farmers manage infestations of yellow bristle grass. The second edition of the Ute Guide was published in June 2011. The guide makes farmers aware of the threat and provides them with management guidance to prevent it becoming established. These management practices are still the front line of defence. In the coming year research will continue into chemical controls and also to identify how the seeds are spreading. Get your copy of the Yellow Bristle Grass Ute Guide by attending a yellow Bristle Grass Field day or by contacting your local DairyNZ consulting officer or find out more online at www. pestweb.co.nz

ABOUT YELLOW BRISTLE GRASS

kk Yellow bristle grass is an upright annual growing 25 - 45 cm high

although in open pasture its first leaves are typically parallel to the ground kk Leaves are hairless, twisted and slightly rough at the edges. They are

yellow-green to green in colour. Long hairs are present at the base of the leaves kk Leaf sheath is flattened and hairless and often turns reddish purple kk Ligule is a ring of hairs about 1 mm long kk No ears (auricles) at the junction of the leaf blade and sheath kk Seed head is a cylindrical ‘spike’, 2.5 – 10 cm long kk Bristles at the base of each spikelet are initially green but soon

change to a golden-brown kk Most other Setaria species have fewer bristles in their seed heads.


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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

16 // PASTURE

There are several techniques to make your pasture more productive.

More productive pastures DR DERIC CHARLTON RETIRED SCIENTIST AND NZ GRASSLANDS ASSOCIATION LIFE MEMBER.

What is pasture renovation? It’s a way of making pastures more productive, and there are several techniques you can use. We farm pastures intensively and they sometimes “run out”, losing their vigorous, most nutritious plants because of pest attack, disease, drought or mismanagement. Resowing them with a suitable seeds mixture rejuvenates the forage feed supply.

Spring sowing is best in South Island, after winter frosts have passed. Autumn-sown plants can be killed by frost heave. However, chicory grows best following spring sowing, and it can also be done in summermoist North Island areas. But slugs will feed on emerging seedlings - and populations can reach one million per ha. That doesn’t leave much for the livestock.

How much of the farm should you do each year? Don’t take on more than you can handle. Some farmers don’t do any as their pastures are producing well because they manage them well. Other farmers may renovate 10-30% of their farms each year so their pastures are ten years old at most. For cost-benefits, see the section on Costs at the end.

Why do pastures need renovating? kk Some pastures don’t need renovating - they have been managed well and can remain productive for many years. Some British pastures haven’t been sown in the past millennium! kk Pastures can “run out” or become generally unproductive and reasons may not be obvious. kk The paddock has low soil fertility, and it’s not worth improving it, unless you have new productive pasture to make good use of it. kk To gain benefits from the latest pasture species and cultivars on the market. kk Unpalatable weeds have taken over and any remaining useful

When to do it? Early autumn is best in North Island - when enough soil moisture has been replaced by rain, but before the soil temperature falls under 10 degrees C. Perennial ryegrass stops growing well below 6 degrees C. It’s important that new plants are well established before winter.

grasses and clovers are struggling. kk Treading damage (pugging) during winter may have killed off the productive grasses and clovers, and also caused damaged soil structure. kk Pests, such as grass grub, porina caterpillar, black beetle, clover root weevil, slugs and clover flea have killed off the valuable grasses and clovers. kk The grasses are infected with endophyte fungus (that grows inside the plant) and cause serious ryegrass staggers in livestock. kk Livestock grazing the paddock suffer seriously from pasturerelated disorders, including facial eczema, zearalenone and pneumonia. kk The paddock needs levelling and/or draining.

half done.” Traditional gardeners sow three seeds - one for the weather, one for the bugs, and one for themselves. Farmers should sow at least three seeds, and maybe more if you’re sowing in hill country! Any preparation? Yes - you’d better prepare because it’s not cheap. But it’s a good investment, as you’ll get cheaper but better feed for your stock when you want it if you plan it properly. There are several important points to consider before buying seeds for a new pasture. These are discussed below: Plan the job well ahead kk List your reasons for renewing

a pasture. kk Understand why you’re doing

it. Which method to use? This is based on questions such as: kk How bad is the paddock? kk How steep is the paddock? kk Can it be rescued with minimal action? kk How much money can you afford? kk Do you want a long-term or a short-term fix? Remember - “Well begun is

kk It always pays to plan well

ahead once you have decided to proceed with the seed operation - 2 weeks before sowing is usually too late! kk Obtain the latest accurate information to help decide what pasture species, types and cultivars to include in a seeds mixture. kk It is well worthwhile obtaining professional assistance (if


GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

PASTURE // 17

you can find it) from the seed companies, seed retailers and some farm contractors. Time your purchase kk Decide on a seeds mixture early on in your planning. kk Order the seed in good time. kk Remember that newly released cultivars can be in short supply. kk Always buy top quality certified seeds kk Use a reliable seed retailer. kk Always insist on certified seeds. kk Cheap seeds are NOT a bargain - the seedlot might be full of weed seeds or poor in germination. kk Ask for the seed certificate (P & G Certificate) for the seeds, and check it before you buy. kk Look for its purity and germination levels. kk Using certified seed is your only guarantee that you are buying the cultivar you want, and that it is a good quality seed line. Buying a seedlot containing weed seeds can cause strife in the longer term, and poorly germinating seed will never produce a vigorous, productive pasture. And there’s also the cost of herbicides to take into account. By all means consider price when you are buying seeds, but don’t let it be the main decider when making your purchase decision, just like when you’re buying cloths or other personal items! Remember - seed is not the mostly costly item in sowing pastures and forage crops, and “penny-pinching” on this will handicap the whole operation, affecting your feed supply and its quality. Decide which species, types and cultivars you need and buy them. Remember that cheap “bargain” seeds mixtures won’t perform as well, may contain potentially serious weeds, and may not persist as long in the new pasture. Also remember that a saving in seed cost is only a small saving in the total pasture renewal cost. Seed treatment Some seeds need special treatment, such as a fungicide dressing. Some legumes need

Don’t take more than you can handle when it comes to pasture renovation.

inoculating with a recommended nitrogen-fixing Rhizobium strain. Ensure that this is included, and has been done before accepting delivery. This will give you FREE NITROGEN for your pasture! Seed coating is now refined and beneficial. New Zealand’s seed coating companies have been leaders in this technology since the 1960s, and now offer different but effective seed treatments. These are a commonsense use of crop protection chemicals, protecting seed and seedling from pests and diseases during the establishment stage, but are thoroughly tested and cleared for environmental and user effects before they can be used commercially.

Brassica crops often struggle to establish unless seed is treated. Insecticide coating will control attack by springtails, a frequent cause of brassica failure. Fungicides combat “damping off” and “wirestem”. Grass seeds treated with polymers add little to seed weight but carry insecticides, fungicides and growth enhancers. Though all grasses will respond to this treatment, the slower establishers, such as tall fescue and cocksfoot, will give more spectacular results. Clover seed can be treated with a systemic nematicide, as well as nitrogen-fixing rhizobia and even trace elements. Again, results show marked improvement in clover

establishment, boosting plant nodulation and root growth in soils infested by the microscopic nematodes. Follow local advice and use treated seed (and other protection, such as slug pellets) when your supplier or consultant recommends it, because of seasonal weather conditions. Sow the seed well Unless you have experience, it pays to use a reliable drilling contractor to sow the seeds. Rule One- Sow the seed at the right time of year. Some pasture species only establish well when sown into warmer soils. Rule Two - Check the seed is sown at the right depth. Sow it about 1 cm below the soil surface. www.lifestyleblock.co.nz


GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

18 // MAIZE

Right supplement and the right feeding system builds the resilience of your farm system IAN WILLIAMS

PIONEER FORAGE SPECIALIST

VARIATIONS IN CLIMATIC

factors impact pasture growth rates and this has created feed challenges for generations of pasture-based farmers. Today’s farmers are also faced with a number of new challenges to maintaining a profitable and sustainable dairy farm system every season. These include large variations in the milksolids payout (see table p20) and an ever-changing environmental regulatory environment. A resilient dairy farm can effectively manage these variations (in climate, milk price, environmental regulations etc.) delivering profit each season. It is also sustainable for people, animals and the environment. In the past 20 years New Zealand dairy farm systems have intensified with more cows per hectare producing more milk per cow. Pasture yield potential has not kept pace with the growing demand for feed and as a consequence farmers have become increasingly reliant on supplementary feed. In the 2010-11 season feed was the largest contributor to owner-operator farm operating expenses (29.3%), Table 1: Typical costs of maize silage DM3

higher than labour (20.1%) and maintenance and running (16.2%) 2. Choosing the right supplement and investing in the right feeding infrastructure will help determine the resilience of your farm system. Growing and feeding maize silage delivers a number of unequalled farm systems and environmental benefits. Maize is a low cost feed

While the price of imported supplements varies according to global demand, changes in the exchange rate and shipping costs, the price of home-grown maize silage remains low and relatively constant. Most New Zealand farmers can grow maize crops yielding 18 - 26 tDM/ha for 14.9 – 21.5 c/kgDM3. Growing maize on effluent paddocks reduces the cost of maize silage by delivering high maize silage yields with reduced crop input costs (Table 1). In fact a two year on-farm study funded by the Foundation of Arable Research (FAR), DairyNZ, Environment Waikato and Genetic Technologies Ltd showed that maize silage crops grown on effluent paddocks

with no additional fertiliser (no base, starter or sidedress) yielded an average of 26.1 tDM/ ha.Many dairy farm run-offs are not farmed to their full potential. In a paper presented at Dairy3, Scott Ridsdale (DairyNZ) provided an example which showed partially-cropped run-off growing maize for silage could harvest 86% more drymatter than a traditional run-off5. The partially cropped run-off provided an 83% higher return on assets for the farmer who owned it. Maize silage + a feed pad are a winning combination

There are a number of reasons why farmers should consider building a feed pad that doubles as a stand-off area: While in-shed feeding systems can only be used to feed concentrates which are generally higher in cost, a feed pad can be used to feed a wide range of feeds

Ian Williams

including low cost forages such as maize silage and byproducts (e.g. kiwifruit and potatoes) with minimal wastage. Keeping cows off wet pastures decreases overgrazing and pugging. Trials conducted on poor draining soil have measured annual pasture production decreases of 21% for moderate and 45% for severely pugged pasture. Losses will continue over years as pugged areas tend

Maize silage yield (†DM/ha in the stack)

Cost with full fertiliser input (c/kgDM) Cost in effluent paddock (c/kgDM)4

16

18

20

22

24

26

28

30

24.2

21.5

19.4

17.6

16.2

14.9

13.8

_

_

15.7

14.2

12.9

11.8

10.9

10.1

9.4


GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

20 // MAIZE

reduces nitrogen excretion by the cow. Modelling through Overseer shows that feeding maize silage reduces nitrate leaching. Growing and feeding maize can help improve pasture persistence

to re-establish in weeds and less productive grasses. Effluent can be collected and applied to the land when soil conditions are suitable thereby reducing nutrient leaching losses.

Growing maize delivers environmental benefits

Maize is a deep-rooted crop that can extract water and nutrients from depths 2-3 times greater than typical pasture species including ryegrass and clover. This allows the maize

crop to remove excess nutrients that have dropped out of the root zone of shallow-rooted pasture species. Feeding maize silage (a low protein feedstuff) in conjunction with high protein pasture dilutes dietary protein content and

New Zealand dairy farm’s global competitive advantage is our low cost ryegrass/clover pasture however pasture persistence is a major problem on many farms. Regular regrassing is necessary to ensure pasture remains productive. Maize is an ideal break crop in a pasture renewal process. The cultivation process allows farmers to apply fertiliser, incorporate lime and address drainage issues that may have been negatively impacting pasture persistence. Cropping removes the normal feed source for pasture pests such as black beetle, clover root


GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

MAIZE // 21

weevil and pasture nematodes. This interrupts their breeding cycle and reduces insect pressure on seedling plants during the pasture renewal process. While most forage crops must be fed when mature, a key benefit of maize silage is that it can be stored long-term and fed whenever pasture supply does not meet animal demand. Getting cows off at critical times to prevent pugging and overgrazing improves pasture persistence. For more information on how maize silage can improve the resilience of your farm system call 0800 PIONEER (0800 746 633) to arrange a free, no obligation visit from your local Pioneer representative. New Zealand Dairy Statistics 2011-12 DairyNZ Economic Survey 2010-11 Pioneer Maize Silage 2012-2013 page 25. Does not take into account the lost pasture as this varies significantly between paddocks and farms. 4 Assumes no base, starter or sidedress fertiliser is required. 5 Ridsdale, S. 2007. Are you getting the best out of your run-off? Dairy3 Conference. 1

2

3

Maize is a deep-rooted crop that can extract water and nutrients from depths 2-3 times greater than typical pasture species.


GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

22 // FEED

Farmer mindset on feed inputs shifting IF A DAIRY farmer thinks that

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their cows aren’t capable of raising their production, they’re probably right says Pip Gale. “Equally, if they think their herd can put more milk in the vat, that’s probably right too,” says the Tasmaniabased animal nutritionist. “I believe that dairy farmers are intelligent people who want to make rational business decisions, therefore they require sound information and exposure to industry achievement.” Gale says the prevailing mindset among many New Zealand dairy farmers relative to dairy nutrition and feed inputs is beginning to shift as they become more educated around the topic. “Familiarity is a type of cultural architecture that we are all brought up with,” he says. “If farmers feel no need to change their production system, fair enough. But, if farmers face a challenge and need to do something else to improve their cows’ nutrition and welfare, they need to realise that they can do so. It will require them to carry out different activities and make strategic financial investments however.” Gale says that farmers’ adjusting of their mindset, before they begin exploring supplementary feed options for their herd, is key to achieving milk production increases. He likens farmers continuing a

Pip Gale

‘nothing has changed’ attitude with a comment from famed scientist Albert Einstein. Einstein once said that if someone keeps on performing the same action, but expects the outcome to change, that’s a definition of insanity. “Often a dairy farmer has an issue that they want to address,” says Gale, who is also a consultant to Ingham Feeds & Nutrition. “We’ll say yes, we can help, but there has to be a willingness to do something different. Farmers have to resolve this in their own minds first.” Having overcome what can often be a type of fearfulness


GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

FEED // 23

can then get on with a supplementary feeding due diligence, figuring what activities they’ll have to do differently and how to incorporate it into the pasture management systems’ employed on the farm. “In other words, to change outcomes on a farm, you have to change the activities carried out on the property,” he says. “Such a change of philosophy is no small matter, but that’s the job of people like myself; to help support that change of mind, to suggest there are actions farmers can or shouldn’t take.” Gale says that lifting the production of cows that are genetically quite capable of doing so can be achieved relatively easily – as long as farmers give themselves permission to begin thinking differently.

Dairy farmers are urged to carry out a supplementary feeding due diligence on their farms.

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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

24 // SUSTAINABILITY

Indicators of nutrient performance, specific to 12 regions across New Zealand have been created.

Better you understand how nutrients enter, work and exit farm systems BRIGID BUCKLEY

DAIRYNZ DEVELOPER - SUSTAINABILITY

REGIONAL NUTRIENT MANAGEMENT indicators

allow you to monitor and improve performance. It is becoming increasingly important for farmers to be aware of how nitrogen enters, transfers within and leaves a farm system. The cost of nutrients and the attention regulators are placing on this aspect of dairy farming makes it essential to have practical and effective farming strategies to manage nutrients. Nutrients are not cheap – fertiliser alone can make up about 15-20% of farm working expenses. The issue has been

that dairy farmers can’t clearly see efficient nutrient use or nutrient losses in a neighbour’s paddock and there has been no way to compare the performance of farmers within the same region – until now. Regional indicators of nutrient performance have been developed by DairyNZ and FertResearch to help dairy farmers look for areas to make efficiency gains and lower nutrient losses from the milking platform. They are specific to each of the 12 dairy regions as defined in the Overseer nutrient budget model.

There are three indicators that give a regional picture of nutrient use so a comparison can be made between farms in a particular region: Nitrogen conversion efficiency (%) is an indication of a farm’s efficiency at converting external nitrogen inputs – such as supplementary feed and fertiliser – into nitrogen in products such as milk and meat. Nitrogen leaching (kg N/ ha/year) is an estimate of the nitrogen lost (leached) in drainage water below the plant’s root system. Phosphorus loss (kg P/ha/

year) is an estimate of the amount of phosphorus lost from the farm system via surface runoff. Brigid Buckley


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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

26 // SUSTAINABILITY

Each of these indicators is broken down into a regional distribution of farm performance. So, when it comes to assessing performance a farmer can ask how their farm compares to other farms that face similar challenges – whether that’s the geography, predominant soil type, or the vagaries of the season. There’s more value in that than comparing a farm’s performance to a national overview figure for each of the indicators. The indicators are available at dairynz.co.nz/nutrientindicators. Over the past year, consulting officers have been discussing the indicators and working through strategies that can help lift the host farm’s performance. This process should also help farmers when they meet with their fertiliser representative so strategies can be assessed and recorded in the nutrient management plan. The concept of increasing farm profitability by becoming skilled at harnessing nutrients and sending them out the gate

in milk is not new. Assessing nutrient use and finding ways to become more efficient is something many farmers have been doing for a long time. The regional indicators should make this clearer and easier. DairyNZ last year contracted AgResearch scientist Bob Longhurst to meet with

In the example of Lake Rerewhakaaitu farmers Mac and Lynda Pacey, their strategy involved carefully managing nutrient losses to protect the lake. This included doubling the size of their effluent block from 11ha to 22ha, grazing replacement stock off the farm and reducing fertiliser N inputs

“The concept of increasing farm profitability by becoming skilled at harnessing nutrients and sending them out of the gate is not new.” farmers around the country and document their strategies for getting more out of their nutrients. Some of these strategies are very simple, such as growing maize crops on effluent block paddocks to use the nutrients that are deeper in the soil profile; extending effluent blocks to reduce fertiliser inputs; or carefully monitoring feed inputs and grazing practices to improve nutrient efficiency.

from 161 to 50 kg N/ha/yr and P inputs from 62 to 27 kg P/ha/yr. They also stand-off cows from paddocks to their feedpad when wet. Though they reduced their stocking rate from 3.5 to 3.1 cows/ha, their milk solids production has increased from 1090kg/ha from 370 cows to 1210kg/ha from 330 cows. This is largely on the back of imported feed supplements from 184t to

425t DM which has seen more nutrients imported now in feed than in fertilisers. These changes have seen their nitrogen conversion efficiency increase from 25% to 36%, which is in the top half of performers in the Bay of Plenty, and importantly their nitrogen leaching has reduced from 74 to 23kg N/ ha/yr. Most Bay of Plenty farms leach between 35 and 50kg N/ ha/yr. At 23kg N/ha/yr the farm’s nitrogen leaching is in the top 15% of farms in the region for this indicator. Running your farm’s nutrients with the benefit of regional indicators should make it easier to identify your opportunities to increase the productivity and profitability of your business so you can discuss your options with your fertiliser representative and your farm advisors. For more information visit dairynz.co.nz/ nutrientindicators or contact Brigid Buckley on 0800 4 DAIRYNZ (0800 4 324 7969). Nitrogen leaching into waterways around dairy farms can be reduced through a nutrient management plan.


GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

EFFLUENT // 27

Practical tips to make irrigators work ANALYSIS OF RECENT significant effluent non-compliance information from regional councils has highlighted the importance of correct effluent irrigation. All people in the farm team are responsible for ensuring the effluent system is operated successfully including the owner, sharemilker, manager and staff. A detailed analysis of the reasons for significant non-compliance by Nicola Waugh, from AgFirst Waikato, identified ponding as a major issue. This study, funded by DairyNZ, collated the compliance data from regional councils nationwide. Ponding, and the causes of ponding, such as lack of sufficient storage or over-application of effluent, accounted for at least half of significant non-compliance across many regions. The report highlights the importance of carefully managing the process of applying effluent to land. Is the irrigator well maintained? Does everyone in the farm team know when to irrigate and where?

Applying effluent Application depth is the amount of effluent applied at one time. This is the same as measuring the amount of rain e.g. 20mm. Applying to the appropriate application depth depends on a range of factors including nutrient content of effluent, regulatory conditions and soil and landscape features. It is good practice to apply lower depths more often, for example 10mm in one application. It may help if you think about Depth of effluent applied (mm)

application rate as like a summer shower or as a thunderstorm. If 20mm is applied in 20 minutes it’s more likely to be a thunderstorm compared to a 20mm application over four hours. Adjust your application rate for site-specific conditions to lower the risk of ponding and runoff. For example, a lower rate would be more appropriate on slopes and ‘tight’ soils, and rates should reduce when soils are wet. Below is the typical spray pattern from a travelling irrigator Fast speed

TREVOR FOLEY DAIRYNZ ENVIRONMENTAL EXTENSION SPECIALIST

The irrigator in this graph has applied effluent over a run, with buckets below it, to capture effluent application depths on two irrigator settings, a slow speed (in red) and a fast speed (in blue). The increased speed (and pressure) of the fast run has had an influence on the application distribution uniformity – meaning the distribution was

Slow speed

Distance from centre of irrigator (m)

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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

28 // EFFLUENT

Lack of sufficient storage or over application of effluent account for at least half of significant noncompliance across many regions.

more even across the buckets. Distribution uniformity is very important. An application depth of 40mm on the outside of the wetted width will cause ponding and waste valuable nutrients. Irrigating effluent Travelling irrigator application depth varies according to the speed they travel (faster speed = lower depth applied). Good practice is to run the irrigator on its fastest setting and to ensure the drag hose is laid out correctly for optimal travelling irrigator performance. Travelling irrigators are not

recommended for use on slopes greater than 7Ëš, as these soils are categorised as high risk. Low application systems such as sprinklers are preferred to cover these areas. The drag hose can be very heavy, especially if it is too long; this can cause excessive wear on the gearing and the winch wire and over-application of effluent. Keeping the hose loop tight behind the irrigator will reduce drag. See the sidebar for additional tips. Tips for operating low application sprinkler systems

Low rate systems such as sprinklers and pods suit a wide range of situations, and are particularly useful for irrigating on high-risk soils because low rates of effluent can be applied more often. Sprinkler systems usually have fixed application rates. The application depth is controlled by the length of time the effluent is applied. Sprinkler systems with a timing control can be pulsed, e.g. 15 minutes on and 45 minutes off, giving control over the total depth applied and the hourly rate.

Spacing and pressure must be correct with these systems. Any reduction in pressure at the irrigator can result in effluent being applied at higher application depths and rates. This can result from: kk Low pump capacity or poor pump performance kk Nozzle damage kk Too much drag hose or incorrect hose layout. After starting your applicator, visually check that it appears to be operating at the correct pressure by observing the width of the diameter of the wetted area created by the spray.


GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

EFFLUENT // 29

QUICK TIPS FOR IRRIGATORS/APPLICATORS kk Ensure the pressure is correct

kk Anchor the irrigator correctly

and consistent at the irrigator to achieve correct application depth and rate along the whole run and at all points of the farm.

kk Set the irrigator at the fastest

kk Ensure the drag hose isn’t too

long because greater length creates weight and therefore greater drag, reducing pressure at the irrigator. 150-200m long is good.

(dragline) onto the winch drum from the sides, not the centre. A wire winder fitted to the irrigator is a good optional extra.

kk Devise an irrigation and

them when they are damaged and use Camlock fittings for easy removal. It is good practice to change the nozzles on the travelling irrigator when you change the rubber ware in your farm dairy.

the gap between the dragline and drag hose is less than 3m.

kk Feed the winch rope

speed to reduce application depth and rate.

kk Don’t cut any nozzles. Replace

kk Lay out correctly: check that

is important: check for leaks or damage by walking along the lines. Repair damage immediately.

e.g. to a strainer post and away from waterways.

maintenance plan. kk Correctly inflate wheels to

reduce drag on the irrigator.

kk Avoid snags and don’t allow

kk Drag hose and layout

kk Visual checking of systems

the drag hose to rub against sharp objects.

kk If you are getting blocked

nozzles, the issue starts at the inlet. Good practice is to ensure no rubbish enters the system. Screening through a well-designed sand trap is a good measure. kk Clean the sand trap regularly. kk Maintain and service the

irrigator regularly including greasing weekly, covering all nipples on the applicator. Hose the traveller regularly with clean water.

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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

30 // EFFLUENT

The ability to gather data and track trends allows us to make decisions and apply controls.

Technology has an important role in farming IN THE 1960S my father built a simple system to spray pasture with bloat oil. He organised a field day at a local farmer’s property near Matamata, even though the farmer told him that bloat was not a problem on his farm “…so don’t expect that I’ll buy anything”. The day after the demonstration, the farmer phoned in. “Ken”, he said, “The sight glass on the vat was up 10% this morning. I’d better have one of those things. I guess that I didn’t know that bloat was there in the background all the time”. The message here is the sight glass data and his memory of the previous day’s reading indicated a trend that was important to his farming. The changing sightglass data readings indicated something critical that the farmer could act on. We now have the ability to automatically log trends and display them on the farm computer so that you can see what is happening on your farm. You use this data collection and display to make better decisions

with less guesswork. But there is an attitude problem many farmers have to technology which is centred around the “keep it simple” theme. Many of you see electronic data acquisition and control as a “complication” to farming and so you miss out on its benefits. If the “kiss principle” is so important to you then think on this: Your car now has an engine management computer, ABS braking system, electronic stability control, power steering, fault diagnostics, Bluetooth and cruise control. If you wanted simplicity you’d still use a Ford Model T or a hand cranked phone in the hallway. Are these new features of any benefit to you? Well, take them all away, along with your smart phone, and see how well you function. The point is unnecessary complication is more important than simplicity itself and many of you have got these two themes confused. Engineering and scientific advances do have a most important role to play

in your farming. How then does all this apply when dealing with farm effluent, for example? An “effluent system” might consist of a sump near the yard, with a centrifugal solids pump in it, a main line with hydrants, all stretching into a few paddocks and with a basic manure spreader attached. It’s simple all right. But it means that you must irrigate effluent on to already wet paddocks during the most stressful time of the year (when they don’t need irrigation). It means applying strong mixtures of dung, water and urine that are not always good for pasture in that strength because they can kill soil organisms. Furthermore, the centrifugal style of pump supplies a different flow at each hydrant (so irrigator performance is different in every paddock) and your lack of holding pond storage means that you miss out on storing the rain during winter and which should be re-used, later in spring, when it adds so much to production. You have no instruments in

STUART REID SPITFIRE IRRIGATORS MANAGING DIRECTOR

the system to check if a pipe has burst or that the irrigator has stalled; no way to stop the irrigator at the end of the run (except by keeping a close eye on it); there is no certain idea of how much water and nutrient is being applied, and the overall variability of the applied mixture means that you will build up an uneven nutrient gradient across the farm. This is the system we devised in the 1960s just as the mighty transistor was coming into vogue and well before computers were common. But here we are today with the ability to gather data and track trends from that data, so we can make decisions and apply control. For those of you who are puzzled by this word “control” let’s consider a modern effluent system Its basic elements may be a transfer pump with level switches to get effluent from


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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

32 // EFFLUENT

Main photo: Onsite system control enclosures. The PLC is in the middle row (inset).

the yard into a storage pond that holds both effluent and collected rainwater. The pond will have a mixer that produces a homogeneous mix of water and effluent so that when you are irrigating, you don’t spray a thin brew to

start with and a thick brew as the pond level falls. Your effluent pump will probably be a positive displacement pump that delivers the same amount of diluted manure to each hydrant so that irrigator performance is the same

in each paddock. The irrigator will be a proper irrigator (not just a manure spreader) and it will be governed and contain basic electronics so that it delivers a known amount of effluent at a constant speed

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to a wide range of pasture. But these are just the main physical elements of the system. To this we now add control. We add a few special sensors which will supply input data (pressure, temperature and flow) to a small

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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

EFFLUENT // 33

programmable logic computer – a PLC. Now watch what happens. After we have set up the irrigator in the paddock, we use our cell phone to start the pump. The pressures and flow are all being measured so that if the irrigator stops, then so does the pump. If a hose bursts, or a coupling comes undone, then the pump stops. This saves you from pumping the entire pond into the paddock. At the end of the run, the irrigator closes its flow valve and the pump stops (no mess at the end of the run.) If soil moisture levels are too high for irrigation, the interlock won’t allow the pump to even start. The transfer pump runs under control of the PLC and the pond mixer starts and runs automatically at set times and during irrigation. Irrigation stops when the vacuum pump is running (to reduce peak power charges) and it resumes when milking is over. If faults arise, while you are off the farm at a BBQ, you come back to read alarm messages on the

PLC display, which also tells you how you might go about fixing the cause of the alarm. The PLC logs the running time of the pump which tells you how much effluent has been applied during the run, and so on, but we’ll stop there. This is only the beginning of a list of features we can build in to our control system so as to improve grass production by way of irrigation and diminish stress and accidents that can occur when you are irrigating. These features are the “ABS braking system, the engine management computer and the electronic stability control” of a good effluent system. You can keep on with the Model T, hand-cranked phone version if you wish, but be aware that we can greatly improve your farming and peace of mind now that we are in the 21st century. If you want to grow more grass, get farm effluent under control. Stuart Reid is managing director of Spitfire Irrigators. www. spitfire.net.nz

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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

34 // EFFLUENT

Soil information vital for effluent irrigation FARM DAIRY EFFLUENT, an important source of nutrients for pasture, can also be a significant source of contamination of waterways. Therefore a good understanding of soils on individual farms helps prevent nutrient value being lost via leaching and runoff, and helps to protect rivers, streams, lakes and groundwater from nutrients and faecal contamination. A number of soil properties, including the water holding capacity of soils, determine the potential for these negative effects. So effluent irrigation systems should match soil properties to minimise runoff and leaching of the nutrients and contaminants effluent contains. Properties such as texture and structure determine the amount of water that can enter and be retained within a particular soil, and the rate at which excess water goes through that soil. Water retention, drainage characteristics and consequent leaching losses of material in effluent are strongly dependent on these properties. Leaching occurs in response to movement of excess water through the soil. Soils with high water holding capacity (deep silt loams) are able to store significant quantities of effluent compared to those that are shallow, sandy, or stony. These soils with lower water holding capacity are therefore more susceptible to leaching and runoff. Water or effluent can also be transported to depth in relatively dry soil that contains large pores open at the soil surface. When ponding occurs at the soil surface during effluent irrigation, material present in the effluent can be rapidly transported below the root zone through a phenomenon known

as bypass flow. High leaching the soil is exceeded.  losses of nutrients can result Low rates of BALA TIKKISETTY from this. That’s one reason why absorption are found SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE Waikato Regional Council has in soils that are COORDINATOR rules limiting effluent applipoorly drained, and WAIKATO REGIONAL COUNCIL cation depths. where ponding and Many soils that are used for runoff often occur during drying, especially when dairying in the Waikato region with rainfall events. Many of these soils have been previously are relatively shallow and have these soils need to be artificially compacted by treading.  limited water holding capacity. drained to reduce the incidence of ponding and waterlogging. In To help avoid negative impacts Effluent irrigation on these those cases extra care is needed on the environment, there are soils is likely to result in more to ensure that effluent doesn’t some important rules to follow significant leaching compared bypass the soil and move directly over land application of farm with other soils. into the drainage system and dairy effluent. Adequate soil infiltration kk Untreated effluent should not into streams. rates are also important to be discharged into any drain, Farmers need to schedule avoid runoff of effluent and stream or river. effluent irrigation to suit soil and prevent contamination of kk Have an effluent storage climatic conditions. To achieve surface waterways. For effluent system so it can be possible to this storage irrigation, defer spreading effluent until facilities with the effects of conditions are suitable. the required effluent and of kk Effluent ponds, storage facilcapacity are cattle treading ities, feed pads and stand-off needed. To on the infilpads must be sealed to prevent increase the tration rate can seepage. flexibility in be negative. the scheduling kk Feed pads and stand-off pads During must be at least 20 metres programme, irrigation, away from surface water. and to suspended kk The maximum loading rate minimise solids in farm of effluent to irrigated land the risks of dairy effluent Effluent irrigation systems should shall not exceed a depth of 25 drainage accumulate match soil properties to minimise millimetres per application and runoff, on, and just runoff and leaching of nutrients. and 150 kilograms of nitrogen small depths below, the soil per hectare per year. of effluent surface, creating kk Effluent must not pond on the should be applied. Irrigators an organic layer that tempoland surface or create odour or with low application rates will rarily acts as a surface coating.  nuisance outside a property’s help reduce the risk of drainage Although infiltration rates are boundary. and runoff and maximise the then reduced to very low levels, In my experience, farmers opportunity to make use of the the effect is transient, lasting have been taking a real interest nutrients in the effluent. about a couple of days. in understanding their soils When the rate of appliAlso, some soils are suscepbetter to help them manage cation of water is higher than tible to treading damage during effluents so as to get the best the infiltration rate, water can grazing for a large part of the nutrient value out of them and either run off into surface water milking season and this, too, can protect the environment.  or enter large pores open at affect the effluent infiltration The council is very keen to the soil surface and move very rate. Therefore, the relationship help with this and recently rapidly through bypass flow.  between grazing and irrigation put ‘high and low-risk’ soil During this bypass flow, there is is another important factor information on-line at www. little opportunity for the water in developing sound effluent waikatoregion.govt.nz/ to be retained within the root irrigation systems. soilmapinfo. zone and high leaching losses To summarise, when the For more information contact of nutrients are likely. Bypass ability of soil to absorb water is Bala Tikkisetty on 0800 flow of farm dairy effluent can low, irrigation of effluent will 800 401 or bala.tikkisetty@ particularly occur in soils that result in ponding and run-off waikatoregion.govt.nz. undergo shrinkage and fissuring once the total water capacity of


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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

36 // FERTILISER

A farm must get the best value for money from any fertiliser purchase.

Get the most bang for your buck from fertiliser ANY TALKS OF a lower payout undoubtedly create some financial pressures on farms, leading farmers to look closely at where they can reduce costs, and cutting back on fertiliser is one expense which is sometimes deferred until better times. But does that decision have a greater cost? As a farm consultant I am often asked for an opinion but there is no simple answer because every farm is different and any fertiliser recommendation should always take into account the farmer’s goals, farm productivity, soil fertility, environmental aspects, nutrient budget and farm economic factors. What’s most important is that a farm is getting the best value for money from any fertiliser purchase – because cheaper is

not always better in the long run. Superphosphate (SP) has traditionally been the most commonly used fertiliser product in New Zealand but farmers are now increasingly turning to nitrogen (N) based fertilisers to meet short term feed deficits and also considering it as a more cost effective option for the long term. But this option will not suit every farm. Solely using N will only work if P fertility is very high with above optimum soil levels, and if that’s the case then P can be withheld for a period of time with little impact on farm production, but if P levels are below optimum, use of a phosphate-based product is still necessary to maintain productivity. In reality, phosphate based

fertiliser is required in most dairy farming situations because, as a general rule, regular use of N fertiliser will actually create the need for higher maintenance P inputs due to the resulting increased stocking rate. The question dairy farmers should be asking this season is not whether they should reduce phosphate fertiliser inputs but how best to achieve value for money from the fertiliser they do apply. Value for money is not as simple as cost per tonne of fertiliser but is based on the nutrient content and availability of the product, the value of other nutrients within the product and, possibly most importantly, the unique factors which determine the specific nutrient needs of the farm.

With that in mind, the next PHIL FLEMING FARMWISE CONSULTANT

question is usually which phosphate fertiliser product to choose, given the wide range now available. The answer is actually quite simple with four key points to consider: Solubility and availability Water soluble phosphate fertilisers are immediately available for plant uptake whereas partially soluble phosphate fertilisers, such as reactive phosphate rock (RPR), are medium to long-term release. The main water soluble P fertilisers are super-phosphate (SP), triple superphosphate (TSP) and di-ammonuim phosphate (DAP).


GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

FERTILISER // 37

Phosphate content Phosphate content of the product should be considered in terms of cost per unit of nutrient applied rather than $/tonne of product because farmers are able to apply less tonnage of a more concentrated fertiliser such as DAP which is 20% P compared to SP which is a bulky product that carries fillers and is only about 9% P. Value of other nutrients Superphosphate not only contains P but also sulphur (S) and calcium (Ca), with the value of S currently between 40-45 cents/kg. However, superphosphate contains no nitrogen whilst DAP contains nitrogen but no sulphur or calcium. Nitrogen, in the form of coated urea, can be added to the SP mix e.g. Pasture Zeal G2 from BallanceAgriNutrients or Ravensdown’s Flexi N at a cost of approximately $2 per kg of N.. The overall situation on-farm It is important that each farm’s unique situation is taken into

account when deciding what specific fertiliser mix to apply. I encourage my clients to make use of the computer software Overseer, a simple and effective agricultural management tool that can help farmers and their advisers examine nutrient use and movements within a farm to optimise production and environmental outcomes. The software calculates and estimates the nutrient flows in a productive farming system and identifies risk for environmental impacts through nutrient loss, including run-off and leaching, and greenhouse gas emissions. The important question, when considering reduction of discretionary costs, is will the short-term saving have long-term consequences? If the answer is yes, then any decision needs to be very carefully – and strategically – made.

Each farm’s unique situation must be taken into account when deciding what specific fertiliser mix to apply.

Phil Fleming is a FarmWise consultant in Taranaki. He can be contacted at pfleming@lic. co.nz or 027 499 9027.

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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

38 // MILK QUALITY

Attaching cups is a major part of the milking routine.

Correct cupping lifts milking efficiency ATTACHING CLUSTERS IS a major part of the milking routine. Having a consistent routine across all milkers is important. Clusters which are not attached correctly can lead to teat end damage, cup slipping, and mastitis.

Cupping techniques Attachment of clusters is given surprisingly little attention considering it has a major role in the milking routine. Most milkers develop their own method without any direction. This can lead to poor cupping techniques and issues with

repetitive strain injury. The aim is to find ways to change clusters quickly without unnecessary physical strain and avoiding the problems of muscle/tendon over-use. The benefits of correct cup attachment are as follows: kk Increase milking efficiency. Through using an efficient method. kk Reduce milker fatigue and injury. kk Improve cow behaviour. By making cows calmer and more accepting of the clusters. Two cupping techniques are explained below. Switching

between methods during milking is recommended to relieve muscle strain. Each method works on rotaries or herringbones, although there are some refinements depending on the dairy type. 1. Round-the-Circle method The ‘Round-the-Circle’ method is - or should be - taught to all new milkers as a simple, easy to learn, reasonably quick method that avoids problems. It is not the fastest method but it is reliable and easier on the milker because there is much less chance of getting kicked.

For herringbones Use the right hand to put the cups on the right hand side row of cows (facing the exit) because it is easier to reach through the back legs. kk Pick up the claw with the left hand and reach over the left arm to put on the left back cup (using right hand) at the same time, kk then left front, kk then right front, kk then right back. On the left hand side of the platform, use the left hand to put on the cups. This creates a change in


GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

MILK QUALITY // 39

muscle usage depending on whether the clusters are being placed on the right or left side of the herringbone. For rotaries The Round-the-Circle method depends on which way the platform is rotating. For clockwise rotation: kk Pick up the claw with the right hand, reach over the right arm with the left hand and put on the right back cup - the first seen as the cow approaches, kk then right front, kk then left front, kk then left back - as the cow goes past. If the rotation is anticlockwise reverse this process.   2. For a rest kk Put on the two front cups more or less at once, kk then the back right, kk then back left with the other hand. www.milksmart.co.nz

Clusters not attached properly can lead to teat end damage.

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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

40 // MILK QUALITY

Let the milk flow freely THE MILK LET down reflex

stimulates milk flow from the alveoli in the udder into the teat canal. It has to occur before a cow will milk out freely. A cow which has ‘let down’ prior to cup attachment will milk out faster, and in many cases, more completely, as long as the let down does not occur too long before cup attachment as this can slow the milking process. The let down reflex can be inhibited resulting in slow or interrupted milking of cows. Ensuring let down has occurred has the following benefit: kk Improve milking efficiency. An

understanding of how milk let down occurs will help milkers manage the milking process in a way which encourages it. kk Maximise production. Cows that let down just prior to cup attachment will milk out more completely thus maximising production Milk is initially secreted into small sacs within the mammary gland called alveoli, from which it

An understanding of how milk let down occurs will help milkers manage the process.

must be ejected for consumption or harvesting. Mammary alveoli are surrounded by smooth muscle (myoepithelial) cells which are a prominent target cell for oxytocin. Oxytocin stimulates contraction of myoepithelial cells, causing milk to be ejected into the ducts and cisterns above the teat. Oxytocin is released after the cow receives an appropriate stimulus, this can be visual, aural or physical, and should be predictable and consistent at every milking. Handling/ massage of the teats for at least 15sec is a strong stimulus, but cows can also learn to let down through the association of the dairy environment to the milking process. The pressure of milk being forced into the ducts/cistern and down towards the teat causes the teat to swell with milk and become ‘plump’. It takes 60 - 90 seconds for teats to become plump after let down has been initiated. Cows with well-filled udders require a shorter period

of stimulation to elicit a milk let down response than cows with less-filled udders. The action of oxytocin is essential for emptying of the udder during milking. As much as 80% of a cow’s milk is unavailable if this oxytocin release is insufficient or does not occur. Its let down action lasts for about 5 minutes and is strongest for the first 3 minutes of milking. It is important to get the cups attached quickly after let down has started to make full use of the increased udder pressure that occurs.

With larger herds and limitations on capital, time spent in the dairy is getting longer, harder on people, and harder on stock if they have to wait around An efficient milking routine is important. Its benefits include: kk Increase milking efficiency.

Use work methods which are efficient and which will speed up the milking process. kk Decrease stress on people and animals. Reducing the time spent milking will decrease milker fatigue and the time stock spend waiting to be milked

Milking routine overview

The milking routine is the way in which milkers carry out the tasks involved in the milking process. The aim of the milking process is to have a constant flow of cows into and out of the dairy, to have clusters attached to cows as soon as they are in the milking position, and to have clusters removed as soon as possible after cows are milked out.

Recommendations for teat washing

If teats are cleaned it is essential that it is done correctly. To do this, teats are washed with water and dried with individual paper towels. The NZCP1 “Code of Practice for the Design and Operation of Farm Dairies” states that: “Animals’ teats must be clean and should be dry before applying the clusters.


GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

42 // MILK QUALITY

Teat damage is a major cause of mastitis.

Teat washing facilities must be available for this purpose and must be adequately maintained�. Most New Zealand dairy farmers practice strategic teat washing which is only washing those teats which are visibly dirty. Teat washing has the following benefits: kk Prevent milk quality issues. Ensuring teats are clean before attaching the cups will maintain milk quality. kk Reduce animal health issues. Ensuring teats are clean before

attaching the cups will also: kk reduce risk of teat damage, kk reduce mastitis associated

with teat damage or excessive dirt on teats. kk Reduce the time spent teat washing and the time spent milking through preventing dirty teats to begin with. Checking for teat damage

Teat damage refers to teat sores or teat end damage, and it is a major cause of mastitis. It is usually caused by faulty

milking machinery, over-milking, exposure to mud and water, or injuries. Teat damage can make milking a painful process for cows, and steps should be taken to prevent it, but if it is present it should be treated. Animal welfare considerations mean that it is important that teat health is monitored and any issues resolved. Visually checking teats during milking will alert you to any problems. Although it is not always practical to check teats

when clusters come off, many conditions will be more obvious at this stage. If poor teat health is a persistent problem in your herd it is important to identify the causes and rectify them. Iodine based teat sprays or creams are the most effective for teat scabs and cracks. However, for more in depth information on prevention and treatment of teat damage consult with your local veterinarian and your milking machine company.


GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

MILK QUALITY // 43

Milking machines and dairy washdown MACHINE CLEANING SYSTEMS maintain milk quality

by aiming to remove all of the milk residues from the plant and destroying any resident bacteria. They affect milking efficiency as they vary in their labour requirements and ease of use. Automation of the cleaning process can be advantageous as it provides consistency of operation, eliminates human error, and prevents occupational safety and health issues associated with handling strong chemicals and hot water. If the cleaning process is automated the operator needs to periodically check the automation to ensure the plant is cleaning properly.

The benefits of selecting the right cleaning system include: kk Increase milking efficiency. Installing a well designed system will ensure efficient operation. kk Reduce costs. Installing the right system will keep operating costs to a minimum. kk

Requirements of machine cleaning systems

A cleaning system should have the following features: kk Adequately sized and configured wash line. kk Minimum flow rate of 3 litres per minute per cluster. kk Flow rate through the first jetter should not greatly exceed the last.

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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

44 // MILK QUALITY kk A flushing pulsator/air injector

may be installed at the end of the milk line to ensure it is cleaned effectively. If the milk line is a loop line then a tap is installed near one of the milk line entries to the receiver with a flushing pulsator/ air injector installed before the tap, at the top of the milk line. During washing the tap is closed and the flushing pulsator/air injector turned on. kk Cause minimal liner stretch and distortion. kk A high flow, rapid dump hot water service to save time filling drums. kk Ensure liners and jetters are compatible.  

with the cow’s teat. It has a large influence on milking performance, udder and teat health. Regardless of the type liners are designed to: provide an airtight seal at both ends of the shell; provide a mouthpiece and barrel of a size that will fit a range of teat shapes and sizes, thereby minimising liner slips and cluster falls and damage which can lead to mastitis; milk out as quickly and completely as possible, minimising teat congestion, discomfort, and injury; be easily cleaned. However, the performance of individual liner types varies depending on their characteristics and compromise may be required when deciding on a specific product

Dairy wash down systems

An easy-to-operate method of cleaning the pit and milking platform is essential. Some larger dairies are installing automatic washing systems on their milking platforms. This is especially useful if the dairy is used for long periods of time. Teat cup liners

The teat cup liner is the only component of the milking machine that comes into contact

Machine cleaning systems remove residue and any resident bacteria.

Selection and maintenance

In practice, the performance of cup liners is heavily influenced by the design and management of the whole dairy. Liner slip in particular is often not due to a problem with the liner itself. To optimise the milking process, milking machinery should be assessed in its entirety. Liners need to be carefully selected to suit the herd and machinery, and changed regularly. Seek profes-

sional advice to ensure this occurs. The right selection and maintenance of teat cup liners will result in the following benefits: Improve animal health. Ensure teats are not damaged leading to issues with mastitis. Increase milking efficiency. The right liners will help to ensure clusters stay on and cows are not slow to milk. Reduce stress on animals. Ensure the liners are not causing pain which will lead to cow discomfort and animal handling issues.  Features of teat cup liners

In practice, the performance of cup liners is heavily influenced by the design and management of the whole dairy. Liner slip in particular is often not due to a problem with the liner itself. To optimise the milking process, milking machinery should be assessed in its entirety. Liners need to be carefully selected to suit the herd and machinery, and changed regularly. Seek professional advice to ensure this occurs.  The right selection and mainte-

nance of teat cup liners will result in the following benefits: kk Improve animal health. Ensure teats are not damaged leading to issues with mastitis. kk Increase milking efficiency. The right liners will help to ensure clusters stay on and cows are not slow to milk. kk Reduce stress on animals. Ensure the liners are not causing pain which will lead to cow discomfort and animal handling issues.   Liners are commonly classified by their barrel size and shape, and by the material and/or method of their construction. There are many liners available in New Zealand, the diameter of their mouthpiece lip ranges from 20-25 mm, the mid-bore of the liner barrel from 20-28 mm, and the effective length of the liner from about 120-170 mm (depending on shell length). Small changes in material properties of liners, or changes of only 1 or 2mm in their physical dimensions, have a remarkably large influence on their milking performance. The majority of liners available in New Zealand are made from food grade synthetic rubber.


GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

46 // MILK QUALITY

Bruce and Carol Collinson-Smith

Change for the better UNLESS YOU TRY using two sets of milking liners a year, you won’t know what you’re missing out on. King Country farmer Bruce Collinson-Smith says like many farmers, he was sceptical as to benefits of changing his liners mid-season, but once he took the plunge, he never looked back. “We notice immediately in the speed of milking. Until you try it, you don’t realise what a difference it makes.” Changing all liners at 2500 milkings – which is when they reach their use-by date and start to become more of a liability than a benefit – is just one way Bruce and his wife Carol have overhauled their milking process and their milk quality too in recent years. On one farm, they finished last

season in the top 3% of herds in the country for low somatic cell counts and were grade-free for the entire lactation. Working with their local Skellerup area manager, and PureMilk consultant and vet Steve Cranefield, the CollinsonSmiths have turned around a history of herd mastitis and poor milking performance for what Steve estimates is an overall gain of $38,000 per farm. Bruce and Carol sharemilk two properties at Otorohanga, which are run as one business milking a total of 1100 cows with five permanent staff and one reliever. Glenbervie Farm comprises 165ha (eff) with a 44-bail rotary and produces 172,000kgMS. It’s run as a partnership with Bruce’s father.

The Tihiroa Farm is 187ha (eff) with a 50-aside herringbone and produces 220,000kgMS. The Collinson-Smiths are 50/50 equity partners in this property. The herd that was on the farm had a high SCC and buying those animals was part of their on-going milk-quality challenge. But it wasn’t the only issue. “Everything that could go wrong, was going wrong,” Bruce recalls of their previous performance. Mastitis would spike after Christmas, cows’ teats were getting damaged; they weren’t milking out properly and their average SCC was 280-290,000. Changing from large bore round liners to VacPlus Squares when they were launched four years ago helped straight away, to the point where the CollinsonSmiths simultaneously began

using the squares in both dairies after a short trial. “We had just replaced all the liners, so we had to cut all of them out. But Skellerup helped us. Otherwise it would have taken us 12 months to get the squares onto both farms.” Milkout is cleaner and more consistent with the square liners; cow teat ends stopped changing colour and started holding their natural shape again, and milking became faster and more efficient. Herd health improved and so did those SCC. Bruce says the end result has been a joint effort between staff, product supplier, consultants and themselves. As for the cost of all this? “In the long run it’s really cheap, considering what we’ve gained.” www.dairybestpractice.co.nz


GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

MATING MANAGEMENT // 47

The chance of a cow getting pregnant to the first heat after calving is about 45%.

Submission rate is key THE 3-WEEK SUBMISSION

rate is the first key indicator of performance during mating. The industry target is 90% of the herd and achieving this target requires that cows are cycling and being detected in heat. There is room for improvement with one or

both of these key management areas because the national average submission rate is almost 10% below target. Submission rate is a key driver of the 6-week in-calf rate The importance of the 3-week

submission rate on getting the herd back in calf is depicted in figure 1. This data came from the Fertility Monitor Study that involved no fewer than 100,000 cow records. The nature of this relationship is that a 10% increase in the 3-week

CHRIS BURKE DAIRYNZ SCIENTIST

submission rate (horizontal axis) is likely to increase the 6-week in-calf rate (vertical axis) by at least 5%.


GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

48 // MATING MANAGEMENT

Pre-mating cycling If 85% or more of the herd has cycled before the planned start of mating (PSM) date, then a 90% 3-week submission rate should be guaranteed – provided heat detection during AB is performed to a high standard (i.e. 95% of heats are detected). Better still, these will be more fertile heats. The chance of a cow getting pregnant to the first heat after calving is about 45%, which is 5-15% lower than subsequent heats. Tracking progress with premating heats An early indication of an impending problem is needed for a timely response. A rule of thumb is that if 75% of the herd has cycled by 7-10 days out from the PSM date, then you are on track for achieving an 85% pre-mating cycling rate. A non-cycling problem will be avoided if these targets are met. Intervening with noncyclers Having to intervene with non-cyclers is undesirable, but if non-cycling rates are higher than 25% by the PSM date, then it is unlikely that a 90% submission rate will be achieved without a management intervention. Further, when these non-cyclers do eventually have a heat, it will be sub-fertile. There is a range of practices used on dairy farms to get cows cycling. The easiest and most direct option is a hormonal treatment based on the use of progesterone. Putting non-cyclers onto oncea-day milking and preferential feeding are also strategies used. Such options have a plausible rationale, but may fail to achieve the specific objective of speeding up the cycling rate, and have wider implications on the farm system operation. Some marketed solutions such as homoeopathy and plant extracts are not based on credible evidence. Nor do they come with any sort of logical rationale for why they might be beneficial. The same goes for ultrasound scanning the ovaries of non-cycling cows. Do not be taken in by wild advertising claims. Heat detection

Heat detection is the most important task on the farm during the AB period. A missed heat is expensive – at least $100 a time. Training and experience matters because knowing what to look for is crucial to success in keeping missed heats to a ratio of 1:20 cows, while also minimising the number of falsely inseminated cows. Tail paint remains the most commonly used aid, although many farms combine tail paint with heat mount detectors to increase the chance of detecting ‘light’ heats and reduce the decision to a ‘yes or no’ signal. The preferred option should rightfully be the one than works best for the farm circumstances. Paddock checks have been associated with better heat detection performance, but farmers often claim that “paddock checks don’t find cows that can’t be identified in the shed”, “there is not enough time to do paddock checks”, “it is too difficult to identify cow numbers in the paddock” and “too difficult to re-identify cows observed in heat back at the shed”. Is it time to get off the tractor during AB? If the indicators are that heat detection is not as good as it could be, then paddock checks may be more justified than the excuses not to have a look at the cows in action. Heat detection performance should be monitored. One indicator of past performance is the 3-week submission rate of early calved, mature cows. Take a look at your InCalf Fertility Focus report from last season. A one-star rating means there is room to improve. Also monitor daily submission rates, checking that 4-5% of the herd are being inseminated daily. Take account of any heat synchronisation treatment when interpreting this daily average value. Reduce cow stress Easily detected heats are the first to go when cows come under any sort of stress. Heats that are difficult to detect, or ‘sub-oestrus’, has received plenty of attention in overseas, highyielding dairy systems, and is believed to be caused by stress. Poor energetic state, hunger,

Tail paint remains the most commonly used heat detection aid.

disease or social discomfort are stressful on cows. New Zealand data would agree, although pasture-managed cows do not have anywhere near the problem with sub-oestrus compared with confinement systems. A 2007 study in Taranaki reported a tendency for submission rate to be reduced from 92% to 88% when cows were severely underfed (8kg DM/day pasture) during the first two weeks of AB mating. It appeared as though the 4% reduction in submission rate among restricted cows was a consequence of sub-oestrus, because progesterone measurements showed that the cows remained cycling throughout. The Fertility Monitor Study reported that the 3-week

submission rate is reduced by about 5% by diseases such as retained placenta, metabolic disorders and lameness. Uterine infection had the largest effect, reducing it by almost 10%, while mastitis was associated with only a 1% reduction in submission rate. The key messages in avoiding stress on the herd during mating are: ensure a constant supply of adequate feed is achieved; if running separate mobs, establish these groups well in advance of mating to give cows time to adjust socially; and manage cow health to keep disease incidence within the accepted norms. These norms are published in the InCalf Book. Above all, review your heat detection practices and leave nothing to chance.

Figure 1. The 6-week in-calf rate increases by 5% for every 10% gain in the 3-week submission rate.


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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

50 // MATING MANAGEMENT

Lifting the in-calf rate ANDREW AND JACKIE

Siemelink always knew that the reproductive performance of their herd was a priority on their Te Puke farm, but after some disappointing mating results they’ve lifted the lid on the potential which exists to improve the overall profitability of the farm. “Last year our cows were the fattest they had ever been, they were well fed, and in my view it should have been our best mating season ever, but it took us more than three months to get them all in-calf,” Andrew said. “We finished calving the day we started mating this year, so I knew we had to do something.” With 450 cows on 112ha, the Siemelinks originally purchased 46ha of their farm near Te Puke 10 years ago, and purchased the neighbouring 66ha in 2009 – requiring them to significantly increase their numbers quickly. They purchased a large number of carry over cows and increased their replacement rate each year since, but Andrew can see now

that the unusual age profile this has created, with fertility issues from the empty cows, is contributing to the decline in reproductive performance. “We couldn’t afford to be paying $2000 per cow, so we bought close to 120 empty ones at a much cheaper price and milked them through the season, but now we’re paying the price for that. They were great in production, but as it turns out they were empty for a reason and they’ve got fertility issues that we’ve ended up breeding into our replacements. “We’ve still got about half of them left too and it’s had a huge impact on the reproductive state of our herd.” They decided to seek advice from their LIC customer relationship manager who put them in touch with the farmer-owned cooperative’s recently established team who are leading an industry-wide collaboration aimed at improving reproductive performance of herds across the country. “It’s not a great profile at the

moment, with a big chunk of young cows and a block of older cows, but that will level out soon enough, and we were keen to get any help we could to make sure we had everything else right in terms of heat detection, bull power and heifer rearing because it all impacts on their performance. It was great to hear they could help out in this area. We had a meeting, identified a few things and we looked through the Fertility Focus Report from my MINDA records which was probably the key thing. “It allowed us to see exactly how we’re doing and it really focuses on that target of getting as many cows as possible in-calf within 6 weeks, which has huge benefits for us and that’s our biggest driver now. We want to achieve that in three years, with as many as possible all calved down in six weeks, because like most farms, it’s all go in that time for us, but if it’s over and done with it makes it easier to plan ahead from there. “You don’t have to run all these different Andrew and Jackie Siemelink mobs. It means you’ve got early milk production, and come mating you’re setup again, and you’ve got that interval between calving and mating to let the cows get over it. More attention to finer details “Since that meeting, we’ve made some changes to the way we monitor bulling behaviour, and are spending a bit more time looking at cow behaviour down in paddocks, being a bit fussier with tail paint and have taken on their advice for when to put cows up, that

was a big one.” Increasing bull power and taking them out earlier “We’ve were intending to use five bulls in the herd once finished AI, but turns out that ratio wasn’t correct so we’ve doubled that this year, and we took them out earlier too. “We’re prepared to take a knock from that because it means anything left will be empty and we will end up culling some very good cows - because I won’t be keeping them, I can’t afford to.” More effective heifer rearing “A big part of improving the reproductive performance is aiming to grow our heifers better. “We’ve got a very good grazier and he’s always done a very good job for us but with the new liveweight breeding value targets in MINDA Weights, our heifers to be mated this year were on average 44kg underweight – that was huge to us. By no means have we been unhappy with the service we’ve been getting from our grazier but those targets in MINDA will just make it even more effective, so we can all keep a closer eye on which ones are on track and which aren’t. “It’ll be difficult to catch them up this year, but we can make gains, and will be putting in extra feed to get them there.” Andrew and Jackie are now working to ensure their herd remains on the right track throughout the year, to ensure optimum performance come mating time. “We’re looking to finetune all the time, and this is one area we think we can make some big inroads. “We won’t be buying in any animals. We’ll rear all my own replacements now, keeping the ones from my own cows and especially those early calvers. It’s not worth the price you could end up paying later down the track.”


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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

52 // MATING MANAGEMENT

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other targets. Often raising on-farm productivity means balancing goals of increasing production against fertility or efficiency, and no two farms or farmers will follow the same path to meet their profitability targets.

farming model, the next step is to work out where your herd is now. SireMatch, the world-leading mating advice tool from CRV Ambreed, makes this task simple and accurate, from setting breeding goals and actions for this year, to allowing “Planning strategies for breeding breeding great cows start, like decisions in all plans, with the end in mind.” following years to be clearer and more consistent. Planning strategies for The use of SireMatch is doing breeding great cows start, like to breeding what soil tests did to all plans, with the end in mind. the fertilizer industry in the Once you have decided what 80’s – stopping wasted cows will suit your business and investment of cash while

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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

54 // MATING MANAGEMENT

Dairy cows go up and down in condition very rapidly.

Make sure cows are kept in optimum condition “CONDITION SCORING” (CS) cows was developed many years ago to help farmers specify how skinny or fat their cows were, and as a result, how they should be fed to either gain or lose weight to get back to an optimum condition. Dairy farmers hate fat cows they say they’re not working for their keep. They say that if the cow is putting on fat, she’s not putting milk in the vat. So with dairy cows, it’s mainly a case of making sure they are either maintaining or building up in condition. With beef cows it’s mainly a case of making sure they don’t get too fat.

What is “condition”?

It’s mainly fat under the skin (subcutaneous) but it is also internal fat that we cannot see. When cows get really skinny it’s also muscle, and you can see this in an “emaciated” dairy cow which is like a walking toast rack with an udder. There are a lot of them about in the North Island at certain times of the year. How is it measured?

We use a visual score from 1 (severely emaciated) to 10 (grossly obese). The scores are assessed from looking (and feeling) at various parts of the

animal to assess fat cover and muscle loss. What are good scores?

Dairy cows go up and down in condition very rapidly - we’ve bred them to do that in New Zealand where we don’t feed lots of high-energy feed during lactation. When cows are pouring out more energy in the milk that they can eat, we expect them to “milk off their backs” and lose condition. So dairy cows should be around CS 4.5-5 for most of the year. Consultants say that dairy cows should be dried off at a CS that they should calve at- and this

DR CLIVE DALTON

was at least CS of 5. Most dairy farmers are more likely to dry off around CS 4, assuming that they can build condition back to 5 by good feeding during the dry period. It takes about 180kg of Dry Matter (above what’s needed for maintenance) to put on 1 CS. For a big Holstein-Friesian it would be more like 200 kg of DM and for a light Jersey about 150kg DM. One CS is equal to about


GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

MATING MANAGEMENT // 55

30kg in liveweight. A major problem exists because the majority of dairy farmers are about half a score too generous in their assessment of CS - so their cows are permanently on the skinny side with resulting sub-optimal performance. Beef cows will normally be more around CS 6-8 and do not vary much during the year.

non-cycling (anoestrus) mode again. You’ll think they’re pregnant, as you don’t see them cycle again. kk They will calve late next season and may need “inducing” to get them to calve on time.

What happens if cows get too skinny?

kk During pregnancy they will be

kk When you send them to the

meat works, they’ll be severely downgraded.

technical editor of www.lifestyleblock.co.nz

Dr Clive Dalton is a former agricultural scientist and Polytech tutor, and is now

What happens if cows get too fat? kk They could have calving

problems.

kk When they calve they’ll

probably get milk fever, grass staggers and ketosis. kk They may retain their afterbirths. kk They will carry on milking and get skinnier still! kk Their production will be reduced. kk They are slow to come on heat after calving. kk They will need veterinary treatment to encourage them to cycle. kk They may have one heat, are mated, and then go into a

prone to metabolic diseases, especially grass staggers and ketosis if there’s a check in feed supply or a cold snap. kk They won’t milk well as their udders will be full of fatty tissue. kk They’ll be fat and lazy and not want to move around the hills.

When they calve, skinny cows are at risk of milk fever, grass staggers and ketosis.

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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

56 // ANIMAL HEALTH

Research shows parasite control more effective with use of oral drenches CHRIS MILLER & DAVE LEATHWICK AGRESEARCH SCIENTISTS

RECENT RESEARCH HAS

shown that oral cattle drenches are far more effective than the equivalent pour-on or injectable products. In the study we measured how effective the same drench active (moxidectin) was when given orally, as a pour-on or as an injectable. Trials were conducted on 14 farms throughout New Zealand, and show while pour-ons and injectables are easier to use, they do not deliver the same benefits. Based on overseas data, we would not have been surprised if the pour-on product was generally less effective than the other two routes as there are issues with drug penetrating the skin and animals either licking the drug off their own backs or their neighbours. We also thought the oral drug would work pretty well, while injectable macrocyclic lactones (the drug family which includes moxidectin, ivermectin, abamectin etc) are regarded as the gold standard when treating cattle parasites on a global basis. When the results were analysed, the study confirmed how ineffective the pour-on product was, reducing the number of worm eggs shed in faeces by only about 50%. What came as a surprise, however, was that the injectable product performed no better than the pour-on. In comparison, the much cheaper oral product reduced worm egg output by over 90%. The parasite surviving treatment was predominantly Cooperia, which on most farms

showed a level of resistance to these drugs. However, this was not always the case and the presence of resistance does not explain the difference between the routes of administration. The results are probably related to how the drug reaches the target (i.e. the worms) after it is administered. Drugs given as injections or pour-ons have to be absorbed into an animal’s bloodstream, and then re-circulated to be released into the gut tissue where the worms live. This is easier for an injectable than for a pour-on product, as the latter has to get through a hide, which has evolved to keep things out. This became obvious when we measured the amount of drug in the bloodstream in the treated cattle – the levels were far higher in the animals given injections than in those treated with either of the other two routes. Despite these results, the oral drench was still better at killing worms. We don’t know for sure why this is the case, but some recent overseas work suggests that the oral drug does not need to rely on absorption and transport around the body in order to reach worms living in the gut. Instead, the drug gets bound to material in the gut and passes directly to the organs where the worms live. It appears that this results in higher overall levels

of drug reaching the target worms – hence higher efficacy. What we have already proven is that using drugs with higher efficacy against worms lifts animal

productivity, while killing more worms by using an effective drench reduces the selection pressure for resistance to develop, promoting the sustainability of worm control. Follow-up studies have confirmed that this is not

Dave Leathwick


GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

ANIMAL HEALTH // 57

AgResearch technicians Chris Miller and Paul Candy collect faecal samples from trial cattle prior to drenching.

unique to moxidectin and that other pour-on and injectable products were no more effective. The next steps are to repeat the study against different worm species and also develop techniques to measure drug

concentrations in the tissues where the worms live. There is four to five years of research ahead to determine whether the research findings apply equally to all worm species, and to assess the likely implica-

• • • •

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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

58 // ANIMAL HEALTH

The losses from FE are not just in autumn and can be delayed to later times in the year.

Don’t get complacent on facial eczema DR CLIVE DALTON

FACIAL ECZEMA (FE) is the

last thing you want to think about over the holidays, as it’s an autumn disease and you thing that’s a long way off. Not true – as summers get drier the disease seems to be starting earlier (in December in some areas now) and ending later into May.

So January is action month to get organised for FE. It’s disappointing that despite all the information around on how to prevent the disease, which we have known for forty years, people still get caught out and animals suffer and often die. The losses from FE are not just in the autumn and can be

delayed to later times in the year when stock are under pressure, and their livers cannot take the strain. A good example is ewes just before lambing, carrying twins or triplets, and cows in the early weeks of lactation getting metabolic diseases, especially milk fever. Complacency is the biggest

problem among farmers as memories are short. Too many assume that, as they didn’t see much clinical FE last year, that it’s not a problem. That may be so, as the major concern is subclincal FE that does unseen liver damage. So check out that you have the latest information and that


GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

60 // ANIMAL HEALTH

you can understand what to do. Here’s a quick review of the key points: kk The killer is the toxin produced by the fungal spores that grow on dead litter in autumn pastures when it’s warm and muggy. It’s called sporidesmin. kk When it’s mushroom time – FE spores are growing too and they look like hand grenades under the microscope kk Learn spore counting and don’t rely on general figures in the newspapers or from vets and neighbours. Paddocks vary greatly. kk Young rapidly growing spores are the most dangerous – not old dead ones. kk Don’t ignore counts of 10,000 - 20,000 spores/g of pasture as being low. If you get a series of these, the accumulated effect is severe and often worse than a single high 100,000 + count. kk The animal is sensitised by these continual low counts, and over time serious liver damage occurs. kk If you get a series of low counts then a big one, then that’s very dangerous. kk FE - affected livers never really recover. They never get back to full function. kk Remember stock suffer greatly with FE – ask anyone who has had hepatitis. kk Currently your vet has no cure for FE – so don’t expect miracles. kk If you see a few clinical cases – then rest assured more than half your stock will have sub-clinical FE. You’ve left things too late. kk So don’t wait till you or your neighbours see a few stock with minor clinical symptoms – you’ve left things too late. kk It takes about three weeks for zinc treatment to protect stock from toxic FE spores so plan early. kk Climate change means that you can get FE in all of the North Island and many parts of the South, eg Nelson, West coast and Canterbury under irrigation. Most years are FE years now. kk Don’t justify your complacency by saying we don’t get FE in our area.

kk Check your zinc concentra-

tions. Over half the treatments tested last year (troughs and drenches) didn’t contain enough zinc. kk Zinc in troughs is not very palatable so start with small amounts till stock get used to it. kk Don’t expect 100% protection from zinc treatments. In bad Check zinc concentration in water troughs.

years these treatments will not be enough to protect your stock fully from FE. kk You must under the law treat stock with FE and not just ignore them. They need shade and high energy feed – not lush high-protein grass. kk “Spring eczema” is also serious. It’s cause is not well researched but often

is compounded by previous sub-clinical FE. kk You should have started your treatment on New Year’s Day. And remember the FE risk period can now go on till May. Dr Clive Dalton is a former agricultural scientist and Polytech tutor, and is now technical editor of www. lifestyleblock.co.nz 


GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

ANIMAL HEALTH // 61

Prolonged use of same calf paddocks bring risk of coccidiosis Rebecca Christie

VETERINARIAN AND BRAND MANAGER FOR BAYCOX AT BAYER

COCCIDIOSIS IS CAUSED

by the coccidial parasite and generally affects young calves. The effects of the disease can often be underestimated and reductions in growth rates may only become evident once it is too late. Using the same calf paddocks and sheds through the season and year after year is unavoidable but can result in severe contamination as more oocysts (infectious stage of the parasite) build

up over time. Calves are infected orally (ingestion), often via feed or water contaminated by oocysts. Infection often occurs from about 6-8 weeks of age, usually coinciding with the stress of changes in environment or feed. After ingestion, the parasite causes damage to the wall of the intestine as it develops to maturity and reproduces. Clinical cases, which have obvious signs of infection such as bloody diarrhoea (sometimes

called the coccidiosis ‘red flag’), may just be the tip of the iceberg and might reflect only 5% of the calves actually carrying the infection. You may not see an obvious problem in the group but it could be affecting the growth rates of your valuable replacements. Rebecca Christie It is estimated

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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

62 // ANIMAL HEALTH

Calves are infected orally, often via water contaminated by oocysts.

that sub-clinical disease affects up to 95% of infected calves, resulting in poor feed efficiency, reduced feed intake, slow weight gain (‘ill-thrift’) and secondary bacterial infections, leading to even greater economic losses. The growth checks during the time the disease is present are hard to re-gain. In order to reach an optimum weight of 400kg or more at 2 years of age a dairy calf must gain weight at a rate of 0.55 - 0.6kg per day. Calves that have lost weight as a result of clinical or sub-clinical coccidiosis struggle to ‘catch up’ this weight loss, even after recovery, especially if their intestine has been badly damaged. Clinical signs are usually seen as these oocysts (eggs) are shed from the intestinal wall. In severe cases the intestinal wall may break away and pass as dark

or tarry diarrhoea which may contain blood. Drugs that actively kill the parasite are known as Coccidiocides. The timing for using coccidiocides, such as Toltrazuril, requires knowledge of the farm history and the various

show clinical disease. Treating with Toltrazuril (coccidiocide) does not interfere with the development of this natural immune response. Anti-coccidial treatments in calf meal act to disable the parasite but not kill it – these are known as If Anti-coccidial treatments in coccidiostats. calves are fed calf meal act to disable the meal containing a parasite but not kill it – these coccidiostat before being weaned they are known as coccidiostats. may become more susceptible as the events during the calf rearing volume of meal reduces. These period in that system. calves are at risk of developing After initial infection normal clinical disease in the 2-4 weeks calves develop natural immunity following movement from the and should be able to fight calf shed onto pasture. Timing further infections, however if the of treatment is important after infection is serious they will not cessation of meal feeding in be capable of mounting a suffiorder to halt the course of cient immune response and may infection before the onset of

symptoms, but not so early as to treat before infection actually takes place. If coccidia has been diagnosed all the calves in that group should be treated immediately with a coccidiocide (Toltrazuril). This will eliminate all stages of the parasite in the animals at that time. It must be remembered that if the gut has already undergone severe damage then recovery may be delayed and during this time the calf may be susceptible to other gut diseases. Preventative treatment of Coccidiosis with a coccidiocide at the right time can prevent coccidiosis (and its effects) in its tracks and protect your high value replacements. Discuss with your veterinarian what coccidia treatments are appropriate for your system.


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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

64 // MASTITIS

Treat clots, watch snot JANE LACY-HULBERT

JANE LACY-HULBERT DAIRYNZ SENIOR SCIENTIST

THE GOLDEN RULE

is only treat cows with clinical, or visible, signs of mastitis with antibiotics during lactation. New recommendations in the DairyNZ SmartSAMM guidelines go further and say that treatment should only be given to clinical cases that show signs (clots, watery or discoloured milk) that persist for three or more squirts during stripping. This helps avoid wasting antibiotics on cases that may otherwise cure on their own.

Cows with only a few flecks or clots, or a positive result on a rapid mastitis test (RMT), i.e. the thick gel or ‘snotty’ reaction, should be marked, monitored and stripped at later milkings to check for more obvious clinical signs i.e. signs that persist for three or more strips. Unless otherwise recommended by a veterinarian, these RMT-positive cows should not be automatically added to the treatment list. This practice is hugely wasteful of antibiotics and

discarded milk and can show little benefit. So, do you have a written procedure for finding and treating mastitis this season? Does your milking team know it and understand it? Take time this autumn to review last season and ask your vet or advisor to help you develop a practical and cost-effective procedure for this calving time. Your DairyNZ Healthy Udder provides a great place to start. To find out more, visit DairyNZ’s smartsamm.

co.nz and find Guideline 4 Rapidly find, record and treat clinical cases in recently calved cows in the resources section.

JANE LACY-HULBERT

FINDING CLINICAL MASTITIS To find new clinical cases, look at the udder, feel for heat and swelling, and strip the milk to find visible signs of mastitis.

1

LOOK for swollen udder, one quarter not milking out properly, cow stomping or kicking.

2

FEEL for heat or coldness compared to other quarters or signs of pain when touched.

3

STRIP milk onto dark surface. Avoid getting milk on hands. Look for clots, discoloured milk.

2

FEEL

1

3

LOOK

STRIP


GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

66 // MASTITIS

SIGNS TO LOOK FOR Look for changes in the milk that last for three or more strips – these require treatment.

1

UDDER swollen hard, hot or cold compared to other quarters. Painful to touch.

2

CLOTS in foremilk. Clots can be small, rubbery or stringy.

3

MILK unusual colour or consistency - watery, bloody, yellowish or clotted.

2

CLOTS

1

UDDER

3

MILK

TREAT CLOTS, WATCH SNOT When using the rapid mastitis test, don’t treat positive cows in lactation unless otherwise recommended by your vet. Mark them and look more closely for clinical signs over next one to two days. If the bulk milk SCC is at risk of grading, withhold their milk for a few days. These cows are usually treated at drying off.

STRONG HIGH SCC


GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

68 // MASTITIS System

Description

Comment

1. Every quarter every milking Fore-strip all four quarters before every milking.

Effective when level of mastitis is high. e.g. cows in colostrum mob. Time-consuming and labour intensive when clinical rate is low.

Fore-strip all four quarters before one milking. 2. Every quarter once a week e.g. Monday morning

Use an extra labour unit for this milking only. Works well for planning purposes. Can be unsettling, as cows don’t become accustomed to having teats touched.

3. Two quarters over two milkings once per week

Fore-strip quarters at one milking, the other two at the next milking, once a week. e.g. one side in the morning, other side in the afternoon or both front in the morning, both backs in the afternoon.

Milking routine will be slower but this method can be handled by the normal milker, without extra labour.

4. One quarter over four milkings, once per week

Fore-strip one quarter per milking so that all quarters stripped over four milkings. Use two morning and two afternoon milkings, or four morning milkings.

Requires no extra labour and has least impact on milking routine. Less unsettling for cows, as teats are being touched more regularly. Method is practical when clinical rate is low to moderate.

Why does clinical mastitis require treatment?

When bacteria move into an udder and infect the milk and tissues, a cow’s immune system helps her to cure, or contain, the new infection. We see this as mastitis – the outward signs of inflammation, which is an immune system’s way of curing, or containing, an infection. Treating mastitis with antibiotics helps tip the balance in favour of a cow curing an infection. But on many occasions, the cow may cure herself, with little intervention from us. SmartSAMM recommends that only clinical cases receive antibiotic treatment in lactation. These are considered the most cost-effective to treat. Clinical cases are the ones that show visible changes in the milk or udder, such as clots, discoloured milk, heat, pain or swelling. For all other cases of mastitis – the subclinical ones – antibiotic treatment in lactation is not considered cost-effective. Instead, these are left until drying off, when cows are treated with dry-cow antibiotics. By definition, subclinical cases are those which show no visible signs, and require testing of the milk to find the high somatic cells or high conductivity. Good mastitis procedures ensure new clinical cases are found quickly and receive treatment. At the same time,

cows with subclinical mastitis need to be found, monitored and managed, so they don’t cause problems for the bulk milk somatic cell count (SCC). Selecting the right mastitis cases to treat requires patience and prudence. The DairyNZ SmartSAMM website smartsamm.co.nz provides tips on finding and treating the right cases of mastitis.

Regular stripping helps new cases to be found and treated quickly, which helps increase the chances of cure, and also reduce the spread of infection to other clean, uninfected cows. Cows also become accustomed to having their teats handled, which makes milking easier for everyone. Daily or weekly stripping routines make the task simpler

When the bulk milk SCC goes too high, and no clinical cases can be found by stripping, then an emergency herd test or RMT of the whole herd is generally recommended. At this point, it is best to call your vet to arrange a full mastitis investigation, and solve the underlying problems. How do we find clinical cases?

Foremilk stripping, whereby strips of the first milk in the teat are squirted onto a dark surface and checked for clots or discolouration, is still the most effective way to find clinical mastitis. This task is practical for a small group of animals, when the level of mastitis is high, but hard work and time-consuming across a large herd. SmartSAMM recommends that every quarter is strip checked before each milking when cows are in the colostrum mob, but this frequency can drop down to once-a-week or less, when cows move into the milking herd.

and easier to manage. When levels of mastitis are high, such as in the first two to three months of lactation, strip checking the whole herd daily or weekly, over a few milkings, helps reduce the risk of missing new cases. As the case rate drops below about one or two new cases each week, stripping can happen on an ‘as required’ basis. Strip the herd more frequently when the level of mastitis is high (see table above). How do we find subclinical cases?

Cows with a high SCC, i.e. subclinical mastitis, need to be found, monitored and managed

appropriately so as to avoid problems for the bulk milk SCC. In lactation, this is reasonably easy. Individual cow SCC, through herd testing, provides SCC information on these cows. But in early lactation, before herd testing starts up, or in herds which choose not to herd test, cow-side systems are needed to find cows with mastitis or high SCC. SmartSAMM recommends that every cow is checked with the rapid mastitis test (RMT) before entering the milking herd. This applies equally to cows leaving the colostrum mob, leaving the mastitis treatment herd or coming in from an outside herd. When the bulk milk SCC goes too high, and no clinical cases can be found by stripping, then an emergency herd test or RMT of the whole herd is generally recommended. At this point, it is best to call your vet to arrange a full mastitis investigation, and solve the underlying problems. So what should happen to a cow with a positive result? Prudence is the best approach. Marking RMT-positive cows and re-checking them for clinical signs over the next few days is one option. Holding them out of the vat for a few days and dribbling them back into the herd as the bulk milk SCC drops is another. In early lactation it is often wise to hold these back in the colostrum herd for an extra day or two.


4297 Agvance CU Zinc ad_Basics R1 1

12/14/09 10:59:47 AM


GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

70 // STAFF & EMPLOYMENT

Retaining good people has a positive impact on business.

Seven tips to help you retain good people RETAINING GOOD PEOPLE

has a positive impact on business profitability – fewer mistakes are likely and less stress is placed on the manager/owner and the rest of the team. Keeping good people needs focus to make it happen, and having a clear picture of what you want your employment environment to look like is an important starting point. It is worth doing some research of your own at this point. What sort of environment

do you want to work in? Ask your current staff what is important to them in a work environment. Talk to employers who you think are good at retaining their people, and don’t just limit yourself to asking other farmers, talk to employers in other industries as well. Like anything, having a goal to work towards gives you a better chance of success. What does ‘a good place to work’ look like?

A good place to work is a safe, organised workplace where the whole team enjoys working together to get the job done. There is a high level of communication and everyone feels valued and able to contribute to the success of the farm, they have the opportunity to learn new skills and to put these skills into practice. The team are fairly rewarded for their efforts, work reasonable hours and have regular time off. They are provided with a good

SARAH WATSON DAIRYNZ PEOPLE MANAGEMENT SPECIALIST

environment to live and work in, and the tools and equipment they need to do the job is suitable for the job and safe to operate. Seven ways to create a ‘good place to work’

1. Involve people in planning. Talk about what has to happen and what has to be organised. Come up with ideas for


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STAFF & EMPLOYMENT // 71

making life easier. Review what happened and look at what could be done better next time. In their work, people are looking for involvement, ability to contribute and some control over what is happening day-today. Involving your people in planning and giving them the opportunity to contribute means they will better understand what you are trying to achieve and their role in making that happen. 2. Develop your people’s skills. Encourage the people in your team to have a career plan and link training and skill development to this plan. Try to recognise the on-farm training that often happens without us realising it. Once your people have learnt new skills allow them to practice these skills and to take on more responsibility as they are ready to. Attend to your own learning and development too. People want to learn and use new skills. As people learn new skills they are able to do more and take more responsibility.

Encourage the people in your team to have a career plan.

They feel able to contribute more and this adds to how valued they feel. These are important components in having a ‘good place to work’. 3. Hang out for 10 minutes per week with each of your people. Set aside 10-15 minutes a week to get to know each of your people better. Use this time to listen to them. The best way to do this is to work alongside them or take them with you while driving somewhere. This is in addition to having regular catch ups and meetings where you review performance and set training plans. It is important to understand your people and get to know who they are, what’s important to them, what motivates them and what their hopes and fears are. Time invested doing this will help you to build strong relationships. It allows people to be rewarded with things that have value to them, for example, a keen hunter may value a bonus of a box of ammunition more than a grocery voucher. 4. Reward the behaviour you

want. We all know we should reward the behaviour we want and penalise the behaviour we don’t. To do this boundaries need to be outlined and the consequences of going over those boundaries discussed. Consequences need to be followed through and don’t forget to reward people when they get it right. 5. Keep your team in the loop. Regular staff meetings and good systems of communication are important. Let the team know what the plan is, and keep them up-to-date on changes. People tend to be motivated when they know what is going on and what is expected of them. Communication at this level assists with organisation and time management. 6. Encourage problem solving. Get people thinking for themselves. The more we solve their problems for them, the more they rely on us to do that. People want to feel they contribute to the success of the business. Being supported

to solve problems on their own creates an environment where they feel they can contribute. 7. Give responsibility and hold them responsible. Allow people with the skills to take on responsibility. If they don’t have the skills, then train them. People want to feel in control of their life; let them have some responsibility and they will feel valued and have a sense of purpose. These seven tips are a starting point to creating an environment where good people want to stay. The effort you put in will be repaid many times over. It doesn’t cost anything to do these things, but it can cost you plenty if you don’t. Retaining people is like any other part of having a successful business: you have to work on it with focus. Review progress, seek feedback and work on continuously getting better at it. For more ideas on retaining good people visit DairyNZ’s people management website: www.peoplesmart.co.nz.


GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

72 // STAFF & EMPLOYMENT

Jon Nicholls, FarmWise, says rewarding your top staff is the right way to go.

Incentive bonus – what’s in it for your worker? JON NICHOLLS

FARMWISE CONSULTANT

OFTEN ON FARMS I have conversations with farmer employers about remuneration and what bonuses should be paid or are paid to farm staff. There are really two types of bonus: one is a clearly structured reward given for hitting or exceeding a pre-agreed target, and the other is the ‘out-of-theblue’ reward given for either putting in extra effort over a busy period or when the farm business has had a good year and the owner wants to share some of this with the staff that have had input. I use the word ‘reward’

deliberately because although money is the most obvious bonus payment that comes to mind, in fact additional time off, a weekend away, a tank of gas, or meat for the freezer can all be valuable rewards from an employer. Here are my guidelines on the structured reward programme – in the corporate world these are called ‘short term incentives’ which quite nicely describes what they are, and are payable on hitting a ‘key performance indictor’. A lot of thought and care is needed when setting up bonus

/ incentives on this system. Examples farmers will often use are: kk Grade free for a month or season. kk Cell count under a certain level for a month. kk Number of cow deaths. kk Farm production being met or exceeded. The trick with the bonus system is to ensure that the employee actually has some degree of influence over the outcome, or very quickly it can be a disincentive. For example, a System 1 farm with no feed bought, in a dry summer

district paying a bonus on total production would run a risk of not achieving the production target due to weather and climate, factors outside of the employee’s control. Whereas an irrigated Canterbury farm has more chance of achieving the farm budget due to weather and therefore management is going to have a more significant effect on the outcome. Be aware of unintended outcomes; having an incentive to have a low cell count can be achieved with a larger amount than expected spent at the vets on product, and milk being kept


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STAFF & EMPLOYMENT // 73

out of the vat. Is this the desired outcome? My favourite incentives that I believe allow staff to have a real effect on the outcome are ones that pay for milk in the vat up to Christmas. The reasoning for this is it rewards management and is less down to weather or decisions complicated by dairy company shareholding. The effect of a good condensed mating is also seen in early milk production.

ciated. One week’s salary is a bonus of 2%. Therefore if you choose to reward at two or three intervals then this can be a reasonable incentive, for example after calving, at Christmas and at dry-off or season end. In the opening statement I mentioned that not all rewards have to be cash based and I would like to remind you again about this. I once saw an employer buy his manager a trip

“Although money is the most obvious bonus payment that comes to mind, in fact additional time off, a weekend away, a tank of gas, or meat in the freezer can all be valuable rewards from an employer.” Once you have decided on your best incentive approach, the next question is how much to reward, which needs to be proportionate and relative – by this I mean in relation to the amount of influence the person had and relevant to their base salary. You can generally expect that a farm manager will have more influence than a farm assistant, and if you reward them both equally this is disproportionate. Therefore basing the size of the reward on the weekly pay packet is fair, so you may decide that upon reaching a pre-agreed target you make a payment equal to one week’s wages, or an agreed percentage of the annual salary Out-of-the-blue rewards work well when also based upon this methodology and provide you with a way to get some guidance as to what would really be appre-

to Bathurst as a thank you for long term loyalty – I am sure if a monetary sum had been given equal to that trip the manager would not have spent it on that and would have not had the experience of that trip otherwise. In times when cash is tighter additional time off can be used and the actual cost may be less as you may be able to step into the breech, or structure the time off at a less critical period. It is really important that you do not create a bonus system that simply rewards people for doing what is expected as part of their job e.g. turning up on time for milking. You need to pay for above-and-beyond expectation, not business as usual. You need to think really hard about how to structure any incentive or bonus system and ensure any incentives of one

Out-of-the-blue rewards also work well.

behaviour are in fact driving the right outcomes for your business. A poorly constructed scheme can also become a disincentive. Reward well for the job and pay for additional, do not rely on picking up the bonus payments to make the job at market rate. In tighter times think beyond the simple cash payments – rewarding your top performing

staff is the right way to go, just be careful and seek advice on the best way to do this; if in doubt go for the out-of-the-blue system and steer clear of short term incentive programmes. Jon Nicholls is a FarmWise consultant for Bay of Plenty. He can be contacted on 027 474 2991 and jnicholls@lic. co.nz.

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Time off and rosters CRAIG PURCELL FARMWISE CONSULTANT

LACK OF REGULAR time off can be one of the biggest employment issues on farm, but a bit of time and thought spent creating rosters well in advance can head off potential issues. In my experience as a farm consultant, the two most common questions when hiring new employees usually relate to salary and time off. Their roster means a lot to them. Rostering schedules can vary from farm to farm depending on size, intensity and staff numbers, so it’s important that you create a roster system that suits your system. Most farms I see have a three-day weekend every three weeks, which equates to one day off per week, but your setup could be two days off every two weeks, three days every three weeks, six days on one day off. The variations are almost endless. The following list can serve as a guide to help you set up a roster system that will work for you and your staff: kk Communication and planning is vital: make sure all staff are on the same page. kk Use the calendar/diary to record time off: verbal information only is not sufficient. kk Clearly advise all new staff before they start what the farm policy is for time off and stick to it. kk Employers have the final say on the roster but it should not be viewed by staff as a dictatorship. kk If there are to be unexpected changes, make sure these are communicated and explained to staff as soon as possible. Get their buy-in to alleviate any disgruntlement. kk Discuss all aspects of the roster and time-off with all staff.

kk Some staff may have worked

on different farming roster systems and have valuable thoughts on roster variations. Allow for discussion about this. kk Avoid unnecessary workloads on the weekends – essential tasks only. kk Target time off on the weekends where possible and avoid weekdays, bearing in mind dairy farming is seven days a week.

to keep tasks on the farm happening all day. kk Consider one milking off per week. kk Farms are generally busiest from week 3-7 of calving and having weekends off too early in this period can be worse than having them too late. kk Monitor all staff for health/ tiredness levels. kk

Calving – mating kk Catch up on some time off, not

necessarily on the weekends. Different seasons, different rosters

Depending on the time of the year and the demands, your roster schedule may change. Here’s a guide to how rosters can change through the seasons:

kk It may be possible to manage

the farm with one staff member off for 2-3 days in a rotated cycle. kk Ensure managers have time off because mating results will depend to a large extent on them.

Winter/dry period

Two days off every second weekend. As much set-up as possible is completed on Friday for the weekend by all staff to ease workload during the weekend. Generally half the full-time staff can manage the farm during the weekend. Use this period to rest staff in preparation for calving and to get some time off in the bank before calving.

Mating and AB kk Staff with more experience

will need to be available to work continuously through AB as this period is extremely important to profitability next season. kk Possible for managers to have afternoons off. kk Remainder of staff have their regular weekends off. Natural Breeding kk All staff have normal/ regular

Calving kk It is a difficult time to have full

time-off unless staffing levels are exceptionally high. kk Having full weekends off puts more pressure on remaining staff and can lead to issues with animal/calf health, milk quality and lack of time to make the right decisions. kk Where possible give some staff extra-long break times at breakfast/lunch. kk Rotate to all staff. kk Stagger breakfasts/lunches

weekends off. kk Catch up on manager’s

time-off. Christmas kk Summer holidays are a focus

for all staff. kk Ensure the roster/holidays are

set by at least mid-November, this will give all staff the opportunity to organise time with family and a summer break. kk If possible match annual leave with a scheduled weekend off.

kk Try not to change the

weekend-off roster; the staff who miss out may feel annoyed. kk Time off on Christmas and new years day can be rotated evenly amongst all staff. kk Depending on staff numbers, some can work Christmas morning, others the afternoon. kk Have a similar program for new years day. kk Full days off between Christmas and new years day may be possible and it is always appreciated if these are ‘free’ days off, over and above regular time off. Late summer/autumn

General weekend roster Whatever roster system you decide on for your farm and your staff, make sure it is communicated properly. One of the largest issues on farm is usually communication so it’s a good idea to sit down with all staff, with a coffee and calendar and plan the time off. Don’t just discuss it down the back paddock while getting the cows in. Recognise there may be a generation gap between yourself and the staff, and how that could affect their attitudes. What we used to do in the good old days will probably not be acceptable now. Overall, if you are fair and reasonable then your staff should respect the system. Be clear with them that there will be ‘unders and overs’ throughout the season for time off, and keep the subject open for discussion. Communication is vital. Craig Purcell is an LIC FarmWise consultant for Bay of Plenty. He can be contacted on 027 233 1584 and craig. purcell@lic.co.nz.


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76 // STAFF & EMPLOYMENT

It is important to find the right sharemilker for your farm.

Sharemilking agreements not to be taken lightly JAMES THOMAS

FARMWISE CONSULTANT

SHAREMILKING PLAYS AN important role in the dairy industry. It has traditionally been seen as the last step on the ladder before farm ownership and allows sharemilkers to pay off debt while building up other assets. It also has benefits for the farm owner, allowing them to take a step back from the daily operation; but for both, it is not an agreement to get into lightly.

Finding a sharemilking position or a sharemilker for your farm can be a long process because it is very important to find the right person for the right job. Farming is unique in that both parties can spend a lot of time together and live close to each other, leading to tensions not seen in other jobs. Both parties need due diligence on each other to ensure

James Thomas


GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

STAFF & EMPLOYMENT // 77

that the right result is achieved, and a clear agreement in place to ensure everyone understands their role and requirements of them. Ultimately, the simpler the contract the less chance of things going wrong but there are some key requirements and considerations so everyone is on the same page. In New Zealand, there are two main types of sharemilking agreements: variable order, and herd owning or 50/50. Variable order sharemilking is when the farm owner owns the herd, and the sharemilker is employed to manage the farm, provide any necessary labour and provide some plant and machinery such as farm bikes. Key points: kk Often these agreements are on a year-by-year basis. kk Covered under government legislation and Sharemilking Agreements Order 2011 which

stipulates that any changes must be in favour of the sharemilker. kk Remuneration depends on the herd size. For smaller herds under 300 cows it must be

Herd owning sharemilking is when the sharemilker owns the herd. It has traditionally been referred to as 50/50, but the income split can be different provided both parties agree.

A good contract should be like a souvenir that is retrieved from the bottom drawer when the job finishes, but if something goes wrong then a well-put-together contract will have more chance of a successful resolution than a half-finished one. a minimum 21% of the milk cheque after farm costs have been deducted (including the share dividend) or 22% of the milk price only. kk Sharing of costs is negotiable, but generally the sharemilker will pay for shed, labour and power costs as well as fuel for the motorbikes and any relief staff. Some agreements will also include a share of nitrogen and bought-in feed.

Key points: kk Traditionally a 3-year

agreement. kk The sharemilker will also pay

animal health and breeding costs, as well as their share of any off-farm grazing and feed costs. In most cases, they will also pay any fertiliser spreading and grass harvesting/planting costs. kk Owners can define whether they include a percentage

share of the divident payment or not. Before any contract is signed, negotiation by both parties will take place and this is where good communication is vital. In both types of agreements, the farm owner has the final say in terms of farm management so good reporting between the parties should avoid any surprises around this clause. Information should be forthcoming from both parties and the farm system understood. If you are on a system 1 farm but want to feed the cows as on a system 5, then there will be frustration. Every page must be read and understood. If in doubt take the contract to an advisor, lawyer, mentor or trusted friend and do not sign until all parties are happy with the terms and conditions. It is extremely important to be familiar with the contract as it will cover every eventuality that may occur during the term of

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A vital clause for both parties will be the amount of pasture cover and supplements on farm on June 1 as well as a minimum cow body condition score.

the position – including death of either party and how to solve any disputes that may arise. Contracts are signed with goodwill but this will not protect you if things go wrong. All clauses need to be filled out and all pages initialled. Do not assume anything. Whether you are the farm owner or sharemilker, it’s a good idea to create a checklist of your personal and professional requirements before any contract is written up.

kk Relevant experience

and quality

kk Practical skill level

kk Quality of fences

kk Communication ability

kk Cow shed

kk Compatibility

kk Accommodation

kk Goals in the industry

kk Community-including towns

kk Cleanliness in the house and

shed kk References A sharemilker’s list might include: kk Past employment history kk Farm size kk Soil type kk Fertiliser history kk Farm system

A farm owner’s checklist might include:

kk Weeds

kk A good relevant CV (including

kk Past production

referees) kk Quality of herd kk Plant and machinery kk Financial security kk Family/partner support

kk Nitrogen policy

kk Stocking rate

kk Effluent management and

resource consents kk Weather kk Water supply-quantity

and schools A vital clause for both parties will be the amount of farm pasture cover and supplements on the farm on June 1 as well as a minimum cow body condition score. This will ensure that the contract gets off to the best possible start and then autumn management will be about meeting these targets. Once all these items have been discussed and agreed upon, the contract can be drawn up and signed. A farm with two like-minded parties creates a pleasant working

environment, and a strong agreement will go a long way towards meeting these expectations. A good contract should be like a souvenir that is retrieved from the bottom drawer when the job finishes, but if something goes wrong then a well-puttogether contract will have more chance of a successful resolution than a half-finished one. For both parties, always trust your instincts when meeting prospective business partners. If something seems not right then it probably isn’t and remember there is help available for finding a sharemilker and putting a contract together. James Thomas is an LIC FarmWise consultant in Waikato. He can be contacted on 027 242 2208 or jthomas@ lic.co.nz.


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A human resource strategy declares the type of employer you want to be and what employees can expect as a result.

An effective HR strategy HAVING A HUMAN resource (HR) strategy helps to ensure there is consistency between your image as an employer, the work environment you provide and the way you support and develop your employees. Inconsistencies between what you say and what you do are a significant factor in affecting employee motivation, performance and ultimately retention. People do not like working for employers who say one thing and do another, effectively breaking promises they make. Ultimately poor staff retention rates will result in reduced productivity and business performance because staff do not gain the specific skills and knowledge required to be effective on your farm. Consistent turnover reinforces the cycle. What is an HR Strategy? HR Strategy is essentially

about making a statement of intention declaring the type of employer you want to be and what employees can expect as a result. With the strategy in place you then align resources, systems, policies and procedures to assist you in achieving your goals for the business and your employees. Once again it is critical these aspects of the business are all consistent with the stated intention.

Typically employees are recruited at a lower level, then developed and grown within the business. This strategy has the benefit of specifically developing employees to meet the needs of the business, rather than selecting employees who are ‘ready made’. This strategy requires high input and high commitment from the employer. Low cost strategy

HR strategy options There are three generic HR strategies available to dairy farm businesses: High commitment strategy

This is a long term strategy that is adopted by an employer who aims to build employee commitment by developing and growing people to meet the needs of the business.

This strategy has a short-term focus with the aim of hiring people with the required skills who are able to do the job now. Future needs will be catered for by purchasing skills when they are required. This strategy requires low input and low commitment from the employer, but the cost of purchasing required skills is often high.

Contracting out HR management

Industry research tells us that a high proportion of employers do not enjoy the people management aspect of their job. If this is true, their performance in this aspect of the business may be detrimental to the overall business and the continued growth of their investment in the industry. An alternative option for these people may be the employment of a manager, sharemilker or HR professional to manage the people aspect of the business on their behalf. This person will then be responsible for implementing the business’s HR strategy. Which strategy is best? No strategy is necessarily better than another, it is how it is implemented and the expectations of both parties when entering into the employment


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relationship that most affect the outcomes. However, different employment environments can call for different approaches. Full employment

A high commitment strategy is likely to be more appropriate when there’s full employment and it’s hard to find new employees. In this situation potential employees select jobs based on a range of factors not just pay and time off. Less tangible factors, such as the workplace culture or the training on offer become more important attractants to a position when there is full employment. Whilst you may get new employees joining your workplace, they will soon leave if these other factors are not delivered as promised. Skill shortages

During times of skill shortages a high commitment strategy is likely to be more appropriate as it focuses on building skills to meet the businesses’s needs.

Relying on recruiting talent when you need it can be risky and may mean that you miss out on the people you need or you are drawn into a bidding war to secure the talent you need. Either of these outcomes has serious implications for your business bottom line. High unemployment

Where employees are in plentiful supply your options as an employer are more open. However, even in these times you should remember that you will build a reputation as an employer in the industry, and positive or not, this reputation will follow you into times of tight labour supply. Can you have different strategies at different levels? Employees usually demand equitable treatment. They like to see their colleagues treated fairly and the same way they are treated. Small businesses such as dairy farms are usually highly transparent, with all staff

reporting to one manager. This makes it difficult to operate different strategies for different levels of employees. Do you need different strat-

HOW DO I DEVELOP A HR STRATEGY? 1. Write down your goals for your business with respect to people. Consider: kk Your role in the business and

desired workload kk Business goals, the skills

required to achieve these goals, who needs these skills and how you will get them into the business (build or buy) kk Farm infrastructure and

equipment and how that helps or hinders your strategy kk Your desire to give back to

the industry through growing people and helping them progress in the industry. 2. Work out which strategy best describes current practice on your farm.

egies for different age groups? Different generations are motivated by different factors. Generally younger generations have grown up in a different environment and have different expectations of work. They want more than just fair pay for a fair day’s work. They want to feel valued, to have the opportunity to grow in their roles and to be offered the opportunity to do a variety of work. Older generations are likely to accept the fair pay for fair work paradigm, but will also respond to management aimed at younger people. Different strategies may be required to ensure that each of your employees are motivated and recognised. Can you mix the strategies to form your own? Absolutely, but remember the catch phrase is consistency! You need to make absolutely sure the strategy does not lead you to say one thing and then act differently. This will lead to people leaving.


GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

82 // AGRIBUSINESS

Your stock are your revenue generators.

Guidelines on buying dairy stock: proceed with caution YOUR STOCK ARE your revenue generators so whenever adding new members to the herd, think carefully because it’s a decision you’ll have to live with. Herd records provide the insight you’re needing, and although an identified cow is not necessarily any better than an unidentified one, seeing what she has produced gives you a level of confidence that she will fit the dynamics of the herd, and be a positive contributor to your bottom line. LIC’s animal recording system, Minda, will allow you to research this information for the animals you are looking at, especially if they have been herd tested

which is akin to a warrant of fitness for cows and allows you to determine their efficiency. I always encourage my farming clients to proceed with caution when it comes to purchasing stock. There are a number of things to do and consider before settling a deal on any new stock purchase to ensure it is less of a gamble, and more of a calculated and educated choice. The following guidelines cover what you should do for pre-purchase research, when you visit the farm and once the animals arrive on-farm. Pre-purchase Research

First you need to determine what you’re looking for in terms

of records, breed, size, buying locality, what you’re prepared to spend, and then give all this information to your agent.

GEOFF CAMPBELL FARMWISE CONSULTANT

Two heads are better than one

If you are inexperienced or lack confidence in your ability to inspect and buy cows, enlist an experienced person to walk through the process with you, particularly when it comes to dealing with the herd owner and their agent. Ideally that person will: kk Understand the BW and PW system. kk Understand herd testing. kk Have milked and/or bought a lot of cows. kk Have a choice of stock you

agree with. kk Have a respectful farming

ability. kk Give you an honest opinion.

Summary checklist

Make your own animal checklist for what you are trying to buy. This will include cows that have been well recorded and managed in a herd situation as well as any other requirements or information you need to know. Your list could include the following:


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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

84 // AGRIBUSINESS kk Type of cows that suit your

The farm visit

farm, soil type, and what you like to manage. Are you high input, all grass, how’s the terrain? Big heavy cows may not suit soils which aren’t free draining. kk How long has the herd been owned and where’s it from? e.g. closed herd or “made up”. kk Production history and evidence of factory printouts. kk Recent sales of herds to gauge price of this herd against quality and where the market is. kk Somatic cell count (SCC) and dry cow therapy (DCT) requirements prior to delivery. kk Drying-off date. kk Body condition score (BCS) requirements including minimum for individual cows and herd or group average, e.g. minimum individual cow BCS 4.5 and a herd/sale group average of 4.75. kk Facial eczema – verify by liver biopsy. kk Artificial insemination (AI) start and finish dates. This to a certain extent is out of your control. kk How long was a bull run after AI finished? This will determine the calving spread and potentially the length of lactation for the herd or the group of animals that you are purchasing. kk Pregnancy test dates and results. Have a final test prior to delivery and also an ‘out clause’ if a cow appears empty within the first month after purchase. kk Rejection rate – you may also want the option to reject cows because of conformation, sore feet, collapsed udders, blind quarters or other physical defects. kk Bulk milk and test data for bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD), particularly important if you have a herd that’s naïve to the disease. kk Latest herd test reports and those from previous seasons. kk Summary of matings to determine calving date and success or otherwise of the mating performance of the herd and the cows that are for sale.

kk Consider stocking rate and

production. Does this tally with the type of cows being sold? kk Walk around the cowshed and be conscious of discarded mastitis syringes, state of the filter socks and any treatment cows written on a blackboard, e.g. lame, mastitis, late calvers. Write these numbers down if possible and ask for tanker dockets. The farm or herd owner

Try to build a working relationship with the owner to help the sale process go smoothly Check out the herd history and the figures with the owner or ask the agent to verify the records. kk Does the data tally with the herd description? kk Request permission to check historical factory production records. kk If permission is denied beware! The herd kk Check if the type of eartags

used is uniform. If not, why not? It may indicate that the herd is made up from a number of different sources. kk Run a selection of cows through a race to check teeth, udders and ear tags against the herd or sale profile. kk Ensure relevant inoculations and vaccinations have been administered e.g. Leptospirosis, black leg, Johnes disease, TB. kk Note the cows you don’t want and question whether the rejection rate is sufficient. The price kk Know the market prices. kk Be aware of the dollar margin

between high BW and the reliability of recorded herds. If the herd has been tested and records are available over a four-five year period then this may provide a record of what you are buying but if the herd has only been tested in the current year then be wary because it may be made up of unrecorded or half recorded animals. kk Don’t be rushed. Talk to your ‘experienced person’ and

Herd records provide the insight you need about stock.

your partner before making a decision. kk If the price on the herd reflects their quality then agree. Otherwise you are into the negotiating phase. Negotiating hints kk The rejection rate is always

negotiable kk Sale targets as outlined in

your pre-visit criteria, such as: calving date; condition score requirements; disease exposure backed up by blood test results to include major macro and micro nutrient levels; and mastitis and somatic cell count records for the herd. kk Pregnancy test to confirm - an ‘in-calf guarantee’ will not compensate for 10 weeks of winter grazing kk Negotiate if cows are below target condition score, naturally mated instead of AB and early part or full payment kk Negotiate the deposit.

will need to get consent from these parties so that you can get clear title to the cows/ herd. It is advisable to use your solicitor to check. kk Ensure there is a standard sale and purchase agreement to formalise the sale of the herd. Most stock agents will have these available. kk Ensure all conditions of the sale and purchase are agreed, noted and signed off before any money is paid. Do not leave any areas blank and do not assume anything. After the purchase kk Regularly check condition

scores e.g. on your monthly FarmWise consultant visit. kk Keep in touch with the vendor and/or agent. kk Arrange for a vet to complete final pregnancy test in May. After animals have been received kk Check condition score, empty

cows, and abortions. The purchase kk Can you legally buy this herd

from this person? Is the herd encumbered by a mortgage, bank loan, trust agreement or lease agreement? If it is, you

Geoff Campbell is an LIC FarmWise consultant for Otago. He can be contacted at gcampbell@lic.co.nz or 027 450 0218


GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

AGRIBUSINESS // 85

The most important function of a sound succession plan is asset protection.

Make your succession plan living and workable DARREN SUTTON

FARMWISE CONSULTANT

A FARM SUCCESSION plan is vital to the continuance of a farming business and securing the future for a farming family and generations to come. ‘Farm succession’ describes the process of passing the farm business and assets from one generation to another. The most important function of a sound succession plan is asset protection. The plan needs to be living and workable which can be difficult to achieve and in most cases you will find you never ‘arrive’ at the final solution because legislation, people’s circumstances and goals change with time, and so must the farm succession plan. Though it can be difficult it must be tackled, and the sooner the better to ensure opportu-

nities are maximised and family relationships are protected. The rapid increase in size of assets in farming, particularly dairying, over the past 20 years has meant there is more at stake to get right or wrong. The tradition of the eldest son getting the lion’s share of the estate and leaving the other siblings some crumbs has well and truly gone and more often than not an equal share is now passed onto all children. Here are a few steps to help you start your farm succession plan: Start the process

Start the communication process early, first with mum and dad discussing their goals and dreams for the farm, the family,

what retirement will look like and what resources they require for it. The over-riding goals of any succession plan will include financial security for themselves first and foremost, establishing the right level of control, creating fair outcomes for the children, and a workable and flexible plan. Protecting the asset from relationship property claims by a beneficiary’s partner (of 3

Darren Sutton


GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

86 // AGRIBUSINESS

years or more) is also important. And the parents need to read widely and talk to other farming families to find out what has or hasn’t worked for them. Professional advice

Next, decide what professional advisors are best suited to ensure the process is successful in achieving the parents desires for succession. A good plan will involve several advisors: a lawyer who well understands all the legal requirements, an accountant to ensure taxation and other financial areas are covered, a bank manager to ensure mortgages over land are considered, and a farm consultant to get involved when changes to a farm system are likely. There will be a cost involving a team of advisors, but the cost of getting it wrong is enormous, not just financially, but emotionally. Get quotes for the costs of professional services. If you feel you lack confidence in the ability and knowledge of your current advisors, ask around and do your homework to find people who can provide more accurate advice. Then call a family meeting of all children and their partners. Communication

A lot of farm succession planning can fall down at this point. As with all relationships, a lack of good communication and assumptions by other family members can lead to disputes. As children grow up, leave school and start to decide their occupations, this stage is important for annual family meetings to keep children briefed on what the parents would like to achieve with the family assets, and what possibilities this might provide for the children. These goals will differ if there is one, none or several children expressing an interest in continuing the family farm or farming elsewhere. The importance of these meetings cannot be overstated, as goals and ambitions of people you think you know well can be quite different from what you might assume.

In any situations of leasing land, sharemilking, equity partnerships, sound commercial contracts need to be in place to protect parents and children.

Having a regular and structured family meeting with a professional to facilitate will help explain the structure and how it works and provide a safe environment to allow feelings and goals to be shared, which will help to minimise areas of conflict later. What is the best structure?

There is no one-size-fits-all approach as farm businesses and families are very diverse, as are the solutions.

structure. This operates as a limited liability company owning all farm trading assets including the land and buildings, farming shares, plant and machinery and livestock, with the shares in the company owned initially by the husband and wife’s discretionary trust. Over time this is transferred to the child’s own trust. There are other options that may work for your own individual situation but what’s vital is to get good advice and create a plan that will meet your

“As with all relationships, a lack of good communication and assumption by other family members can lead to disputes.” Your team of advisors will be able to outline and explain what your options are to meet your family goals, and from there the options need to be explained to the children involved so their input can be considered. Once the children understand what is possible and what is not, then they may alter their future direction and plans. In the past a common succession structure was the creation of a family trust into which assets were gradually gifted to protect the asset and to avoid paying gift duty. Usually the child living on and farming the family farm was paid a wage (not always at market rates) and then upon the deaths of both parents the will divided the farm and other assets in way viewed as ‘fair’ for all children, which did not always mean equal sharing. There are other structures that can work better than the example mentioned previously. One is a company trust

goals in the best possible way. Legislation changes all the time, so succession plans also need to change. The succession plan can have a management board and/ or an operational board that may involve the parents, expert advisors, and children, either directly involved in the running of the farm or as off-farm professionals who add value to the operation of the business. This helps provide the steps for the former owner-operating parents to ease back from the business in stages, without losing control. Implementation

Once the decision has been made about the best succession plan, legal documents will be drawn up to create the various trusts and companies. This should include detailed wills for the personal assets of the testator, covering all the possible circumstances that could arise;

this should also be done for the children and their own family trusts. A memorandum of wishes should be created to guide the trustees in acting in a manner the trust was created for. It is not binding but helps direct the trustees in what the settlor desired in the event of their death. In any situations of leasing land, sharemilking, equity partnerships, sound commercial contracts need to be in place to protect parents and children. Summary

Farm succession is a living and breathing entity that has to be maintained for it to work. Take your time to gather information on who are the best people to be involved in your team of advisors and seek sound legal advice throughout the process to ensure what you want to achieve is achieved and is legally sound. Be open and honest with all family members to allow them to make wise decisions for their own futures. Be intentional in having regular family meetings to discuss options and changes in circumstances. Alter the succession plan according to changes in circumstances and then alter wills and all legal documents to reflect any changes. A book that covers this topic well is Keeping Farming in the Family – A guide to farm succession by Ian Ross Blackman. Darren Sutton is an LIC FarmWise consultant in Waikato. He can be contacted on 027 278 5214 or dsutton@ lic.co.nz.


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A good business plan changes and grows with the farm over time PLANNING IS ESSENTIAL for any business, whether you are starting out in sharemilking or you own a farm. Because we do it regularly the process of planning isn’t intimidating but many people are put off by the thought of a business plan or a strategic plan. Why is planning for the long term and having a strategy for the farm business more difficult than planning for the week, month or coming season? Your farm business exists to help you achieve your family and personal goals. Identifying those goals and understanding what the business needs to deliver to help you meet those goals is the first step towards achieving success. Success isn’t the same for everyone. We all have a different picture of what success looks like; put that picture onto paper and you have a vision and goals to work towards. A business plan provides a way to communicate goals with others, such as employees, so they understand your objectives; lenders if you are looking to raise finance; and potential business partners. The plan should not be set in concrete: a good business plan will change and grow with your farm business over time, much like budgets. Henry Kissinger once said: “If you do not know where you are going, every road will lead you nowhere”. Think ahead and take time out from the day-to-day operations on farm so you can formulate your plan and the actions needed to achieve it. DairyNZ QuickPlan booklets have been designed to make strategic planning easy. The booklet will guide you through important areas to plan for such

as family, lifestyle, financials and farm production. Personalise the goals – they must resonate with you if they are to be achieved. Set aside time to consider your plan for the future – for family and for business. Use a resource such as QuickPlan to help formulate those thoughts and get them on paper. Then ensure your plan is shared with others and visible in your home to help keep you on-track. Budgeting Top-performing farm businesses have clear business goals linked to their financial performance. To effectively monitor and review farm business performance, budgeting and benchmarking must be carried out. Farm budgeting supports decision-making throughout the season. Having a budget in place DairyNZ QuickPlan booklets are designed to make strategic planning easy.

and monitoring it allows you to be proactive as prices, climate and conditions change during the season. Understanding your current financial position and knowing your targets for the season gives you two powerful pieces of information to base decisions on. For example, if an opportunity arises to buy stock, you’ll know how that fits into longer-term goals and if you have the ability to finance the purchase now. Test a few different budgets under different scenarios, for example higher and lower production, different milk prices, and different farm working expenses. This will allow you to assess how robust the business will be against changes and shocks. Tools and resources There are a range of tools

ANGIE FISHER DAIRYNZ ECONOMIST

and resources available to help you budget. Look at DairyNZ’s website for budgeting templates and guides or talk to your banker or accountant. There are software options available to help you budget and monitor your farm financials with ease. The first budget you put together can be a challenge but once you understand the process and where to find information to help, you should find budgeting becomes a regular part of your farm business operations. If you are starting out with budgeting the DairyNZ Economic Survey has historical farm income and expenses data for owner operators and


GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

FINANCE // 89

sharemilkers, including some regional data. Benchmarking Benchmarking is a key characteristic differentiating top-performing farms from the rest according to a recent survey of farmers in Waikato and Canterbury. The top quartile of profitable farms are more likely to benchmark their farm business against others. Benchmarking will allow you to gain a greater understanding of the performance of your business (particularly production and expenses

compared to similar farms), identify opportunities for improvement and track your own financial performance over time. DairyBase is the industry’s benchmarking tool. When you join DairyBase, annual farm accounts are analysed, pulled apart and reconstituted in a farm management and logical way. Reports with key performance indicators are put together to compare your farm to others in the region or perhaps within the same farming system. The reports ensure each member of your rural professional team (i.e. accountant,

consultant and farmer) is wellinformed. It is a fantastic way to review your business performance and see if your business is on track for meeting those family goals. Waikato farmers Wayne and Raewyn Reynolds benchmark their farm with DairyBase. They say it provides a sense of direction and forces them to think about why they are different from the benchmark group and what they can do about it rather than carrying on doing the same thing year in and year out. To meet your personal goals

you need to know where you are starting from and how you are going to get there. This seems simple enough but many people don’t truly take stock of their current financial position and write down what needs to be achieved within a timeframe, so often goals remain just out of reach. There is a higher chance of achieving goals if you write them down and refer to them regularly. For information on DairyBase visit www.dairybase.co.nz. For details on Quickplan visit dairynz.co.nz/quickplan

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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

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Leasing of farms allows all parties involved an opportunity to achieve long-term goals.

Dairy farm leasing, an option worth considering DEAN EDWARDS

FARMWISE CONSULTANT

LEASING OF FARMS has occurred for many years and if done right it can offer all parties involved an opportunity to achieve long-term goals. Landowners (the lessor) lease their property to another person (the lessee) in return for a set or variable amount, depending on production or milk value per year. The lessor effectively hands over control of the property to the lessee, although some terms and conditions may be set on how the asset can be used. Although each situation will be different, a successful arrangement will always be based on mutual respect and trust, and a written document that clearly states the expectations of each party. Being a lessor Leasing may be an option for landowners who want to retire from active farming but don’t

wish to engage a sharemilker and are not ready to sell the property. It may also be an option for investors who are mainly interested in capital growth of the land and receiving a reasonable rental for the asset. Before leasing your property, there are some important questions to ask yourself: kk What is my motivation?  kk Do I understand I am renting my asset to another party so they can conduct a dairy business? This will result in limited control. kk Have I completed a budget and am I comfortable with the rent being received? kk Am I aware of any agreed capital expenses during the period of the lease or any likely items requiring capital replacement? kk Have my restrictions been agreed by the lessee? kk If I have too many restrictions,

am I truly ready to lease the farm? Being a lessee Dairy farmers may lease a property as a step towards farm ownership but the most common reason for moving from share farming to leasing is to gain complete control and reward for their efforts. The lessee receives all the rewards from their skills, but also incurs all the risk, e.g. if the milk solid price suddenly decreases it is not reasonable for the lessee to seek a reduction in rent. In general, a lessee will be a reasonably experienced dairy farmer and if they are good operators, then the leasing option will increase their net returns and build wealth. If you are considering leasing a property for a dairy business, there some important questions to ask first:

Dean Edwards

kk Do I have the skills to operate

my own dairy business? kk What is my motivation? kk Is the budget I have completed

realistic and does it consider all expenses, debt and lease payments? kk Have I allowed an adequate physical and financial risk


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margin? kk Having met the lessors and

discussed the details, am I clear in my responsibilities and what I am permitted to do with their asset? Lease Agreement A written lease agreement is essential because it defines the expectations of both parties including who is responsible for what and financials. Any lease agreement will contain issues needing to be discussed and clarified, and it is important both parties talk about their concerns and how they would work them out. The discussions involved in preparing a lease agreement give both parties an understanding of each other’s perspective – a good foundation for building a constructive relationship. Once the general conditions are agreed upon, the next step is to have them incorporated into a formal lease agreement. A solicitor may be involved in this

step. A trusted farm advisor can also help facilitate the discussion and come up with an agreed arrangement for both parties. For your lease agreement, there are a number of issues to cover and discuss. These include: kk Titled area being leased, preferably with title details, and actual grazing area being leased – these can be very different. kk Annual charge, method of payment, annual increments if any during the period of the lease. Any adjustments in the event of drought or changes to milk price should also be included. kk Lease term, including a designated date prior to the end of the lease for renewal discussions. kk Production records: this history may or may not be available, but should be requested, as it will provide an indication of the previous production levels the farm achieved.

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kk Insurance: both parties

should have public liability insurance to an agreed amount. Insurers have a requirement to be notified if a property is being rented to another party. Property insurance, it is generally each their own. kk Rates: land rates are normally the responsibility of the lessee, as are water rates. kk Death or permanent disability, and the impact of an unfortunate event for either party on the lease. kk Infrastructure: the lessor will define the optimum or maximum number of cows the farm can milk and if the lessee decides to milk more then changes to infrastructure will be at their cost. kk Condition report: conduct a joint inspection and record the state of the farm, tracks, dairy and non dairy infrastructure, fixed plant and equipment, weeds and state of pastures. This is critical as memories are not reliable and it is particu-

larly important to highlight and correct any OSH issues. kk Lessor inspections: normally one inspection per year is adequate. kk Capital improvements: these can be agreed and stipulated in the lease, including deadlines for work to be completed. The lessee is responsible for repairs and maintenance, and capital improvements and replacement by the lessor, but this is negotiable. kk Plant and equipment: list the age and condition of any fixed plant and equipment at the start to provide a guide for replacement vs repair. This is a major source of potential conflict and must be clear. kk Disputes: all agreements need a clear method of arbitration, particularly for capital replacement vs repair, e.g. vat repairs are the lessee’s cost, replacement is the lessor’s cost, but this can depend on the situation and how any damage may have occurred.

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GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

FINANCE // 93 kk Water supplies: sources,

condition of pumps, and in particular position of water lines and the state of fill around troughs need to be investigated and noted. kk Effluent disposal systems: the state, level of ponds, general level of adequacy of the effluent disposal system and the agreed cow capacity for the system needs to be recorded. kk Fertiliser: The lessee should receive any soil test results and fertiliser histories, and details about the amount applied during the lease should be provided to the lessor. Capital amounts of fertiliser required should be discussed and incorporated into the lease. Parties who differ in their approach to fertilisers should not proceed to enter into a lease arrangement. kk Weeds: current state must be noted. Annual control is the lesee’s responsibility. kk Farm productivity: pastures, cropping, and pasture

renovation are important aspects of the farm’s future productivity. Walk all paddocks to assess the productivity of the pastures and check the operation and state of the water supply, and condition of fencing. Some leases will specify maximum areas that can be cultivated and cropped, re-sowing requirements and it is also important to discuss drilling programmes. Photographic records can be useful for comparing at a later date. kk Supplement reserves should be clearly defined, including any limitations on the amount that can be made and removed from the farm. The lessee should purchase any supplementary feed at an agreed price at commencement and then any remaining at termination belongs to them and sale can be negotiated. kk Renewal and renegotiation: it is important to have a lease

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List the age and condition of plant and equipment at the start.

termination date and a date before the end of the lease for negotiation on future lease arrangements to begin. Reference: Dairy Australia, the people in dairy, leasing a dairy

property (planning for the future). Dean Edwards is an LIC FarmWise consultant for the lower north. He can be contacted on 027 474 3273 or dean.edwards@lic.co.nz


GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

94 // FINANCE

Within each production system in New Zealand’s dairy industry, there is a variation in milksolids production and profitability.

Where are the opportunities today? PETER MOFFITT

FARMWISE CONSULTANT

NO MATTER WHAT business you’re in, you will always be getting messages telling you that the latest and greatest innovation is yet another ‘opportunity’. It all boils down to one thing: increasing the profitability of your business – in this case dairy farming. Operating profit is a key indicator of dairy farm profitability. This measure, expressed on a per hectare basis, is particularly useful for comparing the

profitability between farms. The operating profit equation is a useful tool for understanding the contributions to profitability from production, revenue and expenses. The equation is: Operating profit $ = kg/ha MS x (gross farm revenue $/ha – operating expenses $/kgMS) Farmers have different farming styles and preferences to help us achieve the most profitable farming system.

The New Zealand dairy industry has categorised five production systems according to the timing, purpose and amount of imported feed used, purchased as supplements and grazing-off for dry cows. Grazing policies of young stock are excluded. System 1: All grass, self contained – 10-15% of owner operator herds All grass and/or supplement grown on the milking area. No

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96 // FINANCE

supplementary feed purchased. No cows grazing off the milking area. System 2: Dry cow feed purchased – 25-35% of owner-operator herds About 4-14% of total feed imported and fed to dry cows including dry cows grazing off the milking area. System 3: Feed purchased for dry cows and to extend lactation – 35-40% of owner-operator herds. About 10-20% of total feed is imported to the milking area to extend lactation (usually autumn feed) and for dry cows. System 4: Feed purchased for dry cows and to extend both ends of lactation – 10-20% of owner-operator herds. About 20-30% of total feed purchased at both ends of lactation and for dry cows. System 5: Feed purchased for year-round feeding – 5-10% of owner-operator herds (not reported separately due to low numbers). At least 30% of total feed imported all year round including for dry cows. These descriptions of our farming systems are becoming more commonly recognised, accepted and used throughout

New Zealand dairy farming. Operating profit expressed on a per hectare basis is particularly useful for comparing the profitability between farming systems. Within each production system there is variation in milksolids production and profitability. Production system type is not a good indicator of profitability; a farm can be profitable (or unprofitable) operating any system. Profit is less to do with the production system per se and more to do with the management of milksolids production and their costs within the production system (there is a huge variability in the effectiveness of managers across different farming systems). However, even allowing for this variation a change is evident across New Zealand dairying in response to the general increase in milk price. Global demands for food from an ever-increasing world population and a widespread rise in prosperity means an increasing perception that intensification is an appropriate response to economic drivers; in other words, the economics of

When milk prices are high it may be worth spending a little more on supplementary feeds to lift production.

supply and demand. Overall trends in the industry over the past 10 years Higher stocking rate – annual growth of 0.02 cows per ha (+0.8% per year); More milksolids per cow – annual growth of 1.7 kg (+0.5% per year); and More milksolids per hectare – annual growth of 11.8 kg (+1.4% per year). Average milksolids produced per cow and per hectare as well as stocking rate increased from system 2 through to system 4 and 5. Operating profit per hectare highest for system 4 and 5 using the most recent data from the 2010-11 DairyNZ Economic Survey. Average milksolids produced per cow and per hectare as well as stocking rate increased from system 2 through to system 4 and 5. Total return on assets increased from 7.1% for system 1 farms, up to 9.0% for system 4 and 5 farms Growth in equity highest for system 3, 4 and 5 in total dollar terms, but on a per cent basis system 3 is the highest with 10.5%.

There is evidence to support the belief that production systems 4 and 5 are the highest performing and most profitable, e.g. when milk prices are high it may be worth spending a little more on supplementary feed to lift production in order to boost overall profits, provided the extra costs per kilogram milksolids are below the milk price. This responsive strategy can also mean a greater ability to sustain more debt and also means farming businesses are more flexible and adaptable to climate. The important message from all of this is that provided you carefully and rationally consider the scientific evidence and information on the impact to the environment you can and will, over the long term, continue to grasp opportunity surrounding improved profitability around intensification. References 2010/11 DairyNZ Economic survey Opportunities for NZ Dairying, Dr Andrew West Peter Moffitt is an LIC FarmWise consultant for Taranaki. He can be contacted on 027 242 1812 or pmoffitt@ lic.co.nz


Some call it guts, we call it smarts.

FMG0229

Successful farming isn’t just about getting out there and working up a sweat. It’s a serious business that takes smart strategic thinking, as well as guts. If that sounds like you, then we probably speak the same language. Ask around about us, or for some advice call 0800 366 466.

That’s what works out here.


GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT 2013

98 // FINANCE

Plan to succeed KEN BARTLETT

FARMWISE CONSULTANT

ANY PERSON IN the dairy industry who wants to be successful needs a plan of their goals. This plan naturally varies for farm workers, sharemilkers and owners but to ensure any plan has the best chance of success it needs governance. What is governance? Sir Adrian Cadbury’s definition of governance is “The system by which (business) organisations are directed and controlled.” Good governance increases the likelihood your plan or personal business will survive and fulfil its purpose. Good governance is not just for large businesses; it is for any size business or plan. What is effective governance? The Institute of Directors (IOD) have set out their position on best practised governance in their publication ‘Principles of best practises for NZ Directors: The four pillars of Effective Board Governance.’ So what are these, and how can they help you as a farmer? • Determination of purpose

Understand the purpose of your plan, its goals and objectives and the realistic strategies (ideas) for achieving these. Good governance is essential on dairy farms.

• Governance culture

Make sure your plan concentrates on the important issues only. This helps ensure you make the right decisions at the right time in the right manner. Governance culture operates within a high-performance ethical culture, has effective

“Good governance is not just for large businesses; it is for any size business or plan.” internal and external relationships and continues to plan how the business will develop.

person in the dairy industry?

Take an example of a young couple just entering the dairy industry. Their mission statement has the following goals: kk To own our own farm. kk To achieve this we need at least 25% growth in equity each year. kk We will do this by hard work and dedication in the dairy industry. kk We will be honest and have high integrity. To achieve all these we need:

• Holding to account

kk A savings culture which will

This makes you accountable to your plan and helps ensure your agreed set of financial and non-financial performance indicators are kept to and regularly monitored by yourself or outside people, i.e. bankers or accountants.

continue throughout our farming career. kk Confidence in our rural professionals such as farm consultants, bankers and accountants. The way these people gain confidence is by being supplied regularly with factual information that links to our goals. kk To benchmark ourselves against the industry standards as supplied by Dairy Base. kk To ensure we don’t get waylaid from our savings goals and cost-of-production goals by getting bored by a simple, effective, profitable system. kk Continue to educate ourselves by meeting people who are profit-focused and have financial goals that are measurable. In my experience as a farm consultant, this is excellent governance because there is a definite plan which has clarity, they are being held to account by supplying regular factual information to trusted professionals and they are benchmarking themselves against the industry average.

• Compliance

This ensures all the risks existing and prospective are identified and managed. What does this so-called corporate stuff mean to any

Ken Bartlett

In contrast, let’s take a look at poor governance and I’m sure you all know someone who has the following farm system: kk No clear purpose. kk Don’t concentrate on the important issues. kk Poor decision making. kk Only think of per-cow production and do not consider the farm as a business. To do this you need to concentrate on the production side, cost per production benchmarked against industry standard and the herd replacement business has definite benchmarks (body weight targets – industry standard). kk No clear financial goals, therefore no accountability. kk Not keeping up with the fact that dairy farming is more accountable now than it was 6 – 10 years ago in animal welfare issues, environmental issues and labour relationships. So what type of farmer are you or what type are you going to be?

Good governance can help you achieve your goals which will ultimately lead to an enjoyable and successful career in the dairy industry. Ken Bartlett is an LIC FarmWise consultant in Waikato. He can be contacted on 027 492 8957 or kbartlett@lic.co.nz.


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Getting the Basics Right Issue 12  

Getting the Basics Right Issue 12

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